Communication is a critical skill for any manager to master, and it becomes even more important when managing a remote team that doesn’t have a physical office to share.
The visual cues that you lose (like who likes to work together, who’s in too many meetings, who seems isolated) make it hard as a manager to take proactive action to keep your team engaged and productive. You also tend to get stuck in back-to-back 1:1s to make up for the fact that you can’t walk up to someone in the moment.
Gather gives remote teams a place where you can see each other working and in-the-moment conversations become natural, not scheduled. Managers in particular love working in a virtual office because you can:
Help your direct reports level up faster with timely feedback
Address confusion and blocks right away to help everyone keep working and reduce time waiting for a response
Be available and approachable when your team needs you
Help your remote workers feel like a connected team
In fact, managers are one of the most common groups who start their Gather office for their team!
This guide will teach you how to use your virtual office on Gather to build a stronger remote culture for your team. We’ll cover tips to help you with:
Fast feedback loops
New hire onboarding
Team office hours
A quick note: If you’re brand new to Gather, read our Getting Started Guide first to learn the basics of starting conversations, audio and video settings, and moving around the office.
1. Fast Feedback Loops
Don’t wait for the next meeting to give feedback that’s relevant now. Gather makes it easy to walk up to someone so you can share praise or provide constructive feedback in the moment, when it will have the biggest impact.
This reduces the need for you to book another meeting on the calendar or wait until your next scheduled 1:1 to share an opportunity for growth. Your employees will appreciate the fast feedback loops, and you can keep work moving forward at a fast pace.
Best practices for giving feedback in Gather
1. Give timely feedback immediately after a meeting.
One of the benefits of holding meetings in Gather is that you can stay in the office afterward (instead of everyone leaving the Zoom link and requiring you to set up a secondary call).
When a meeting ends, walk over to the person you want to give feedback to. Just like a real office, you can talk quickly in the hallway, go chat at their desk, or walk over to a meeting area for feedback that’s better delivered privately.
2. Show appreciation by leaving a note on their desk.
Written praise can go a long way in making an employee feel seen and appreciated. To recognize someone’s hard work, you can leave a note on their desk with a celebratory object and “hand-written” message.
To do this, hover over the employee’s desk and click Leave Note. You can choose the object you want to place on their desk and then type your message of appreciation. They’ll see it the next time they sit at their desk!
3. See when someone is available for a quick feedback session.
When your team works in Gather throughout the day, you’ll get back the visuals like being able to see if a direct report is free at their desk, in a meeting, or talking to their friends.
This will help you choose the right moment to approach them for feedback, without having to send the “Hey are you free to chat for 10 minutes?” Slack message first.
4. Stay available in Gather for follow-up questions after you give feedback.
After you’ve shared feedback with an employee, it’s important to be approachable for follow-up conversations. When you’re not in meetings, sit at your Gather desk and keep your status as “Available” so it’s easy for them to come talk to you if they need clarification.
Sitting in Gather will also give you context to how they received the feedback. Did they go back to working with their teammates like normal? Or did they sit alone at their desk and put on Do Not Disturb mode for the rest of the day?
These visual clues can help you decide how to follow up over the next few days. Which leads us to…
2. Team Visibility
Working in a virtual office gives you a way to see the activity of your team throughout the day, which is near impossible on Slack or Zoom.
As you see people move throughout the office, you’ll learn things like:
Who likes to work with each other
Who’s in too many meetings
Who seems absent
Observing these patterns can help you learn how your team works best, and then intervene early so you can keep employee engagement and team productivity high.
How to do it:
1. Zoom out the map for a birds eye view
Take a look at the activity in your office without ever leaving your seat! You can zoom out for a full look at where your team members are working, what their status is, and who they’re talking to.
You can either zoom in or out with your mouse or go to User Settings to manually control the zoom level.
2. Find a specific team member
If you’re trying to check on a certain employee, take a look at the Participants Panel on the right.
You can search for their name, and then see information like their status and what area of the office they’re in.
Want to walk over to them? You can either:
Locate them on the map, which will draw a line from your avatar to theirs. (Only you will see this – they won’t know you’re locating them.)
Follow them, which automatically starts walking your avatar to theirs. (They will see a notification that you’re following them, so only do this if you want them to know you’re coming!)
3. Check in with a wave
Have an employee who’s been on Do Not Disturb mode longer than normal or that seems distant from the team coworking zone? Send them a wave to say ‘hello.’
This is a very easy and natural way to have a quick check-in conversation, without having to schedule something formal.
Mike Mengell, CTO and Co-Founder at CTO Labs, finds that Gather “gives a view into the team that can’t be matched by simple video calls.” A few times a day, he’ll make Gather full screen to see who’s in the office (or not), who’s talking to who, and who’s been on Do Not Disturb for hours. “That’s the person I’ll reach out to and say hi.”
