Working from home or remotely is a great option for businesses and staff looking for a flexible alternative to the traditional co-located office. But as anyone who’s ever missed a juicy water cooler conversation knows, being physically absent can leave you feeling out of the loop.

Developing an inclusive and positive company culture can help improve efficiency and staff satisfaction. Today we explore a few ways you can unite your workplace.

1. Create a social network

Communicating using social media has become more prevalent in the work place. Make it easy for staff to connect online by creating a professional social network for your team.

Private social networks aim to give the Facebook experience with features relevant to businesses. Between file sharing and HD video conferencing users can post photos and status updates too. The atmosphere can be as light-hearted or professional as you like and are great for finding out a bit more about your team. Having used a professional social network in two different workplaces, I must admit I’m a fan. The network updates you on what’s happening in the business, is a noticeboard for announcements and is great for getting to know co-workers you may not see too often.

2. Throw a virtual party

Video chat systems like Skype help us connect with friends and relatives everyday. So what’s preventing us from having that sort of engagement with our remote staff and co-workers?

Throwing a virtual party is as easy as setting up a group video chat with one person acting as the host for the event. To keep things lively try a game of trivia or a scavenger hunt. Challenge your team to find the funniest picture they have of themselves in their home or workspace. Provide prizes for the winners and encourage everyone to get into the spirit of things.

 3. Take things offline

While online interactions are a great way of connecting with remote staff or team members, taking the time to meet physically is a must for group cohesion. The simple act of shaking hands or getting a coffee often fast tracks our bonding with co-workers. Imagine all the instances you’ve exchanged a joke with someone in a meeting based on eye contact alone. By arranging staff development days that bring the whole company together you can help build memories and relationships that make each staff member feel like a necessary and meaningful part of the team. While many small businesses may not be able to afford an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, it’s worth considering group deals for local attractions and weekend getaways.

 4. Make a tangible effort

For those working remotely, emails are essential to staying in touch. But despite how many ☺ faces and exclamation points are used emails can still be impersonal.

Consider establishing a package culture in your team. If you have a discussion about biscuits, mail a packet to your staff, if a member has performed particularly well, send them a gift card, if there’s a birthday in the team send flowers or chocolates to their home or workspace. These items needn’t be large or expensive. Merely a tangible acknowledgement of the hard work your remote team does.

5. Join online communities

Traditional office spaces are full of social groups, there are the coffee connoisseurs, the fitness fanatics, the lingering lunchers and a plethora of others.

With a remote team these cliques don’t always form so organically. You won’t run into co-workers at the local café or spot them in the lycra section of Target. So get proactive and join an online community as a team. Whether you’re raising money for a charitable cause or adding to the conversation on a national cycling enthusiasts website encourage your crew to band together. Offer to cover the registration costs and give them time to participate in an event local to them. Also try starting a company hashtag on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to track your activities and be sure to be an active participant yourself!

Establishing a great company culture almost always comes from above. While it’s good to provide outlets for culture to develop always be sure to be an active participant!

Have you got a great company culture? Tell us in the comments how you achieved it.