The shift to working in a remote or flexible environment happened slowly… and then all at once in 2020. And here we are, 3 years later, still dealing with its consequences, both the good and the bad and learning to navigate these new working trends. With many companies all over the world pledging to never return to the office, the focus on optimising the work from home experience for employees is vital.
While the benefits of remote working are immense, creating a healthy company culture requires serious commitment from the management/leadership on your team. Remote teams require more structure, better communication, and a high level of proactive transparency from the management & leadership.
In this article, we’ll dig into practical ways to build and grow a positive company culture in any remote team.
Why is company culture so important?
Company culture is extremely important for any business as it affects how your employees and customers perceive you—which subsequently affects the overall success of your business.
Company culture isn’t just about team lunches and ping pong tables. It takes more to foster (and nurture) the connection between a company and its employees. It takes open communication, mindfulness, intention, and a proactive approach for employees to work together.
Now, in a traditional work environment such as work offices, company culture can often evolve organically through team activities, collaboration, and other day-to-day experiences. The time that teams spend together gives them a sense of purpose and belonging.
However, whilst building a remote team culture can also happen organically, it requires a more proactive effort to form and shape, considering remote and hybrid teams are physically distanced. When building a remote or hybrid team, you’ll need to rethink all of your processes, including recruiting, onboarding, performance reviews, collaboration, tools, and more. That’s why a thoughtful, strategic effort to develop a strong company culture while working remotely is extremely important.
All things considered, how do you ensure a healthy company culture?
Essentially, it all comes down to creating a virtual environment where your employees feel safe and valued, team members support fellow coworkers, embrace the company mission, and fully engage in their work.
Below, you can read more about five efficient tips on improving your remote company culture.
Ask for employee feedback
How can you foster a culture of honest communication and trusted connection when you are physically separated from your team?
The best way to get an insight to your remote company culture is to go directly to the source – the employees.
How are your remote team members doing? Are they feeling productive? Are they feeling satisfied? They may be fine, or they may feel isolated and need additional support. There’s only one way to find out!
The key to success in building any company culture is gathering employee feedback. And it’s even more critical in remote organisations as you are not able to get feedback from those casual water dispenser conversations from your team.
Feedback in a remote setting often means tackling tough conversations that lead to more productive team relationships, greater trust in leadership and the company, and more confidence in your work.
Asking your remote employees questions about what they value and how they’d like to see your culture evolve can be extremely enlightening.
But a great feedback culture doesn’t just happen—it must be intentionally designed.
The State of Remote Work report found that remote employees struggle the most with the four following factors.
- Unplugging after work
- Loneliness throughout the day
- Collaborating with other team members
These factors may be at play for many members of your remote team, too. It’s important you determine your team’s biggest struggles so you can offer support.
The easiest and most time-effective way to do so is to set up and send out surveys (including recurring ones) and turn survey data into insights to your remote company culture. The right platform can do the hard work for you while preserving your employees’ anonymity and protecting your company’s data.
Questions to ask your remote employees
- I feel well-informed of my company’s mission, vision and goals.
- The management at [your company] communicates with everyone working remotely.
- I feel that [your company] offers the right tool stack to enable remote collaboration.
- I feel included in company decisions.
- I feel connected to other team members
- I feel connected to other teams at the company.
- I am satisfied with the communication processes at [your company].
- I am able to effectively structure my day while working remotely.
- I find it easy to focus and resist distraction while working remotely.
- I feel productive while working remotely.
- Working remotely does not negatively impact my work morale.
- My expected output and responsibilities are clear to me.
- I have enough time to focus on learning and career development during my typical work week.
- The management at [company] has shown that employee health and well-being are priorities.
- Remote work does not affect my mental health negatively.
- I am able to maintain a good work-life balance while working remotely.
- I feel supported in adapting my schedule as needed according to caregiving and other personal responsibilities.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Your remote team culture will strive or struggle, depending on communication. Get communication wrong, and you’ll find that your culture simply won’t stick.
Schedule weekly team meetings if possible. Cover what the team is working on, give details on any decisions that may affect the team and ensure you reiterate your desire for feedback and open communication. Having these regular meetings will help the team members to bond, share news whilst encouraging motivation amongst your entire team.
