The productivity-boosting benefits of internal communication software has been well-documented. But what if you’re looking not just for a tool that will improve workflow, but also one that helps you build a fun, cohesive work environment? This is an important part of any company, but especially those with remote employees. In order to maximize employee engagement, it’s crucial that all of your employees feel that they’re a part of the larger organization and not working alone in a silo. Internal communication platforms can play a key role in establishing this communal feel, and they often do so in a way that’s fun, informal and mimics the casual, free-flow conversation among colleagues gathering around the keg at a Friday happy hour.
Tips for how to use internal communication software to build a fun virtual office culture
- Give people insight into what’s going on across the company: As startups grow, it becomes harder to stay informed, and it’s not uncommon for employees to feel disconnected from parts of the company that they’re not directly involved in. Yammer, which functions as an internal company Facebook—even its interface is shockingly FB-like—is often used as a place for teams to share their accomplishments with the entire company, or to spread companywide news. Ampush CEO Jesse Pujji says, “We are pretty heavy users of this for internal social networking across the company. As we’ve gotten bigger it’s become more of a social media/fun/culture-building tool, as opposed to a productivity tool.”
- Ceate an employee intranet: If you have an employee intranet, make that a space where individuals can share project updates or brag about team wins. Encourage employee engagement by providing the ability to “like” or comment on content, or a Reddit-type tool, where content can be voted up or down. Create as many opportunities for participation as you can, which will keep employees coming back and help them stay informed.
- Encourage special interest groups: Aside from its direct productivity applications, many companies use instant messaging tools as a forum for fun special interest groups. Ticketmaster Mobile Studio Director of Operations Matthew Raimundo explains that he chose “HipChat for communications between project teams, departments, special interest groups and company communications as a whole. It’s been super helpful to have everyone on that platform.” For companies with remote employees, these groups help to create common social threads among employees who don’t often interact face to face.
- Keep it casual: Email often calls for a more formal style of communication that isn’t really reflective of how people interact in person. Internal communication platforms create a space for more casual conversation, fostering a more personal, non-hierarchical vibe. “All of our important communication flows through Asana, and GroupMe is our team watercooler,” notes Max Nova, founder of SilviaTerra. And, if you’re interested in adding a bit of whimsy to your daily work, “on Slack, you can upload custom emoji’s, which, funnily enough, is my favorite feature,” admits Lionheart Software President Dan Loewenherz. “It’s surprisingly entertaining, even though it’s really functional.”
- Think outside the box: “We’re all in different parts of the world, so on occasion we’ll do a happy hour and sit on Google Hangouts and drink, which is fun,” notes Pashmina Lalchandani, owner of Flow Simple. For project-related communications, Lalchandani recommends Teamwork Projects.
A strong sense of camaraderie and employee engagement are critical components of your business, leading to greater employee satisfaction and higher retention rates (which, ultimately, exhibit themselves as increased productivity and employees who are eager to take ownership and make a difference). For companies with remote employees, it’s more challenging to foster that community feel, but internal communication tools—along with a measure of creative thinking—can be a great way of facilitating the type of environment where employees can feel a sense of belonging and ownership.