The Importance of Building Community

Building community in the workplace, whether in an office or virtual setting is the key to satisfied employees and high productivity. If you consider some of the things that make yourself or others remain at a particular job, there lies the importance of the workplace community. Many of us don’t continue to serve in our roles because of monetary benefits, but rather connectedness to the vision of the organization, meaning in our work, and relationships built with the people around us. In virtual work environments, this becomes a challenge because you may not make verbal contact with other employees or supervisors daily or even weekly or monthly. Because of the growth of social media and technology, there is now the opportunity to build relationships without having to meet face to face.

Think Outside of the Box

Some of the things that are necessary for a workplace community include shared vision, empowerment, boundaries, rules and regulations, friendship, gratitude, recognition, and the growth and development of community members. These things are hard to tackle outside of a traditional office setting but are still critical to any organization. Tackling the pieces that make every community tick in a virtual environment does require you to think outside of the box, tap into virtual resources and find out what works best for your team.

Get Input from Staff

Nothing says “we’re building community here,” like asking for staff input about what it means to have a community. Create a survey to gauge how staff would like to engage in a virtual community. Develop questions that will give you a feel for how comfortable employees are using certain social media platforms. Is everyone comfortable with Snapchat as a platform used to build community? You also want to get a feel for things that are important to your staff overall. Are recognition programs relevant to your team?  Do they have any interest in monthly videos about company goals? Would they like to see a weekly professional development series? If you have a staff that is pretty social media savvy, you may want to put the survey on a social media platform such as Twitter and gathering responses by searching a unique hashtag. Of course, you have to consider your capabilities and limitations when creating this survey. Don’t offer an option that is not feasible to produce just in case it is not manageable to deliver.

Use Facebook for Staff Recognition

Facebook can be used to engage virtual employees in several ways.  Creating a Facebook page may seem like a simple fix to a complex challenge, but using Facebook as the platform to build community is only the beginning.

One way to engage staff on Facebook is to use it as a platform for staff recognition programs. Bringing attention to staff for doing great work is essential in any workplace environment, whether it is a virtual or office setting. Creating a platform where supervisors can recognize staff openly not only helps build community but also motivates staff as well. The criteria can be strictly based on productivity or availability, but it is important that the criteria for being recognized connects with the mission and goals of your organization. Be sure to share the criteria for nominations on every social media outlet you use to communicate with staff.

Host a Social Media Contest

Consider creating a social media driven contest that is in line with the core values of your company. For example, a company that values staff collaboration may host a contest that challenges team members to post a creative picture of themselves working together on a project. Instead of letting supervisors or key team leaders vote on the winner of the contest, let other employees vote on the winning submission. Require that each entry include a short bio of each staff member featured in the photograph. Encourage staff members to use funny props. Other ideas include writing competitions that may tie up with an upcoming marketing campaign, or create a unique response to complex questions from staff. Contest ideas may not be work related at all but focused on company values. For example, if your business values work-life balance, the competition could include pictures doing fun things around town; if health and wellness is valued, feature a contest that promotes health and wellness.

Random drawings are just as fun. Have employees enter a drawing by sharing something unique about them in a private portal such as a private Facebook page, and draw a winner for a small prize. A fun contest can give employees an incentive to check the page or pages you use to help build community. A contest like this could be hosted on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram.

Open a Snapchat Account for Day in the Life Exercise

It is also important that staff feel like they connect with leadership. Consider opening a Snapchat account where employees can follow key leaders throughout the day. You may not be able to post every single day, but it will allow them to see what you are working on throughout the week or month. Snapchat is the perfect tool because it gives you a few seconds to capture the most critical moments. You may not be able to take them into the boardroom with you, but you may be able to share the moments leading up to those important meetings.

Snapchat could also be used in a similar way for staff so that they can see important things they are doing for the company. Also, leaders could use this tool to feature inspiring videos, remind staff of important company goals and policies, and celebrate business milestones.

Use Hoot Suite to Manage Social Media Profiles

There are so many social media outlets these days, and when you are taking advantage of many of them to build a community, it can become tedious. Hoot Suite is a tool that helps you manage your social media outlets in one place. You can schedule tweets, synchronize where videos will be posted, and post the same content on multiple sites using Hoot Suite. It is an excellent tool to use, especially if you are using multiple social media sites to engage staff.

No matter how you choose to engage staff in community building on social media, it is important that you are open to trying things out and adjusting if those ideas do not work. If this concept is new to your team, it may take a bit of time to get them onboard. Giving team members a chance to share how they would like to be engaged on social media helps manage those challenges, but it is important that you are flexible. If a social media initiative did not go over well, find out what went wrong by consulting with your staff. If it went well, find ways to improve and build on that successful program. Building community is essential and may require some trial and error, but the outcome will make the work worthwhile.


