When and How Should Remote Teams Meet in Person?

In 2022, most office professionals fit into one of three categories: Some work primarily on-site in an office building. Some split their time between home and the office building. Lastly, some work full-time remotely from their home offices or wherever they happen to be.

The majority of my teams fit into the last category. They are fully remote. They are quite happy and productive doing so.

As their leader, I’m quite content to offer as much flexibility as possible. I’ve found that people do their best work and are most likely to stay with us when we offer that flexibility.

Fully remote doesn’t mean never being in person

While many teams prefer remote work, it doesn’t mean they never want to see their co-workers in person ever again. There may be some people that feel that way, but not the majority. Most are willing and have a desire to connect with their teammates in person. As leaders, how do we meet that need, while balancing remote flexibility?

Over the past six months, I’ve seen remote teams experiment with different ideas, all of which have been well-received by team members. If you lead a fully remote team and haven’t gotten the group together in person yet, I thought I’d offer these ideas for your consideration.

Volunteer

I can’t think of a better excuse to get your team together than for a volunteer event. You get out of your work routine. You serve your community. You bond as a team. Everybody wins. I did this with my team last week and it was a great experience. It’s literally impossible to do yard work at a nature center or feed starving children over Zoom. You have to show up for this.

Celebrate

When your team accomplishes a major milestone, get the crew together to celebrate the achievement. Yes, this can be done virtually too, but if you can pull off an in-person celebration, it’ll be more memorable and impactful.

Team building

I’m a firm believer that you can bond and have fun as a team virtually. I’ve written an article about that, but it’s also a great reason to get the team together. Go do something fun. Take in a sporting event, do an escape room, or have a picnic in a park. They are so many options. You probably did things like this as a team in 2019, but have you done anything in 2022 yet?

Gemba walk

Gemba walk is a term from the Lean management philosophy, which means “go where the work happens.” For fully remote technology teams, I’ll give a few examples: Infrastructure teams can visit remote sites to see how their technology solutions are being used. Application teams can visit their customers in the field to see how their application is used. Sales enablement teams can ride along with a salesperson on a customer visit or attend a sales rally.

I’m always impressed with what teams can accomplish remotely, but sometimes there is an advantage to going to where the work happens. Give it a try. You’ll probably be surprised by what you discover.

Go into the office

Fully remote teams don’t want to be in the office building every week, but it can be good to go there every so often. It’s just a matter of finding the right reason. I’ve heard the phrase, “onsite is the new offsite.” I like that concept. Here are a few reasons to gather your team together in the office building:

A few things to keep in mind:

If your team hasn’t ever met in person, ease into it first. Try a hybrid meeting, with a remote option. If you plan an event where you really want everyone there, check everyone’s comfort level and availability individually first, before finalizing your plans.

In conclusion, being fully remote is great, but it doesn’t have to mean you never see people in real life. Remote team members don’t want to commute to the office for the sole purpose of being present and accounted for. Leaders can bring people together but they need a relevant and compelling reason to do so. Not everything I’ve written here applies to you, but surely something does. Why not give it a whirl?

Do you lead a fully remote team? Have you gotten the crew together lately? What did you do? How did it go? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.

Read this article on my blog site or listen to it on my podcast🎙️

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Zach Hughes

Zach Hughes

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Technology Leader at CHS. Passionate about leadership and innovation. Posts are my own.