How to Grow a Positive Company Culture with a Remote Team
Company culture is so much more than drinks on a Friday afternoon and installing a ping pong table in the break room. It’s about making each employee feel seen, valued, welcome, and connected. Fostering this connection takes mindfulness, intention, and rethinking how your employees work together.
But, when your team is scattered between home offices, coffee shops, and co-working spaces around the country (or globe, in many cases), how do you foster that connection? At Beyond 8 Figures, for example, the core team lives in 4 different countries. And we still wonder about this sometimes.
It’s a question that many remote companies are asking, especially now as more businesses are opting for either fully remote or hybrid working policies.
Why is there such a significant shift towards remote teams?
While we’ve been working remotely for some time now, there’s been an increasingly growing trend for more people to seek the remote work life, particularly among solo entrepreneurs and digital businesses.
The pandemic has dramatically increased this trend, with 70% of full-time employees working remotely in the US. And it’s likely to continue long after the pandemic has ended, with 76% of entrepreneurs believing remote work will become the new normal.
Reasons for more businesses opting for remote teams include:
- Greater access to talent.
- More flexibility for employees and the company.
- It’s more cost-effective.
- Higher productivity among employees.
It’s not just the companies leaning towards remote working; the pandemic has shown that people don’t want to return to the office. In research from Owl Labs, 77% of respondents say that after COVID-19, being able to work from home would make them happier.
After a taste of working from home, more employees are catching on to the benefits of working remotely. They’re enjoying being location independent and being able to travel while still working. Who wouldn’t relish the thought of throwing your laptop into your backpack and working from the beach? Though, let’s be honest, working on the beach is not practical, despite the hype.
But, like with anything, the benefits come with a list of challenges.
The challenges that come with remote teams
Distributed team challenges vary from company to company, but there are several problems that many teams face as more employees go remote.
Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Communication: Regular communication can be more complicated when you’re not sitting across from each other.
- Feeling isolated: Working remotely can get a bit lonely as you miss out on the social aspect of working within a team.
- Collaboration: Depending on where your team is located, you may face some timezone challenges, making collaboration harder.
- Low engagement: Some companies notice a drop off in employee engagement.
Focusing on building a solid company culture is the best way to overcome these challenges.
Why is company culture so important for remote teams?
Firstly, company culture isn’t just important in remote teams, but all teams.
Strong company culture helps people stay connected, motivated, and productive.
The benefits of strong company culture are endless, from both the business and employee points of view. Firstly, it minimizes the cost of constantly recruiting. People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers and companies. If they don’t feel happy, appreciated, and that they truly belong to your company, they’re going to leave.
Here’s what Timi Orosz, COO of Insights Lab, says about working with a remote team:
“You don’t just set up a company culture overnight or force it onto the existing team. A well-functioning culture means that it is in line with the core values of your team members. It’s recommended to create the ideal company culture together with your core team based on the values you all share.
As an example, here’s how we got started with creating our company culture at B8F & Insights Lab. We first asked the team to vote which values they resonated with the most individually. We then quickly realized that we all share these 3:
- Curiosity. Learn something new. Find hidden insights. Never stop asking questions.
- Drive. We love bringing strategies to life and being part of this special process.
- Impact. Our work is the catalyst of change on a personal, business, or higher level.
When we identified what we all have in common, we were excited to share it with our audience as well on Insights Lab’s website first before rolling it out to B8F as well.
We also evaluated our existing team meeting structures & 1-on-1 check-ins to tailor them to the team’s & individuals’ needs. We believe that it’s vital that we really listen to what our team wants. Our overall objective is to create a robust company culture that becomes the community we all want to belong to.”
Company culture makes employees more motivated to work, which, in turn, makes them more productive. For distributed teams, company culture is essential for keeping your employees engaged.
Plus, it has the potential to increase brand visibility. A happy employee is a walking billboard for your company.
Basically, a strong company culture in your remote team is a win-win!
So, how do you make your remote team members feel like they belong?
Personally, we’ve found company culture to be a lot more positive within remote teams. However, this is because all of the remote teams we’ve worked in were well managed. They’ve all had the right kind of leadership.
Here are a few ways for leaders to instill a strong company culture within their remote teams:
Evaluate team’s needs: physical, mental, emotional
When you’re sitting across from someone in an office, it’s easy to keep up with their needs. However, in distributed teams, you need to go a bit out of your way to evaluate your team’s needs.
It’s essential to have regular check-ins with your employees that cover both their work performance and their well-being. This way, you can identify any challenges or blockers that may be causing stress for them.
Check-ins can be done simply through employee engagement surveys, one-on-ones, scorecards, or personal development plans. It’s essential to listen to what your team needs physically (e.g. a more comfortable home office), mentally (e.g. a better work-life balance), and emotionally (e.g. more positive feedback).
Evaluate their needs and make sure to meet them. Regular communication is vital here.
Don’t be afraid of unconventional measures
The one thing that makes us all human is that we thrive off connecting to other humans. Whether it’s finding something in common with a colleague, having a shared experience (even if not at the same time), or supporting the same sports team. Any connection, big or small, can make a world of difference.
So, don’t be afraid of using unconventional measures to encourage that connection.
Something that goes a long way to making employees feel appreciated is sending them a small physical gift to their address. It could be a bunch of flowers, a postcard, or something for the holidays. It’s a small thing but can boost their happiness and productivity.
Another fun idea is setting up an ‘order each other lunch’ day. Give each employee a budget and a dedicated person to order lunch for and get it delivered to their address. Then, the whole team can join a group video call while eating their surprise take-out lunch!
Establish trust and clear responsibilities
Trust is a significant component of remote teams. As a remote team leader, you’re responsible for creating an environment where your coworkers can trust you, and you can rely on them. Micromanaging is a big no, and it shouldn’t be necessary. If people love what they do, they’re going to get it done.
A big part of trust is being clear on responsibilities, which requires transparent communication within your team. Transparent communication is crucial not only to communicate business objectives but also anything that might affect how your employees work (i.e. change in work outputs or working hours).
Lead by example
Leading by example means you’re guiding others through your behaviors and inspiring them to do the same as you. For instance, if your company culture avoids working after-hours, then don’t demand work that requires it.
As a leader, your team is looking to you for inspiration, encouragement, and direction. When you lead by example, you provide a path to direct others down.
Develop behavior that supports your ideal culture
Before you develop behavior that supports your ideal culture, you first have to know what that culture is.
What does your company stand for? What is the mission? What is it that you are trying to achieve within your team? And how are you making that happen?
Once you know these answers, then start developing habits and behaviors that support these values. For example, if your company stands for equality, ensure that you’re living up to that in your hiring policy, pay structure, and the opportunities you offer your employees.
Encourage employee work-life balance
When working from home, it’s easy to blend our work and personal lives. But, this isn’t healthy. The higher possibility of burnout is one of the downsides of working remotely. Burnout is especially prevalent among employees who love their job, as they tend to overwork themselves because they enjoy what they are doing.
A few ways to encourage work-life balance include:
- Encouraging time off.
- Allowing flexibility.
- Having a strict no after-hours working policy.
- Establishing clear client expectations.
- Sponsoring monthly activities for employees to do something fun outside of work.
And, as I said earlier, you need to lead by example. If you encourage employees to use up their leave days, you should be doing that, too.