Remote working arrangements are becoming more and more common. In fact, it’s no longer necessary for teams to occupy the same physical space.
For many companies, a positive work culture helps their teams stay motivated and promotes employee engagement. But how do you create a remote work culture that fosters creativity, productivity, and collaboration? In this guide, we’ll go over some strategies you can use to create a remote environment that caters to your workers’ needs and helps your company thrive.
What is remote work culture?
A remote work culture is how distributed team members interact with one another and work together. It’s essentially the bond that connects them to your company’s goals, priorities, and attitudes. Developing a remote work culture is paramount to forming a connection between remote teams.
Why is remote work culture important?
In remote teams, it’s easy for some workers to feel disconnected from their co-workers. Establishing a positive remote work culture is important because it helps them feel like part of a community.
Workers who feel they “fit in” are more invested in your company and motivated to do great work. Here are a few other benefits that come with having a great remote work culture:
- It helps teams feel connected and motivates them to work hard.
- It encourages workers to share creative ideas in a supportive environment.
- It allows bonds to develop among team members, which makes it easier for them to communicate and collaborate.
- It’s more fun. Teams get to bond over more than just working for the same company.
How to build and maintain strong remote work culture
Creating a constructive and welcoming culture for your remote team requires a consistent strategy. In the next few sections, we’ll go over the steps you can follow to build and maintain a culture that enriches your team members’ lives and optimizes their performance.
- Connect remote work and company values
- Hire the right people for remote work
- Create a successful onboarding process
- Use the right remote tools for the team
- Cultivate an environment of safety and trust
- Break down channel silos
- Schedule in-person team events
- Set team meeting cadences
- Set up one-on-one meetings
- Remind team members they’re valued
- Prevent burnout by communicating and supplying resources
- Not everything needs to be on Zoom
Connect remote work and company values
Make your company values clear to remote workers. Your values are your business’s identity. They define why and how you do business. If you can get remote team members on board with your values, they’ll feel a greater sense of purpose working with your company.
Let’s say one of your company values is “treat team members with respect and empathy.” An on-site worker may experience this value when they interact with team members in person, but a remote worker may need more opportunities to see this value in action.
Live your mission statement, vision statement, and company values to your remote team every chance you get. For the above example, this could mean being vocal about your support during phone meetings. You could also use the chat tool on Zoom or Google Meet as a way for your team to share ideas and feel connected without feeling pressured to speak out during virtual meetings.
Other ways you can emphasize your company values to your remote workers include:
- Send out weekly surveys asking your workers to acknowledge a team member who has integrated the company values in their work. Praise these team members in a weekly company email
- Have discussions with each of your remote workers to ask what your company values mean to them personally.
Hire the right people for remote work
Not everyone likes to work in remote teams. Some people think working remotely means working alone. If you’re creating a strong culture for your small business or startup, you should hire people who are enthusiastic to be part of your team.
Working remotely requires self-reliance, time management skills, and communication abilities. It takes the right mindset to operate efficiently without in-person supervision or guidance. Here are a few tips on hiring remote workers with the experience, skills, and attitudes to fit your company culture.
- In addition to any technical skills workers need, include soft skills like communication and teamwork in your job posting. You’ll also need workers who know how to be self-starters.
- Look for workers with experience working in remote teams. They’ll already have a handle on collaborating in a virtual space.
- When you interview candidates, ask for examples of how they’ve solved problems creatively and worked successfully with remote teams in former jobs.
- Hire personable and enthusiastic remote workers. A positive remote work culture requires your team members to have people skills and technical skills.
If you’re looking for alternatives to hiring full-time workers, Upwork is a great resource for engaging skilled, remote independent professionals who can meet your business needs.
Create a successful onboarding process
A great onboarding process can encourage remote workers to adopt your culture from the start. Your company onboarding process should be well-thought-out and easy to understand.
To welcome new workers, be friendly and let them know you’re excited to be working with them. Schedule an informal virtual happy hour or meet and greet with everyone they’ll be working with to welcome them.
You should also stress your company’s core values as much as possible in their training. Here are a few actions you can take to create a successful onboarding plan that inspires remote workers to adopt your culture:
- Design a two- or three-week training period. During this time, new remote workers can focus on making connections with team members and understanding your remote organizational culture.
- Detail your expectations for a new employee’s development. Letting remote workers know when they’ll be expected to take on certain tasks (e.g., three months, six months, or a year) can help them feel less stressed.
- Offer guidance to new hires. It may take a while for remote workers to learn which team members to contact for various issues. Provide them with a list of key partners and help and encourage them whenever possible.
