Tips to Create Company Culture For Your Remote Team
In response to COVID-19, many workplaces have made the transition for team members to work from home. While many companies have done this out of necessity, many may choose to continue working this way long after the crisis is resolved.
Companies are finding remote work to be advantageous and will likely choose to work with remote teams of employed staff and expert contractors in the future. There are benefits for both the company and the team and there are also challenges to overcome. The technical challenges have obviously been the first obstacle many have faced however there are now bigger picture concerns emerging. How do companies maintain or create a company culture when team members are no longer interacting face-to-face?
How do we create company culture without meeting in the tearoom for a coffee or having a hit of foosball or table tennis (if that’s been part of your workplace)? Company culture plays a huge part in who you are as a business and brand. With some careful planning and insights, business leaders can navigate these challenging times well and come out on the other side with a great team that is stronger than ever!
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There is no quick fix to company culture. It’s built over time, either by design or by default. If you’ve had a great culture in the past, prior to moving to a work from a home model, you’ll be able to navigate the short-term challenges reasonably well. With the disruptions to your team and the stresses we all currently face, issues you were not aware of as a company may present themselves. If you’ve had problems in your company culture leading into this time, there’s a strong chance these issues will be exposed. This is your opportunity to work on culture and your brand.
No matter where you’re company is right now, there are insights and strategies worth considering that will make your culture and brand stronger.
Replace physical relationships with digital
There are a number of human interactions that occur naturally in any workplace and it’s not until these things are taken away from us that we understand how important they were. Consider the way in which your team members engaged in the past and how a digital option could also work for your team. It could be a simple as setting up a morning check-in call on Zoom where you intentionally make space for fun.
Consider your values
Culture isn’t all about fun and games. Those things can be a great way to engage as people and create a sense of connection, but the reality is your values and the work you do has to be central to your culture. Working at home in isolation from other team members can lead some people to think they know better. It’s important to reinforce why you do what you do and the processes you follow to support your values and culture.
Use tools to collaborate online
It’s easy in an office for your team members to stay in communication throughout the day. If there is a quick question, your team members have naturally asked others for support and they’ve got the job done efficiently. Without a simple way to stay connected and engaged throughout the day, your team members might get stuck on tasks and struggle with them for hours where they could have been resolved in minutes. Simple tools like Slack can be a great way to stay connected throughout the day. Slack is the digital version of a water cooler conversion yet without the gossip behind people’s backs. It’s all there recorded with transparency for everyone to read. If you don’t provide a system for your remote team to feel connected you’ll run the risk of them fulfilling this need by other means such as social media. You can’t eliminate social media completely from your team’s workday however you can limit the urge for your team to feel as though they need the connection.
Trust and belief is foundational
Your remote team needs to trust you as a company and believe in your vision. They need to feel they are a part of that vision and buy into it. Your remote team will buy-in on many different levels. Some may buy into the vision based on it is a great career path for their future. Others may buy-in based on mutual values they share with you. Whatever it is for the individual worker, creating a strong company culture will attract the right people to your brand.
Create a buddy system
It’s easy for people to become disconnected and not realize they are struggling personally when working remotely. In an office, you’d probably notice if a team member didn’t seem themselves and approach the situation in an appropriate way. In the digital world, some people may not reach out if they need help. Creating a buddy system of two or three people may help. Each individual in a group can more easily connect with someone they know, like, and trust with the goal of letting them open up. Slack might be great for general chitchat however a ‘closed office’ chat is also appropriate and can help keep your culture strong. A simple check-in call or Skype each week may be an appropriate option for your buddy system.
Recognize and reward achievement
It can be hard for remote team members to be sure if they are appreciated. Your best team members are likely to be diligent workers who are always driven to do their best. As companies, we have carrots and sticks to motivate our remote teams. Sticks are sometimes required for disciplinary action for team members who are not performing, as they should. Disciplinary action is best implemented privately so your positive team culture isn’t tarnished. Carrots are by far the superior method of motivation and should be done publicly. It’s where we encourage great work by recognizing and rewarding a team member who achieved the desired outcome. A simple thank you or certificate of appreciation could be all it takes to inspire a great team culture.