2020 has shined a light on remote working like no year before. Teams all over the world transitioned to working from home in a matter of days, and research points to the shift being a permanent one. A recent Gartner poll shows that 48% of employees will continue to work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 (compared to 30% prior to the pandemic).
With so many organizations having to move to a remote model overnight, business owners are just now coming up for air after establishing the critical competencies mandatory to running an operation from home. With digital collaboration tools and new standard operating procedures in place, it’s now time to assess the employee experience your business provides as you move to a long-term remote model.
As organizations increasingly recognize people as their greatest assets, they’re investing time and resources in the employee experience, too. One major component of the employee experience is culture, and establishing a strong culture for a remote team is incredibly different than doing so for an in-office team.
Remote Team Culture
Company culture affects how your brand is perceived by customers and employees alike,and can greatly determine the success of your business. When a company cultivates a winning culture, employees become brand advocates and exude the core values that keep customers coming back and top talent heading your way.
When you think of company culture in 2018, you might picture an open-concept office complete with thinking pods, a foosball table, and a commercial-grade espresso machine. While a remote team culture might still include casual dress, it’s no longer feasible to host a video game tournament complete with a taco bar.
Establishing a strong culture with a distributed team can come with challenges, but it’s certainly possible, and there are more resources than ever available to help businesses like yours do exactly that.
How to Create a Strong Remote Team Culture
1. Establish Trust
A great company culture offers a work environment where both employees and leadership are trusted explicitly. Trust is one of the most difficult dynamics to manage in a remote work setting, but is equally essential to the cohesion of your team and production of common goals.
It all starts at the top. It’s important that leaders show interest in feedback from the team and proactively harbor participation – and similarly, that teammates can trust other teammates to be accountable in their working environment of choice. All of which leads to a boost in employee engagement.
2. Be Transparent & Communicate
Being public and transparent about your company’s values and policies goes a long way towards establishing trust in a distributed team and also for hiring people who will thrive at your company. It’s much easier to create a high-performing remote culture if everyone on the team understands the company’s vision.
Settle on a clear and concise way of describing that mission and your expectations. Then communicate it to your teams, and continue to reinforce it. This reminds people of the importance of what they’re accomplishing together and there will be no surprises.
3. Schedule Face Time
Maybe you don’t want to do every single call with video (we get it), but there is something to be said for occasional face time. Working from home can be lonely, and video conference calls can help colleagues feel connected.
Unlike phone calls, you can read expressions and body language on video. With the ability to loop in entire departments, these virtual meet-ups can replicate the feeling of being part of a group again.
4. Recognize Success
Just because you can’t celebrate small (or big) wins with cake in the break room, doesn’t mean you can’t continue to recognize success in a remote organization. Recognizing individual team members for their work promotes a positive remote team culture that inspires everyone across the board, and is super important to do when you’re not all in the same building.
One way to reward or recognize team members is to elect an “employee of the month”, have everyone write something positive about them and then share in a dedicated Slack channel. Follow up with sending a gift card or some type of branded swag. You can even check out employee recognition software – literally built to unify organizations with peer to peer celebration.
5. Collect Feedback
With so many businesses working remotely for the first time, there’s bound to be mistakes made and processes to adjust. Collecting feedback from your team members is one of the top ways to learn what you’re doing well as an organization and where there is room for improvement.
Plus, accepting constructive feedback is essential to establish trust in your employees and cultivate a remote team culture where everyone feels heard.
6. Have a Little Fun
With everything going on in the world, we could all use a little fun. We’re still adjusting to our new normal and fun activities can bring us closer together as a team.
Set up a virtual happy hour or breakfast session. Set up a Slack channel to exchange photos of pets or recipes to host a cook off. There are plenty of ways to promote fun in your business to keep employees engaged and your culture thriving.
Company culture is what keeps a remote team invested in the company’s success. While establishing a strong remote team culture can be more difficult than if you were all in the same building, distributed teams are the future — and come with tons of benefits for your business like cost savings, access to a larger talent pool, and improved employee satisfaction.
By fostering trust, healthy communication, and recognizing success, you can build a happy team that lasts. Company culture is a new competitive differentiator and investing in your remote team culture is sure to generate a ROI and a business that scales.