I believe that remote working brings with it improved diversity and a better understanding of other countries and cultures.
But you'll often hear detractors of marketing teams dispersed geographically talking about how you lose something when staff works remotely. Without the proverbial water cooler to chat by, or after work drinks in the local dive bar, there's no way that a team can connect. Of course, that's not true - there are plenty of ways to help your remote crew come together and I should know. I’ve been working remotely for more than 5 years now and sharing my tips on how to work from home.
It is true, though, that it takes extra thought to And kindness can be a big part of helping people feel appreciated. So, here are some tips about encouraging kindness in your dispersed marketing team.
In an office environment, birthdays are often a big deal. Traditions vary from place to place, but bringing in cakes for colleagues or going out for drinks are all common happenings. Then there's weddings, new babies and so on where a card goes around the building in an envelope collecting signatures and small donations that are used to purchase a group gift to support any hobbies they might have.
How do you make that happen remotely? Like most things, it's possible to do all that from a distance. You need to use the right tools, and to make a little bit more effort.
There are online bakeries that will send cake anywhere in the world. So, technically it is possible to send out a cupcake or cookie to celebrate an event. But that would also mean sharing home addresses, and generally be a lot more bother and expense than grabbing a box from Krispy Kreme on the way in.
As an alternative, how about asking everyone to have a tasty treat with them at the next daily stand-up? Dedicate the first or last few minutes of the meeting to toasting the birthday girl, or congratulating the new Daddy? Looking at the different baked treats that people bring can be an icebreaker and is a great way to start conversations about different cultures,
PayPal, Venmo, Google Wallet...all these and more are ways that you can send money to someone regardless of where they are in the world. When that's done, where you buy the gift from is your choice. If you plan far ahead enough, most suppliers can get your delivery there on time. If you leave it to the last minute, then it's probably best left to Amazon to fulfill.
Having a channel that is specifically dedicated to chatting it’s key. If you haven't already implemented this advice then World Kindness Day seems like a good time to start.
Encourage your staff to use it, to share what's going on in their lives, big or small. To wish each other good morning, or goodnight, and check in on how they're doing. Share jokes. Share memes. It all helps to create a positive working environment.
Thank you is a powerful word. Appreciating what others have done should be a part of the daily stand up. But sometimes, kindnesses are small and don't need to be publicly recognised. For times like that, it's great to have a way your team can express themselves.
There are a few tools that can help with that. Something like the Slack chatbot, HeyTaco! for example. Where users can send each other virtual tacos as a quick and fun thank you gesture for helpful advice. Another idea is the Virtual Kudos Box or a team awards system that is nominated from within.
If you've got new staff, give them a thorough onboarding process. Welcoming the new guy is a surefire way to help them integrate into the team, and as well as being kind, that helps boost your productivity. And when you're chairing a meeting, keep track of who is talking and nudge the reluctant ones to join in. Yes, some of us are more introverted, but we all feel good when we're asked for our opinion.
The polar opposite of kindness, is when people start talking behind other's backs. It doesn't matter what they're saying; it's the divisiveness that's a problem. Make it clear that you aren't going to tolerate a culture of moaning. One rule that's often talked about it, 'Don't come to me with a problem unless you have a solution.'
One quote often attributed to Buddha (but actually the work of Victorian poet, Mary Ann Pietzker) is, 'Before you speak, ask: Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true? Does it add to the silence?' Although the source may be fake news, the sentiment is worth reminding people of, every now and then.
When your staff work in different countries or come from different cultural backgrounds, there can be bumps in the road to mutual understanding. Literally, for colleagues who don't share the same first language. But little considerations can be put in place, to smooth the way to understanding.
Firstly, agreeing as a team that you'll try to avoid using slang and colloquialisms will help avoid a lot of confusion. For technical terms, your team could curate a glossary that can be kept to hand during meetings, saving time on questions. Sending out as much material ahead of the meeting as possible is good, too. It helps those who have a different first language to follow on if they know roughly what subjects are going to come up.
You'll probably have heard that remote teams are more productive. That's (mostly) because staff is happier and healthier if they work from home. And do you know what else makes people happy and healthy? You got it! Kindness.
A research study by Harvard Business School & The University of British Columbia gave participants a small sum of money and told them to spend it either on themselves or someone else. Those that spent it on someone else reported that they were happier than those who'd indulged themselves. So it isn't just the recipient of kindness who gets the warm & fuzzies, it's the giver too.
In the meantime, in the words of two of the greatest influencers of our time, 'Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.'