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How Can You Improve Emotional Culture on a Remote Team? Part 2 of 2

by Emily Iwankovitsch Social Media Marketing Manager

When author and Head of Content at Humu Liz Fosslien dropped into our virtual workplace, she explained how remote work can affect emotional culture. To learn more about how it is affected, check out our first blog post.

More importantly, she also shared useful tips on how to improve emotional culture while working on a remote team.

1. Increase Sense of Belonging

When you’re sitting at home, Liz says the company you work for can feel interchangeable with any company. People want to feel connected to the place they work and the people they work with. We need to feel emotionally supported, which is hard when you spend your days alone.

Here’s how Liz explains this: “Diversity” means having a seat at the table. “Inclusion” means having a voice. And “belonging” is having that voice be heard. If you don’t feel like you can raise your hand in a meeting, that’s a sign you don’t feel like you belong.

“We don’t want to know we can survive in a space. We want to know we can thrive,” she said.

Liz cites studies showing that employees are more likely to leave organizations where colleagues show little compassion and gratitude, and that they don’t perform as well under these circumstances. On the other hand, when we feel supported and motivated by our colleagues, we’re happier and more productive. We’re also healthier and better at coping with job stress.

Individuals can make a big difference through “micro-actions” that increase people’s sense of belonging. Small gestures that make a big difference include:

  • Pronouncing and spelling names correctly.
  • Taking a moment to bring people up to speed when they join a conversation (in VR space, this might literally happen when someone new walks up to your conversation group).
  • Creating a shared calendar where people can add celebrations that are personally important to them, including cultural celebrations like Dia de los Muertos.

She also has advice for remote workers and their colleagues:

  • Use the richest form of communication available. Favor technologies that allow subtlety to come across. (Sounds like VR!) 
  • Make time for fun and socializing. So much research shows the importance of being social. For instance, in negotiations, just talking with someone for five minutes about a topic you’re both interested in garners a more successful outcome. Walk along the beach with them in VR!

2. Make Meetings More Efficient by Recognizing Unique Skills and Perspective

Everyone complains about meetings. Liz suggests the following ways to make them more inclusive, meaningful, and effective:

  • Always offer a virtual option. Colleagues who work remote have just as much to contribute as those in the office. Cutting them out of meetings is short sighted and counterproductive. 
  • Recognize people’s unique skills and perspective. Part of belonging is social. To know they’re valued, people have to feel recognized personally. When you give praise, make it specific. 

3. Make the Most of In-Person Time

Working remote is all well and good, but there are advantages to being face-to-face. Plan ahead to make this time count, and don’t waste the opportunity!

  • If possible, onboard new employees in-person. Onboarding is not just for reading the employee handbook and starting your 401k. It’s for building personal connections and creating a sense of belonging. That’s where face-to-face meetings shine. 
    • This is why being in a virtual space together is better than simply sitting at your computer as a remote worker.
  • Schedule weighty conversations for times everyone can be the same room. Nonverbal gestures are such an important part of communication, and it’s a lot easier in person to make sure everyone is included. It’s tough to raise your hand on a Google Hangout, and all too easy to talk over them. The more important the topic, the more important it is to discuss it face-to-face.
    • High Fidelity is working on creating a virtual working space that gets remote workers closer to face-to-face with full spatialized 3D audio and realistic avatars. Want to learn more?

4. Give Specific, Actionable Feedback

Whether you do it in-person or remote, giving feedback can be tricky. Liz has advice about that too.

  • Make observations, not characterizations. Give actionable and specific advice rather than voicing vague dissatisfaction.
  • Remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. That’s why it’s important to deliver feedback using a medium that conveys tone and body language (in other words, not email or other messaging tools). 3D audio in High Fidelity helps us immensely with conveying tone.
  • There’s an art to receiving feedback too. 
    • When someone gives you vague negative feedback, ask “What is one thing I could have done better?” instead of, “Is there anything I could have done better?”
    • Keep in mind that comments are never fully objective.
    • That said, do take notes, and come back to them. You can’t learn from feedback you don’t remember.

There’s so much more in Liz’s latest book, “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.” It resonated with us, and ought to inspire anyone who wants to make their workplace more inclusive, welcoming, and productive.

Blog header image credit to Liz Fosslien.


Published by Emily Iwankovitsch August 27, 2019

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