A Workplace Culture of Fun, Trust and High-Performance for Your Virtual Staff
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A workplace culture gives your remote team its identity and sense of belonging. Virtual staff usually work alone or collaborate with your other freelancers. Find out how you can turn your virtual team into a “company” with its own water cooler or cafeteria bonding– and why it’s great for you!
In my years of freelancing, I’ve worked with both solo clients and whole teams. But even when it’s just me and the boss, one on one, each boss has an identity. Anyone who has worked for others have experienced this: you like working for this boss, while you only drag yourself to work for that other boss (and you leave sooner or later).
That’s the “culture.” Like a person, your little company has its own personality. Would your company be well-liked? Is it charismatic and inspiring? Every entrepreneur or small business that hires a freelancer or a remote team establishes a culture– and should, because culture is what makes your virtual staff love working for you.
When they do, they’re dedicated and motivated.
Dedication and motivation produces initiative and results way beyond your expectations.
Basics for a beloved workplace
Think about ripples. Define what kind of company you want yours to be. The kind employees remember fondly, even when they’re no longer in it?
Hire smartly. Look beyond skills to soft-skills that contribute to a workplace where no one is bristling at anyone else (either due to incompetence, arrogance, tactlessness, etc).
Take feedback. Be genuinely interested. At USource, we are asked what we would like to see, change, or do at the end of the year, and there’s an open-door policy with our head honchos– we can speak to them anytime.
Make your team your partners. Speaking of open-door, share results as much as goals. What’s going on, and why? The need-to-know policy is cold and dead. Establish a transparency, a partnership. When your employees feel like they are included, they become invested.
Just as you take feedback, be sure to give it. A reward for work well done doesn’t always have to be material. Recognize, praise, and thank for every achievement and and milestone. At USource, “thank you” is like our catchphrase. It’s a tiny thing, and yet so powerful.
A Culture of Warmth: Fun, Caring, Good Times
At USource, we have inside jokes and traditions (the latest one is the “GIF party” every Friday)– and Dan still doesn’t escape the occasional teasing (we need to let the newbies know, don’t we?). The groups and channels we’ve established at our Slack platform is not exclusively for work. We talk to each other, we make fun of each other, we get to know each other and we like each other.
We don’t dread going to work.
Don’t be a drill sergeant. Oh, freelancers love structure. But find a happy medium between expectations and freedom. Freelancers love their freedom. Care for results, not procedure. And care for their freedom– let them know how much notice you require for personal days, and when they’re ill, they should rest. You’ll be surprised how much they make it up to you.
Chat with each other – Before it became something that meant instant messaging, a chat means an informal, friendly talk. Virtual staff who chat are happy freelancers.
Many others don’t get any chat at all. It’s lonely.
If you start off with ‘strictly business only’– your employees will adapt that. Dan headed that off early. We chat on Skype. We’d moved on to Slack now, and it’s our virtual break room.
If people are shy, start talking. Ask after them, their kids, their plans for the weekend. Let their personalities and hobbies be known to each other, so they can truly make connections.
Let social media be social – Sure, you use your accounts for business, too, but social media is meant to be social. All work and no play makes your company dull. A workplace culture of fun and great humor attracts customers, too. Don’t just post things about work– post things that happen at work, like pranks, or jokes.
People love to laugh– our social media specialists have a treasure trove of hilarious content. We laugh over them while we work on them!
A Culture of Trust
The virtual marketplace operates on trust.
Clients trust that the work will be completed. Freelancers trust that they receive the instruction and pertinent details they need to deliver good work, and that they would be duly compensated.
When this trust is compromised anywhere in that cycle, productivity and work quality breaks. You break the circle of trust, your virtual staff will sooner or later break off with you.
It’s all about communication and integrity. You want your freelancers to trust you? It’s given. Simply don’t lose it.
- Establish that open-door culture. Information shared, good news and bad news alike relayed, even when the bad news was still only threatening to become bad news. Agenda– and their importance and relevance– are outlined clearly. Communication is key.
- Decisions are explained. You don’t just tell them you’ve decided on this or that– you share how you came to that decision. They appreciate this. They are aware you don’t have to. But that you do scores so many points in the boss-coolness scale.
- Accountability is mutual. You own up to your own mistakes, as much as you expect your virtual staff to admit and fix theirs.
- Mistakes are learning opportunities. “Now I know” is another phrase we use at USource. Rarely, compared with “thank you” of course, but when we slip up, we treat each other kindly and encouragingly.
- Management sets the tone and culture. Your culture is in the hands of any team leaders you assign. Make sure they promote your culture; no abuse of management status. Don’t allow team leaders or managers to go “power-tripping.” Elevation can sometimes go to a person’s head, no matter how charming he/she was before the promotion. In the first place, promote smartly. Employees all over the world resent it when promotion goes to the undeserving. Most freelancers went freelance to get away from unfairness that happens in most offices.
- Management sets an example. Freelancers are self-starters who have a high standard in work ethics. Unless you want them slacking off– you don’t slack off. They wouldn’t slack off anyway. They’d simply lose respect for you and work instead for other clients.
A Culture of High Performance
By establishing a culture of warmth and a culture of trust together, you create a culture of high performance. All the steps above motivate your virtual staff to not only work, but work hard and smart!
Change what doesn’t work
Transparency and ease of communication means the whole team is aware of procedures and practices, and if any of those don’t work, your employees see it– and tell you. Freelancers are always in step with what’s new and what’s great.
Let go of outdated and useless practices. Step toward a better one. Simple. Of course, for this to happen, there has to be enough trust, humility and comfort between you and your team to examine, accept and change.
No charging ahead blindly: pause before starting.
Make it a part of your workplace culture to go slowly but surely. Not so slowly, but not too fast that everything is a blur and none of you realize what you could have done better, faster.
Include everyone in the battleplan.
Is the big picture and goals known to everybody? Do they know why they’re doing what they’re doing?
Set targets and expectations high.
Just high enough for a nice stretch and to let your virtual staff rise to their potential, but not too high that it injures morale.
In conclusion, enable them to act like they’re the boss invested and dedicated. When they know their roles and your goals, they can move freely and amazingly, instead of always asking for instructions, and only doing what you tell them to do.
You increase performance through a culture of trust and warmth. What have you got going on with your virtual team that excites you to log on to work?