Many workers have been fighting long before the pandemic changed the working landscape to gain some more time working at home. If this situation has given us anything positive, it has been the acceleration of the global working environment. This shift means that we shouldn’t overlook the importance of remote culture.
The amount of people that want to work at home now has risen considerably. More than half of people now want to work full time at home, about 65% to be precise, and another 31% of people would love a hybrid situation, that makes 96% of people who want to be able to work remotely at least some of the time.
This might sound daunting, there are a lot more advantages to allowing your employees this privilege than first thought if you put in the effort to do it the right way:
- Improves employee satisfaction
- Increases productivity
- Increases collaboration
- No more wasteful meetings
It has to be said though, there can be some downsides to having a fully remote team, especially if you don’t work on collaboration or communication techniques, but don’t worry, we’re about to teach you all about how to make your employees feel happier and healthier at work.
What is remote work culture?
You know during the office days you’d go for lunch meetings, have a beer or two after clocking off, or have team wide meetings to go through all the cool stuff you’ve worked on in the past month or quarter? That’s work culture, and this needs to be worked on while people are behind the screens too.
Work culture ensures that each team member is happy and healthy during work hours, people should feel like they’re truly part of a team and enjoy coming to work everyday. Culture starts when you post a job ad looking for a newbie, and it never ends. Remote culture should be worked on consistently and adapted as your company grows and adapts.
It’s definitely a new challenge in this new digital age to create meaningful connections over different timelines and locations, but it can be done just as well as when everyone is together in person at the office, and it’s not even as tricky as it sounds.
Why is remote culture important?
It can be really easy to have that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality slip in, but if you don’t work on your remote culture you’ll soon be wondering why you’re hiring for new team members all the time, instead of retaining those awesome people you spent months trying to find already.
One of the biggest struggles of having a remote team is the isolation feeling that it breeds, and we all know we’ve had our fair share of isolation in the past years. We now know better than ever before that having friends around and feeling part of something (anything!) is the best way to go. Without it we feel isolated and anxious, it can also increase stress when working in a remote environment leading to less productivity and a worse level of quality in work. Working on having things like good written communication across all platforms has even been proven to make your more introverted team members feel less inhibited and encourages a faster decision making process.
So, how should I build remote culture?
Like in any relationship – communication is key
Even before you have new joiners starting at your company it’s beneficial to outline your expectations for communication so everyone is on the same page from the beginning. Would you like morning standups? Are all meetings mandatory, or can they be skipped if irrelevant? Do you encourage informal meetings, virtual lunches and celebrations? Let people know before they start about how people are already communicating company wide and it will make the process a lot smoother when they jump on the wagon.
From first hand experience, I can tell you how lovely it is to get an introduction email from your manager in the few days before you start a new job. It makes employees feel valued even before they step through the zoom meeting doors. Sending a culture deck is a really good way to give new employees a sense of the atmosphere and environment they can expect.
This document should clearly outline the remote culture, values and expectations. It should be a document you’re really proud of, because it highlights all the best parts of being part of your team, so why not go public? Make it available for everyone to see how cool working for you is, which will also encourage more applications for new positions.
Your culture deck should be revised and updated regularly as your team grows and adapts. If a value isn’t so important anymore, then change it. If you open up a ‘no-door-policy’ where all team members are available to everyone, then highlight that as soon as possible. Whether you like it or not, your company is going to have culture, so encourage a great one!
Don’t just go straight into business, especially if it’s the start of the week or the first meeting of the day, set aside some minutes to chat about the weekend or the weather, if they have plans after work or watched something binge-worthy on Netflix. This creates a trusting and engaging environment for relationships to flourish. You want your team members to feel like their general well being and personality is valued, not just their 9-5 work.
A lot of company’s also set up a ‘water cooler’ group chat in which everyone is a part of to talk about these more fun topics and break away from the grind for a while.
Something that you really don’t want to miss is showing the team the positive impacts of their work. You could set up a monthly celebration and highlight all the cool work people have been doing, or send a company-wide email crediting the team members that have come up with some good suggestions or worked on some awesome projects.
Teams who collab together, stay together
Make face-to-face meetings a priority – have team members in the same city? Encourage coffee break meetings or take a short walk together to discuss anything. If you’re 100% remote with no permanent office space you could also have a co-working space set up for a handful of employees at a time if they need a break from their usual working space or miss seeing friendly faces.
Your remote culture should focus on being inclusive and making everyone feel involved and welcome. When you have a new member join, you should introduce them to the entire team, write a company wide email with some information that they have provided about themselves, maybe what kind of movies they like, or their favourite spot for lunch in the city.
Another tactic that company’s use is an ‘open door policy’, this firstly means that information is shared and available for everyone, secondly it means that your more senior members should have an open line of connection, their team should be able to, in a sense, ‘cold call’ them for advice or information. This works just as if someone was stopping by your desk to get a quick confirmation on something. Don’t worry, so they’re not overrun, you can also include policies like setting emoji status’ in platforms like Slack so everyone knows they’re either in a meeting or ‘in flow’ and shouldn’t be disturbed for a while.
Another great way to make people feel truly part of the team is to make using video in meetings and during talks mandatory. It may sound a little over the top, but if one person is using just their microphone and everyone else is using their camera it can give a false sense of power or advantage to one person. It’s also very difficult to put names to faces when there literally aren’t any faces.
At the end of the day…
Whether you like it or not, your company will have a culture that everyone is responsible for – not just the team leaders, HR or office managers – the whole team. Get people excited about working remotely for you and they’ll do a much better job than just leaving them to their own devices.
Remember to get feedback from the team on how they feel about the current company culture and encourage people to be open about their suggestions for the future so you can implement the things that are important to the people that actually have to work within that remote culture.
Remember that working remotely can sometimes be a challenge, make sure that you stay inclusive and encourage good communication and feedback to start seeing an improvement in your company culture across whatever time zones and locations your team might be in.