- Hire and train several workers at a time. This can promote a connection among new workers, make them feel more comfortable in a new environment, and make the training more efficient.
For a more in-depth guide, take a look at our article on the best ways to create a successful remote onboarding process.
Use the right remote tools for the team
To create an efficient remote workplace culture, you need to have great software and communication tools. The right tools can help your team share ideas and work together in real time. Here are some useful programs that can help your remote team operate efficiently:
Zoom is video conferencing software that allows your company to have virtual meetings. Some benefits of this software include:
- It lets team members visually see each other for meetings and social events.
- It has screen-sharing capabilities for visual presentations.
- It has chat functions for audience engagement.
- It lets you record meetings and webinars for further use.
Slack is an instant chat platform designed for businesses and project teams. Some benefits of this software include:
- It lets you make different chat threads for different subjects.
- It offers private chat rooms for topics that only a few team members need to know.
- It has features for direct messaging one person.
Workday is a cloud-based platform that helps you manage several types of company resources. Some benefits of this software include:
- Its human capital management (HCM) tools help you do things like recruit new workers and track their time.
- Its enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools help you keep track of your company’s operational and financial resources.
- Its agile system brings together multiple dashboards, so even remote workers on multiple teams can access the same information.
Asana is a project management tool that lets teams follow each other’s progress on projects to optimize workflow. Some benefits of this software include:
- It has messaging tools that help team members communicate and hold each other accountable.
- It makes it easy for all team members to view company goals.
- It clearly defines project deadlines.
Basecamp is a project management platform that splits a team’s workload into defined projects. Some benefits of this software include:
- Basecamp has a very easy-to-use and effective design.
- You can manage multiple remote teams under one camp.
- Remote team members can access Basecamp anywhere, even on their mobile phones, keeping them in loop.
For a more complete view of some great tools remote workers can use from their home offices, take a look at the best 25 tools for remote teams.
Cultivate an environment of safety and trust
Create a safe and supportive environment by being receptive to the needs of your remote team. Check in with team members often to ask if they have all the resources they need to be successful. If they’re missing something, try to provide it. Let workers know they can always come to you if needs arise.
Be understanding of your workers’ personal needs, as well. A team member might have to adjust their schedule or need to take time off to do things like take care of their children, provide caregiving for other relatives, or attend medical appointments.
Some team members might be experiencing challenges due to issues in their personal lives or current events. It can be hard to notice when remote workers are feeling on edge. During your regular one-on-one meetings with them, either by phone, chat, or Zoom, take the opportunity to check in with team members on how they’re feeling.
However, make sure they know checking in isn’t a way of micromanaging them, but rather a way to connect with them and provide a safe space for them.
If you sense that someone is having a hard time, ask them open-ended questions like “What’s your stress level like?” or “How’s everything going?” Then, listen intently to what they have to say. Make it clear that you’re available to your team to help support, but be mindful of respecting their privacy as well.
Break down channel silos
Giving remote employees a full view of your company can help them feel involved. Your company may have many departments, but they should all feel like part of the same team. Some of the channel silos you might have if you’re creating a digital product include:
Breaking down these channel silos early can help create a remote working culture of teamwork and togetherness. Schedule meetings and virtual events where members of different departments can get acquainted and work together. You can also send out email updates or make announcements about what’s going with different departments.
Here are a few benefits your team might experience after breaking down channel silos:
- Cross-team collaboration and communication will improve.
- Teams will have an easier time prioritizing projects that impact other departments.
- Positive working relationships will develop across departments.
Schedule in-person team events
While remote work can be great, it’s not the same as meeting with your team face to face. That’s why it’s important to schedule some time to meet with your team members in person (if possible). You can set up in-person business meetings for your team or schedule fun activities.
If you’re planning an in-person meeting, you might try renting a small office space for the day where your team can assemble. If you’re planning a casual event, take your team to do something fun like bowling or ax-throwing. Here are some benefits of in-person events:
- They help strengthen relationships between team members.
- Certain team-building activities can build trust between co-workers.
- Social events improve worker morale.
- They can combat loneliness and isolation.
- They can help team members put names to faces.
However, if the distance between your team members makes it impossible to have in-person events, you can still set up virtual celebrations. You can have virtual ice breaker meetings with your team, happy hours, trivia, or even virtual lunches together.
Set team meeting cadences
For remote workers to feel they fit into the work culture, it’s important they interact with or at least see each other regularly. Hold virtual meetings regularly so that team members don’t feel as isolated. Some benefits of scheduling meetings for remote workers include:
- They make remote workers feel connected.
