How to make remote work culture as vibrant as any office
April 15, 2020
Company culture is a bit like a coral reef: unique and changeable, resilient and fragile, all at once. Some elements of a team’s culture are deeply embedded and hard to adjust. At other times, one tiny thing can have a considerable impact.
Every workplace has its own culture. While individuals make up the workplace, they don’t define the culture; workplace culture is about the way the team works together. And that culture is important whether they’re working together in the same building or on opposite sides of the world.
“The old rules of what makes a great team still apply, whether you’re a remote team or not. You can’t build a culture if you don’t have trust, accountability, and mutual respect.” – Tracey Halvorsen, Fastspot
Work culture is influential because it greatly impacts productivity, employee mood, and even the way outsiders perceive the business. Here’s everything you need to know about building a productive, vibrant remote work culture.
Signs of a great company culture
Engaged employees report higher levels of satisfaction in their job and more commitment to the organization. These benefits stem from feeling trusted, valued, motivated, and involved. Creating a great company culture full of engaged employees isn’t an exact science, but there are traits the best all have in common.
- Good communication
Strong communication is crucial for all teams, remote or not. But when workers aren’t physically together in the same room, it’s even more essential. The strongest remote teams have a culture where open, non-judgemental communication is encouraged between employees at all levels of the business.
- Regular team check-ins
Teams who share an office naturally chat more by just being in the same space. There are fewer casual opportunities for chats with remote teams, so it’s important to check in regularly via phone, email, chat, and video conference.
- Plenty of one-on-one meetings
These allow employees to discuss things they might not feel comfortable sharing with the whole group. Organizations that offer plenty of one-on-one meetings get a more in-depth insight into their employees’ well-being. It also helps individuals feel heard and valued.
- Regular feedback
Another way to boost motivation is to follow up with team members after a project has run. Post-mortem meetings allow people to share thoughts on what didn’t go so well, as well as celebrate wins together.
- Good team rapport
It’s crucial to strengthen the rapport between remote team members. It helps people feel more connected to each other, which, in turn, can boost productivity.
- A playful side
What do you do when there’s no water cooler or break-out area to discuss weekend plans and air frustrations? You make a virtual, non-work chat place. Many remote teams have a ‘General’ thread on their team chat app as a place dedicated to non-work discussions.
How to build a strong company culture with remote workers
Great company culture isn’t just something that happens. Sure, you can hire the best people in the world, but if they can’t work well together — or there’s no feeling of belonging to the organization — they’ll be nothing compared to a team of average workers who collaborate well.
Here’s how to create an amazing work culture for your remote teams.
Make it easy to communicate with one another
Communication is a top priority for remote teams. Without it, everything falls apart. Management should be able to communicate company goals effectively, and the business should have a range of ways people can get in contact with each other, including email, phone, video conferencing, and chat apps.
If you’re a manager, make it your priority to help your team members understand the following:
- Which channels they should use to communicate with each other (email for more formal conversations, chat apps for casual catch-ups, etc.)
- How to use other collaborative platforms, including shared drives, project management software, and virtual whiteboards
- How to treat each other fairly and overcome different barriers to communication
- How to work effectively as a team, including how to share working hours and respond promptly
- How to follow communication processes, including who to reach out to and who to include in specific discussions
When it comes to the workplace, mystery and uncertainty are rarely good. It’s important to keep team members in the loop about how the company’s doing, its plans, and any big decisions that might be on the horizon.
Employees must have a broader understanding of where they fit into the business plan and what their colleagues are working on.
A weekly or monthly group chat or message from top management does a lot to help people feel engaged. Virtual project management software can also help managers and team members keep track of each other’s projects and progress.
When employees don’t see each other face-to-face, problems may get swept under the rug. Others may think they need to struggle in silence. Managers need to let team members know their feedback isn’t only welcome: it’s encouraged.
To give useful feedback, be specific and sandwich negatives between positives (remember, you want to motivate people, not crush them). You can also take advantage of video conferencing software for more serious discussions and chat apps for simple ‘thanks’ and ‘great work’ messages.
Traditions are great for team building because they create familiarity and foster feelings of inclusivity. For starters, you could try the following:
- A Spotify playlist, where every member of the group submits their favorite guilty pleasure — employees can turn on the playlist when they need some music
- A Friday team quiz, which is sent around to everyone on Friday morning to complete throughout the day
- A pizza delivery, where food is delivered to every team member wherever they are in the world. Everyone tunes in to enjoy virtually together
- A beer or mocktail delivered to each individual, which they can enjoy together as part of a virtual Friday drink
Top tip: Team traditions can be great for team building, but don’t be offended if not everyone wants to join. Traditions should be flexible and optional.
When we’re chatting face-to-face, we can gauge their meaning by the tone of their voice and body language. Take this away, and all you have is words – which, as we all know, can be misinterpreted.
Have fun with the tools you have. Most team chat apps have functionalities that let you reply with emojis, gifs, and video clips. Adding facial expressions (emojis) to your words helps add another dimension to your message, which allows the recipient to gauge the tone more clearly.
You can also customize some chat apps with intelligent integrations. If you’re smart about what you add, you can enhance your team’s cohesiveness in little ways.
For example, integrating something as simple as a translation feature is excellent if your business includes people of different nationalities because it can help people who speak different languages communicate and bond more easily.
Every culture is as unique as the individuals that make up that team. And the more you personalize your tools to suit your needs, the better everyone will be able to collaborate and build rapport from wherever they are in the world.
Take advantage of customizable technology to help your remote team thrive. With Typetalk’s open API, you can develop your own programs to interact with the system. You can team it with other software — including Backlog, our project management tool, and Cacoo, our diagramming tool. You can also add a Twitter bot, an RSS feed for all the latest news, or create something of your own.
Managing a remote team takes work, but each tool you add to your armory makes it easier for everyone to build an amazing culture together.