As we continue to witness the rise of remote work worldwide, one thing has become increasingly clear. Remote work, while delivering incredible advantages, also presents its own unique challenges. One of the most prominent among these is creating and maintaining a strong, unified company culture in a distributed team.
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to build a cohesive company identity even across borders and time zones. But to do so, you must be incredibly intentional in your approach; you must prioritize communication and connection. You must get creative with how you foster personal interaction in a digital world. You must think deeply about how you want your company culture to look and feel.
Building a Strong Remote Work CultureOne element of strong culture is a clear mission and shared values. If your team knows why you exist and what you stand for, it’s much easier to feel connected to others within the organization, regardless of whether you’re sitting in the same room or miles apart.
It’s also crucial to be mindful of communication channels and practices. Especially when it comes to conflict resolution, remote teams may struggle without formal policies in place. Consider setting up specific communication guidelines, such as when to use video conferencing versus when to send an email. Clearly established channels of communication can help prevent misunderstandings and foster more transparency and understanding.
Another key to building a strong remote work culture is accepting and embracing diversity. Remote teams often bring together people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Celebrate diversity by respecting and valuing the unique contributions of each team member. Avoid assumptions and stereotypes that may arise from cultural differences, and instead, seek to learn from and appreciate them.
Finally, it’s important to consider the potential unique challenges faced by remote workers. Without the physical presence of managers and colleagues, remote workers may feel unprepared to handle certain situations or may struggle with isolation or disconnection. As such, it’s critical to provide support and resources to help your team members cope and thrive.
Building a remote work culture that works takes time and effort. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can create a thriving virtual space that fosters creativity, inclusivity, and transparency.
Why Remote Work Culture is Important
Before we dive into tips on building a remote work culture, let’s first look at why this is so important in the first place.
Bringing a team together in a shared physical space allows for a lot of face-to-face interaction and bonding. You can have impromptu conversations with colleagues, build relationships on the fly, and generally have more of a sense of comradery with your colleagues.
With remote work, however, it’s much harder to build these personal connections. Without the same opportunities for spontaneous interactions, remote teams risk feeling disconnected, even as they work independently towards a shared goal.
That’s why building a strong remote work culture is necessary: to bring remote team members together despite not being physically together. A strong remote work culture creates an inclusive team that is supportive and communicative, even across time zones.
At its core, a strong remote work culture helps to maximize employee engagement, motivation, and productivity.
No matter how great a goal or mission a company may have, there comes a point where the “why” isn’t enough to keep people from disengaging. And while salary, benefits, and the facility itself may be important, they aren’t the core issues affecting employee satisfaction.
Instead, culture is a critical element of workplace satisfaction. If employees feel connected and valued within their company, they’re more likely to remain engaged and motivated.
The Importance of Connection
One element of having a great remote work culture is building a strong sense of connection across the company. This sense of connection can come from a lot of different sources, including:
- Friendly and welcoming communications and expressions
- Consistent communication across the company
- Engaging video meetings
- A focus on team-building opportunities
- Participation in charity or community events
That sense of connection and support doesn’t come naturally for a lot of remote teams. After all, in-person offices offer endless amounts of small talk and casual conversation – and that’s not nearly as easy to come by with remote work.
To overcome this potential isolation, teams need to focus on finding the right tools and technology to promote personal connections among remote workers.
For instance, you might consider creating a “watercooler” channel in Slack, where individuals can connect and chat about non-work topics. Or you might set aside time during weekly meetings to share personal news or ask questions of one another. Even virtual hangouts or happy hours can help build camaraderie and promote the feeling of “team-ness.”
Find Ways to Cultivate a Sense of Belonging
Another essential element of building a strong remote work culture is making sure each team member feels connected to and valued by the organization. Simply piling on extra work isn’t the right approach here. Instead, you need to take active, intentional steps to cultivate a sense of belonging.
There are a lot of different things that you can try to give remote team members a sense of connection within the company, including:
- Acknowledging and celebrating individual successes, both personally and professionally
- Being available via chat, phone, or email to answer questions or support team members as needed
- Offering opportunities for professional development and growth
- Providing Real-time feedback on remote workers’ work can be beneficial
- Encouraging mental health and wellness, whether that’s with access to counseling or mental health apps
Each of these actions can help remote workers feel less isolated and more firmly rooted in the company.
Building Trust Across the Team
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of remote work is building trust between team members. Without in-person interactions, it can be tough to gauge someone’s reliability, responsiveness, and motivation. And that means it can be tough for team members to fully trust one another.
But trust is essential for any team to succeed, whether it’s local or remote. So, how can you foster that trust even without in-person interactions? Here are a few possible ideas:
- Communicate regularly and openly: Openness and transparency fosters trust across any team, regardless of whether or not it is remote. Make sure your team has regular, predictable channels for information flow.
- Honor your commitments: If you agreed to something, see it through. This is true for both deadlines and tasks you’ve been assigned. Trust can quickly erode as soon as someone feels like they can’t rely on you.
- Show up continuously: Attend meetings on time, respond to emails and messages quickly, and generally be present and engaged online. That sends a clear message that you care and are invested in the team’s success.
- Be reliable: If you don’t follow through on promises or commitments, your colleagues won’t be able to trust you.
Building trust within remote teams takes more effort than it would in an office environment. But the dividends are more significant than ever before. When team members can rely on one another and work together confidently, everyone wins.
Collaboration is key to any successful team – whether you’re in the same building or separated by time zones. But how can you encourage collaboration amongst a remote team?
Well, fortunately, there are many remote work tools and technologies that can help. Here are some ways that you can promote collaboration:
- Use task management software that lets you assign tasks and due dates. That way, everyone can easily see what needs to be done, their deadlines, and who’s responsible.
- Utilize a shared file system such as Dropbox, so everyone can access critical files.
- Use virtual meeting software like Zoom or Google Meet to hold video calls, which are more effective than phone calls.
- Have regular check-ins such as weekly team meetings or stand-ups. That way, everyone can find out what everyone else is working on and collaborate more easily.
- Encourage brainstorming sessions or virtual round-table discussions on topics related to the project as required
- Enable company-wide message boards with separation for different project-specific discussions
Mistakes to Avoid
Just as there are critical considerations when building a strong remote work culture, there are also some areas to avoid as you establish your company’s remote work culture.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- Being unclear on expectations: If team members aren’t clear on what’s expected of them, they won’t be able to meet those expectations. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
- Failing to value diversity: A remote team may consist of individuals from many different cultures and backgrounds. Without recognizing and embracing diversity, you run the risk of alienating members of your team.
- Neglecting recognition: Small successes and wins are huge motivators for any team – but they’re even more important for remote teams, who may put in extra effort without getting the social interaction that in-person teams would have.
- Failing to prioritize communication: Communication is essential to any remote team. Without regular and consistent communication, team members will feel disconnected and disengaged.
- Lacking flexibility: It’s essential to accommodate remote team members’ unique needs and schedules. This flexibility can help promote loyalty to the company.
Building a strong remote work culture takes a lot of intentional effort, and it’s not a once-and-done kind of task. Instead, building a strong remote culture is an ongoing process that requires attention, engagement, and a willingness to adapt to new and changing situations.
However, creating and maintaining a strong remote work culture provides significant benefits in terms of productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall business success. So, if you’re looking to bring remote workers together into a cohesive, inspiring team, take care to prioritize communication, embrace diversity and inclusion, and find creative ways to foster personal and professional connections. With a little persistence, you can succeed in building the kind of remote work culture that becomes the backbone of your company’s success.