Virtual Staff Retreats Made Easy

by Wendy Soon on May 12, 2016

Dollarphotoclub_66649673_telecommutebannerThere are numerous benefits associated with well-planned and engaging staff retreats. Staff retreats give employees a chance to connect or re-connect with the missions and goals of the organization. Retreating also gives staff an opportunity to connect with each other and company leadership. There are some real benefits and challenges of working remotely, but hosting a virtual staff retreat may help tackle some of those challenges while highlighting the many benefits of working from home.


Planning a staff retreat in a virtual work environment can be a big challenge due to lack of resources or ideas. How does one plan a staff retreat for remote workers, then? The key is to think out of the box and put the employees’ need to feel connected at the forefront while you explore how to make staff retreats for at-home businesses work.




  • Budget – What can your company afford? The budget will affect almost every area of the planning phase. Your team may want to host the meeting with a more expensive platform, but if the budget does not allow it, then you may have to use a free service. Also, consider if participation is paid and at what rate.
  • How many staff members are participating? This will be a determining factor as well. Some video platforms will not support more than 15 people. More expensive platforms can support up to 100 people. Purchasing “door gifts” such as gift cards for a lunch of 15 people versus 50 people is a huge difference.
  • Goals and Objectives – This is probably the most important piece to consider. There are certainly ways to get around the budget for accommodating a large or small staff, but the retreat will not be useful if goals are not intentionally outlined. Is this retreat primarily focused on team building? Is the goal to do some strategic planning by getting the input of staff members? Is there a staff appreciation component to the retreat? Will there be a portion of the retreat dedicated to skill building or certification? These are all things that should be considered.


10 Steps to Planning a Virtual Staff Retreat


  1. Set a firm budget – Figure out how much your company can afford to spend. Retreats can be extremely expensive, but there are ways around costly retreats. If your business can not afford to throw an elaborate function, be prepared to get creative.
  2. Build a committee – Select individuals for a committee that represents the make-up of the company. If your company has an IT department and a customer service area, be sure to include representatives from each side of the enterprise. Share the budget with the committee if leadership is not serving on the committee – It is important that lines of communication are wide open between the committee and company leadership.
  3. Set goals – This is crucial. Outline the goals of the retreat. Make sure the goals are clear, obtainable, and measurable. Be prepared to share these with participants. Have your committee build an agenda based on those aims.
  4. Set a date and time – Remember to set a date and time that is mutually beneficial for your staff. Consider adjusting work schedules during the week the retreat will be held. Take note of weekends, public holidays and off hours in different time zones if your virtual team is scattered across the globe in different countries.
  5. Find a web-based conference platform that works for your team’s needs – Technology gives us an excellent opportunity to meet virtually. Because you are meeting remotely, finding a web-based discussion platform that fits your goals and budget is critical. There are many options such as Skype, Google Hangout, Scribblar, Team Viewer, Webex. The costs of these platforms vary from free to over $500, depending on how many people you need to host and if file sharing is required. Remember to have the committee do a test run well before the actual retreat. If you run into hang-ups, be sure to share those with the staff logging-in remotely.
  6. Plan unique team building exercises – Team building can be a good way to re-energize your staff. It can be a challenge to engage staff virtually, so creating appealing incentives can assist with active participation. Social media contests, online assessments that share results, and polling staff during the retreat can help remote staff feel more connected to the group. Learn more about how to incorporate team building into your virtual retreat here.
  7. Send out save the dates – Incorporate not only the date and time but also the necessary information about the web-based platform used to facilitate the retreat. This is especially important if it has not been traditionally used during meetings. This may also be a good time to introduce any social media competitions or engaging activities.
  8. Send necessary items in the mail – If you want to send your staff a retreat t-shirt or lunch voucher, be sure to post that ahead of time. Sending thank you gifts is a good way to get staff excited about the retreat. Be sure to send incentives that are cost-effective and serve a purpose.
  9. Plan lunch or lunch-related activities – This is a huge challenge. It’s nice to treat the staff to lunch during retreats. That’s a challenge if there is not a central space for staff to meet. If your company has a cluster of officials in central areas, you could plan a joint lunch for groups of staff and flip the bill. If that’s not the case, you may be able to send gift cards to staff ahead of time. If money is small, you may be able to work with companies and have them donate these to your business. Another way to tackle this would be to incorporate employee wellness into a lunch time. Host a healthy lunch competition. Employees are given the guidelines ahead of time, and the worker with the most creative, low-calorie meals that incorporates all of the food groups wins a prize. It’s engaging and cost-effective. It also allows staff to get some face-time and time to get to know each other.
  10. Keep the Ball Rolling – After the retreat is over, it doesn’t end there. Be sure to continue to engage staff in team building activities throughout the year. If strategic planning or training was incorporated into the retreat, keep those conversations going as well. Check out com/blog to learn other ways to engage your virtual staff.





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