How to Build a Strong Culture with a Remote Team
Many employees and companies are beginning to return to physical offices, but not everyone. A Gartner Inc. study found 74% of surveyed CFOs plan to shift some employees to remote work permanently, mainly as a result of cost savings realized during the pandemic. Besides saving companies money, remote work also presents an opportunity many employees prefer for a variety of reasons, such as flexible schedules, a better work/life balance, time saved commuting, home/family life needs, etc. In a survey conducted by Flexjobs, 65% of employees wanted to stay fully remote after the pandemic, while 31% preferred a hybrid work arrangement. Twitter and Square created big news when they announced the option for their employees to work from home permanently, and many other companies are following suit. With this increasing shift to a distributed workforce, building a strong culture within your remote team isn’t just nice to have anymore. It is necessary to succeed. Read on to learn about 5 tactics to improve remote team culture that you can apply today to build a strong culture.
5 Tactics to Improve Remote Team Culture
1. Instill Trust and Confidence in Your Team
A study by Online Psychology Degrees called “Trusting Remote Workers: The New Normal” found that when employees feel trusted when working remotely, 106% feel more energy at work. Showing trust in employees results in 76% of employees feeling more engaged in tasks and also equates to lower stress levels. This win-win situation for both employees and organizations is a two-way street in building a strong culture with a remote team. Remote employees must build trust with their managers and team, and managers, leadership and the organization itself must create an environment where employees feel trusted and empowered to think independently and find new ways to solve problems autonomously.
Great leaders make smart decisions, but they shouldn’t do it all alone. Empower employees to make decisions on an individual and team basis, rather than concentrating decision-making authority at the top. Inspiring confidence in others is also essential as a leader. Team members with confidence perform better and therefore help the rest of the team and organization succeed. The best way to help people become comfortable with their skills, and thereby gain confidence, is to practice them. If you are looking for some additional ways to build confidence with your team, check out this post.
2. Purposefully Create Space and Time for Team Building and Socializing
It’s no surprise one of the biggest differences of working remotely is not having the in-person social aspect or “watercooler chats” that those in an office enjoy. It’s much more difficult to organize in-person happy hours, lunches, and coffee breaks when your team is remote. This doesn’t mean ignoring this aspect of work. If anything, it means focusing more effort on making sure team members have opportunities to socialize and build rapport with others at the organization, even if it has to be virtual. This is a key aspect in building a strong culture with a remote team. Some ideas for team-building with a remote team are:
Suggest a monthly virtual lunch activity with those that want to participate. This could be a time to relax and strictly to discuss non-work topics, or a “lunch and learn” for a slightly more formal setting where different teams could present on different topics (an opportunity for people to learn about other parts of the business, for example).
Arrange virtual coffee or happy hours for a chance for employees to get to know each other outside of day-to-day work projects (or a way to introduce employees to one another that may never have a chance to meet otherwise).
Create Culture Clubs (like Pinterest did) based on employee interests, such as wine, cooking, sports, or books. Set up time virtually (and via Slack channels) for team members to discuss.
3. Eliminate Siloed Work and Offer Training and Development
Working remotely certainly has its benefits, but can often also feel lonely. Instead of coming into an office with other employees, snacks, and conference rooms, remote workers spend the day alone for the most part. To help mitigate this feeling and to build a strong culture with a remote team, eliminate siloed work, and offer training and development wherever possible. Encourage collaboration with other team members so employees don’t feel as if they are working alone, even though they are physically. Some ways to do this are through collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Basecamp, and Trello (more information on tools and tech in the next section) to work together and break down silos. Offer (virtual) training and development to both new and tenured employees – this will give the team a chance to meet other people and brush up on skills or learn something new, which will help keep them engaged in a remote setting. Some ideas for training and development topics include presentation skills, meeting facilitation, or team management. For more ideas on improving remote team alignment, see our blog post here.
4. Have the Right Tools and Tech For Collaborative Communication
Virtual teamwork and meetings are digital by nature, meaning they rely heavily on tools and technology. We’ve compiled an extensive list of tools and practices we recommend for remote teams, for everything from staying organized and getting synched to having successful virtual meetings and collaborating while working remotely. Having the right digital tools in place, and ensuring your team has access and knows how to use them, is foundational in building a strong culture, especially with a remote team.
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5. Show Your Appreciation
Showing your team how cared for and valued they are can be easier said than done, especially in a remote environment. However, there are a few small things that will go a long way and promote a strong and happy remote team culture. Some ideas include:
- Offer food and/or fitness stipends each month. The food stipend can go toward coffee, snacks, or meals, especially if you have employees in physical offices that enjoy this benefit or it was offered before. The fitness benefit could help cover gym memberships or exercise equipment. These can both help increase employee happiness outside of their daily work tasks, making it easier to bring their best selves to work each day.
- Schedule a couple of days (or half days) off throughout the year to let employees rest, recharge, or spend time with family or friends. Most people spend more time working than any other single activity, so allowing them to have this time for themselves is a great way to show gratitude for all the hard work they do.
- Create a celebratory channel in Slack where team members can share the great work that their other team mates or employees are doing, or thank them for stepping up (i.e. if they covered for someone who was out on PTO or led a really engaging meeting). Each month or quarter, select one (or a few) employees that stood out and award them with a gift card or other fun prize! This will show employees that their hard work isn’t unnoticed, and will also encourage team members to share positive news about others on their team. Some fun ideas to a Slack channel name: #CheersForPeers, #HighFivesAllAround or incorporate your company name somehow
Building a strong culture with a remote team isn’t easy, but with a little extra effort, it’s both possible and worth it. The pandemic proved that virtual work can benefit both organizations and employees, and applying these tactics will help you and your team succeed and thrive in this new, remote workforce.
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Need help improving remote team culture?
We can assist you! We have several services and resources to help you get the most out of your team. Let us lead you through our specialized Team Alignment Process or inquire about our other consulting services so we can best serve your needs. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.