Corporate culture has been in the press for the past few years. And while most businesses understand the value of having a strong corporate culture, building that culture can take years of work even in a traditional office setting. Creating a strong remote work culture without the benefit of in-person connection can be even more challenging, but it’s well worth the effort.
Companies like Google and Southwest Airlines have been praised for building corporate cultures that ultimately engage employees, reduce turnover, and keep their employees happy and productive. And while they successfully navigated building a strong corporate culture, how can you replicate their success when your team works remotely?
What is Remote Work Culture?
Remote work culture isn’t any different from corporate culture. It’s a set of ideas, beliefs, and behaviors your employees adhere to. You already have a corporate culture, whether you’ve planned one or not! While these ideas may be written down in the employee handbook, sometimes they might not be written anywhere. In some cases, they may amount to simply “the way we do things here.”
And although remote work culture may be defined the same way, the main difference between office work culture and remote work culture is how that culture is built and maintained.
While work culture can be hard to define, continuing to promote your corporate values by building trust and communication between employees will help you build a strong remote work culture.
Why is Remote Work Culture Important?
Corporate culture is arguably even more important in remote work settings than in in-person settings. Remote employees are more likely to feel isolated and less engaged than those who work in the office, and surveys have shown that employees who feel disconnected are also less productive.
Successfully navigating a positive virtual work environment by working on your team culture can increase productivity - a tradeoff that’s well worth the time spent.
Building culture in remote teams also results in job satisfaction. Employees who are satisfied stay in their jobs longer, perform better, and report more overall happiness than those who are not satisfied in their job.
A positive remote work culture is crucial when your team is working remotely, but how can you build a culture when you rarely, if ever, see your team in person?
How to Build and Maintain a Strong Company Culture While Remote Working
Building culture in remote teams looks different than building culture in person, but it might be one of the most important things you do as an employer. And while it does look different, being intentional and thoughtful with your approach can help guide you as you build an effective remote team culture while managing your virtual team.
Meeting in a physical office offers plenty of time for employees to get to know each other, whether it’s chatting in the break room during lunch, riding in an elevator together, or even grabbing a coffee at the beginning of the day. These small conversations build trust and are the building blocks of creating effective teams.
While you can’t meet physically with a remote team, you can still create ways for your team to connect and continue building your company culture remotely. Here are just a few ways you can build a healthy remote work culture.
Define your values
What do you value as a company and as an employer? Your interactions with your employees should support these values and help build them into your remote work culture. And if you haven’t written these down anywhere, go ahead and do it. Keep in mind that this may be something you need to revisit as your business continues to grow and add employees.
Check in with your employees
Staying on top of your virtual team communication doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Be intentional about how often you check in, and act on the feedback you get from your employees.
Facilitate individual and team autonomy
While checking in with your employees is important, don’t be too hands-on. One appeal of remote working is that it encourages employees’ autonomy, and many employees wish to maintain as much of this autonomy as they can. You can help facilitate this by using time tracking software to track time and encourage productivity to help your business continue growing. The same type of software can integrate with team communication and project management platforms, giving your team members an easy way to connect and keep projects moving along.
Update your handbook
If your corporate culture isn’t well-defined yet, take the time to think about what you’d like it to look like. Then, update your company handbook accordingly. Effectively building a remote company culture requires a goal and a plan. Once those are in place, you can decide what your next steps should be.
Get to know your remote employees
When your team is working remotely, you can recreate small, relationship-building moments by taking a few minutes at the start of one-on-one meetings to catch up with your employees. Alternatively, some workplaces have employees complete quizzes with “get to know you” information, or offer dedicated chat rooms for off-topic discussions. Don’t worry if you try implementing something and people don’t seem to connect with it. It may take a few tries before you find a way to communicate that fits in with your existing employees and culture.
When you have a virtual meeting with groups of employees, you can help everyone feel a bit more comfortable by starting the meeting with ice breakers. Whether it’s a fun game, a contest, or even a quick game of bingo, ice breakers can help build trust in virtual teams.
Say thank you
Employees need to know that they matter, both as human beings and as valuable contributors to the workplace. There are many ways you can show your employees you value them, but they all involve you being intentional and taking the time to do it. So whether it’s a quick note, a small token of your appreciation, or a raise, let your remote employees know they are valued and cared for by showing and telling them you’re thankful for them.
Growing your business is probably at the top of your to-do list, but it’s impossible to grow without reliable, hard-working employees. While building culture in remote teams can be challenging, a strong corporate culture will improve your relationship with your employees. This will lower employee turnover, attract new talent, and help your business continue growing over time.