It is also recommended to hold your meetings using video conferencing. This allows your team members to become familiar with each other, see each other’s reactions and facial expressions. Experts believe in always having the camera on as they suggest that body language helps effective communication as people naturally observe body language almost as much as they listen to what others are saying.
Another thing that the experts recommend is to ensure that you set the expectations on which communication channels are to be used for certain types of topics. For instance, you might want legal and/or somewhat ‘serious’ documentation being communicated by email or your cloud file server, whereas casual discussion or team huddles can be done via Teams or Slack.
For best results, provide a communication guide that outlines:
- Preferred channels
- Appropriate tone
- Expected response time
- Contact information and instructions for who to reach out to in certain situations
Most communication tools that remote companies tend to use can be left open all day either as a desktop app or browser tab, with the option of having your notifications on. Something as simple as keeping an app open will keep the door open for communication amongst the team and essentially contribute to creating a more cohesive and collaborative workplace.
Embrace flexible working arrangements
Part of the allure of working remotely comes from the freedom to work anywhere in the world, whatever hours suit. Most remote employees have the freedom to run errands, pick up their kids from school, handle chores in between meetings, or can log on in their preferred times. When operating a remote company, work times are often not dependent on the hours an office building is open, enabling employees to design both the ideal workday and the ideal work environment.
But “flexible” or “remote” work can mean different things to different people—are your employees expected to be online a certain number of hours each day? Will they need to travel to HQ on a regular basis? It is critical you effectively communicate to your employees what flexible/remote working means to your organisation.
Rather than enforcing strict rules, try to create and distribute a work from home policy that outlines guidelines. This approach will provide remote employees with the sense of structure and freedom, laying down laws while simultaneously allowing them to improve their work/life balance.
Experts in remote working believe that if you reward your employees with generous flexible working conditions, three great things happen.
- Your employees don’t burn out
- Your employees do their best work
- Your employees are happy working at your company
Start new hires with a solid onboarding program
Making a good first impression is crucial. When you start strong with a solid onboarding program, you equip your new employees with the right tools for their journey ahead.
A well planned onboarding process gives your new employees confidence in the company and confidence in their own ability to perform. Below, you can find some examples of what your onboarding program should include.
- IT setup, including emails, usernames, passwords, and access to any necessary programs.
- Completion of required HR documentation
- Virtual tour of the company, software demonstration, location of important resources, and navigation of internal platforms
- Statement of the company’s mission, values, and goals
- Training programme overview, including the expectations for the first weeks of works
- Training for any immediate responsibilities
- Summary of the employee handbook, company rules and policies, job responsibilities
- Concise, organised, and easily accessible guides and supplemental resources
- Video calls with immediate team members
- Introduction to the rest of the team
Extra touches such as mailing a welcome care package, organising icebreaker activities, starting a welcome thread on an employee channel, creating their email signatures and adding your new employees to the website can also create a lasting positive impression.
Whatever method you use to announce your new employees, try to ensure that other teammates respond with kindness and encouragement. Remote work can be lonely, but a warm welcome can set the tone for their new experience.
Provide your employees with the right tools to succeed
Working effectively in a remote environment means that each and every member of the team must have access to the same set of tools and technology that make working, collaborating, and communicating as simple as possible.
Whether it means switching to softwares like Google Docs to make copywriting together possible, or ensuring everyone knows how to use various Teams features, or investing in project management tools such as Monday.com to keep things organised…
Ensuring your employees have a comfortable and effective work setup no matter where in the world they work is extremely important too. Many companies all over the globe provide their remote employees with a budget for an office setup, including the option to provide them with a new desk, laptop, headset or a comfortable chair!
An organisation where all employees are given the right set of tools they need to do their job whilst contributing to company goals, and connecting with their coworkers, managers, and leaders is one with a healthy company culture.
Armed with this new knowledge, along with the tips and links we have included throughout this article, we hope that you feel more confident when creating a productive and profitable business with a remote team of employees.
Foothold America wishes you all the best as you create and grow a positive company culture with your remote team!