Q&A: Team Culture between Colleagues who are Far Apart

Q: How do we build a “team” culture when I rarely see my colleagues?

Dr. Paul White: Having team-members work from a variety of settings is extremely common in organizations.  As a result, building a sense of “team” can be a challenge and often needs to be done intentionally.

One aspect leaders often forget is, when colleagues work in the same facility, there is a lot of opportunity for informal, spontaneous interactions. Also, there are occasions for eating together at the office, and going out to lunch together with a small group.  Essentially, there are a number of times when you can interact socially – finding out about their weekend, what their kids are doing, leisure activities they are involved in.

In long distance work relationships, these type of interactions rarely happen unless you are intentional.  Most conversations (telephone calls, conference calls, video conferences) are almost solely work- and task-oriented.  So I have found that it is helpful and important to call and “check in” with team members, to see how they are doing, and find out about their life outside of work.  Sometimes it makes sense to actually set up a call with no work-based agenda, so you don’t interrupt them in the midst of an important task.

This is an important first step. Before you can have a sense of “team”, you need to know each of your team members individually.