- They allow for communication between remote team members that is direct, helping to resolve conflicts.
- They encourage collaboration between big groups.
One of the best ways to make sure your meetings stay relevant is to establish an appropriate cadence (frequency) for them.
Meeting cadence can vary depending on factors like the meeting objectives, the people involved, and the nature of your organization. Below are a few options for scheduling meetings.
- Daily: These meetings should be short (no longer than 15 minutes) and to the point. The purpose of a daily meeting is to quickly touch base with your team so they can get back to work.
- Weekly: These in-depth meetings discuss progress reports, market forecasts, and business strategies. Your team might have a weekly meeting to assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.
- Monthly: These meetings are used to thoroughly evaluate the performance of different departments within a company.
- Quarterly, biannually, or annually: These types of meetings deal with high-level operations. They can be used to evaluate your company’s performance metrics over a period of time.
Set up one-on-one meetings
One of the difficult things about working remotely is that it can be hard to get feedback or clarification from a manager. That’s why it’s important to schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your remote employees. During these meetings, team members can discuss ongoing projects with managers, ask questions about initiatives, ask for and receive feedback about their performance, and managers can check if needs are being met. Some benefits of scheduling one-on-one meetings include:
- Giving you a chance to clearly align goals and expectations with remote workers.
- Showing remote workers you value their input.
- Providing both remote workers and managers with direct feedback.
Encourage team members to have one-on-one meetings with each other, as well. This can help them build stronger working relationships where they can collaborate, connect, and provide feedback on each other’s work.
The goal is for workers to feel empowered to reach out to one another. Instead of demanding that your workers have meetings at specific times, let them schedule conferences when they need to. Some benefits of scheduling these type of meetings include:
- Helping workers share insight with each other without distractions.
- Strengthening team members’ ability to collaborate.
- Giving workers a safe environment to give each other feedback.
Remind team members they’re valued
No one likes feeling undervalued. Showing your team that you appreciate them can go a long way in keeping them engaged and motivated. They also need to know when they’ve done a good job so that they can continue to produce results. Here are some ways you can show your remote workers they’re valued:
- Celebrate or announce birthdays, work anniversaries, or special events in team members’ lives. This could be an organized virtual celebration or an announcement and round of applause at the beginning of a Zoom call.
- Give workers praise when they’ve done a good job both directly and in meetings.
- Give them strategic rewards. A thank you card or email with a small gift certificate can really make workers feel valued at the end of a busy period.
- Give them company-branded gifts. Sending workers gifts like shirts and hats with your company logo on them can help them feel connected to the business.
- Offer them flexibility. Be understanding when workers have to miss time for family situations or personal responsibilities, like taking care of their kids or attending appointments.
Prevent burnout by communicating and supplying resources
Burnout happens when team members become overworked and are drained physically or emotionally to the point where their attitude and performance suffer greatly. It’s easy for remote workers to get overloaded because they work in the same place where they live.
While on-site workers can simply leave the office behind at the end of the day, team members who work off-site may not have that luxury. They may have trouble making boundaries between their work life and personal life.
Here are a few ways you can help your remote team avoid burnout:
- Demonstrate a healthy work-life balance to show workers that it’s OK to have boundaries.
- Encourage workers to take advantage of benefits like paid time off.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings to give workers a chance to share their grievances. Sometimes, team members just need to feel heard by management.
- Pay attention to team members’ workloads. Delegate tasks fairly so that no one feels they’re being overloaded.
- Check in often. If a worker seems off during a virtual meeting or is having trouble meeting expectations, reach out to them to see if there’s anything you can do to help.
Read our guide on how to prevent your remote workers from experiencing burnout for more information.
Not everything needs to be on Zoom
Zoom fatigue is the tiredness that someone feels after an online video meeting. It occurs because participating in an online meeting requires different and sometimes more complex demands than an in-person meeting.
For example, Zoom meetings require you to fix up your home, your appearance, and be engaged at all times. There’s also often a slight delay when users speak on Zoom, which can cause team members to exert more mental effort trying to process information.
Because having virtual meetings too often can be exhausting, it’s important that you make rules as to when they should be used. You might decide to only have weekly or monthly check-ins via Zoom, give workers the opportunity to call in to meetings rather than be shown on camera, or make use of asynchronous work through Slack or other tools.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a great remote work culture, but giving your team members a sense of belonging in your organization is critical to optimizing their production.
When workers can’t meet every day for water cooler conversation, building camaraderie among them is more difficult. By putting forth the effort to create and sustain a positive and inclusive remote work environment, you can help your workers remain connected, fulfilled, and motivated.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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