For Mike, these behavior patterns in Gather give him an early potential indicator into an individual’s headspace. “Are they overloaded with work? Are they a bit disconnected? Are they struggling with something personal? It’s an enabler for a conversation.”
You can read his team’s full Gather story here.
3. New Hire Onboarding
When new employees join your team, a strong onboarding process is critical to help them be successful in their new role. It’s also one of the largest drivers of employee retention.
Unfortunately for new remote employees, onboarding can often be an exhausting and lonely experience filled with back to back Zoom calls, endless Notion docs, and a serious lack of casual conversation getting to know the new team.
With Gather, new hires can instantly see they’re not alone in the office and easily walk up to their new teammates to introduce themselves or ask questions.
Tips for new hire onboarding
1. Assign new hires their own desk on day 1
When your new hire walks into the virtual office on their first day, take them to their new desk in your team’s desk pod.
This can help them immediately feel like they’re a part of the team and gives them a place to return to in between training sessions.
Encourage them to decorate their desk to show off their personality. This Desk Decorating Guide will teach them how and provide inspiration.
2. Use desk pods to help them understand the org chart
When you join a remote team, it can take a surprising amount of time to figure out who’s who in terms of what people work on, what team they’re on, and who to collaborate with.
You can help your new employee build this operational context faster by leveraging the visual “org chart” in your Gather office. Show them where key teams and stakeholders sit, so they know where to look when trying to figure out who to talk to for something.
Mareike Knappe, Head of People and Culture at TradeLink, says this can help new hires build these connections “within a matter of a few days!” For her, Gather enables them to onboard new hires quickly with “Easy and efficient onboarding processes. It’s uncomplicated.”
TradeLink’s office on Gather. Notice how each desk pod is labeled, making it easy to see what team someone is on.
3. Teach them how to start conversations (and put it into practice)
If your new employee has never worked in a Gather office before, the idea that they can walk up to someone to start a conversation without having to schedule a call first will be a transition.
Teach them the basics of conversations in Gather, like:
How the spatial audio and video work
How to wave at teammates
How to ring someone when you want to talk
Any team-specific norms you’ve established (like when to have video on)
Finally, to help them feel comfortable actually starting impromptu conversations, take the lead and show them how it’s done! Stop by their desk at the end of the day to ask how training is going, wave to say good morning, and encourage other team members to do the same.
4. Office Hours
A remote manager’s calendar can quickly become filled with back-to-back meetings, making it difficult for your employees to find time to talk with you unless it’s scheduled in advance.
One way to protect time for your direct reports is to block off office hours or team time on your calendar in which you’re only available for in-the-moment conversations with them.
You may have tried doing this in the past by sharing a Zoom link with your team and sitting in a meeting room by yourself, waiting for anyone to show up.
Greg, a Technical Support Manager at RITE, used to do this on Google Meet. “Before we started using Gather, we sat for 8 hours a day in a Google Meet just looking at each other’s faces.” It was intimidating, however, and Greg said it was “more of a production.”
By sitting at your desk in Gather, you can be visibly available for your employees to come talk to you without having to sit in an empty meeting all day.
Once RITE started working in Gather, these conversations happened much more naturally and Greg was better able to be available for his team. According to him, “Gather is more casual to chat rather than spending all day in a Google Meet or sending a link in Slack.”
Tips for holding office hours on Gather
1. Sit at your desk when you’re not in meetings
This will help your employees see when you’re around so they know when they can approach you with a quick question.
And even if they don’t need to talk right now, they’ll feel your presence and that sense of connection to the broader team.
2. Use your status to convey your availability
Working in Gather doesn’t mean you always have to be ready for a spontaneous conversation. If you need focus time, put yourself in Do Not Disturb mode so your team members know not to talk to you now.
Then when you’re available, they’ll feel confident knowing they can pop over to your desk for a chat and that you’re not currently heads down on work.
3. Initiate the conversation
While office hours are meant to be a time that your direct reports can come to you, that doesn’t mean you can’t start the conversation yourself.
Stop by their desks to see how they’re doing or invite the team to cowork around the virtual lunch table.
These opportunities for casual chats and quick resolutions will help your employees feel connected to the team and empowered to do their work.
To wrap it up
Gather brings back in-person context that helps people managers build a productive and engaged work culture for their team.
With a virtual office on Gather, you can:
Help your direct reports level up faster with timely feedback
Address confusion and blocks right away to help everyone keep working
Be available and approachable when your team needs you
Help your remote workers feel like a connect team
Spend less time in back-to-back meetings and more time being available for your employees.
If you haven’t created your office yet, get started here.