Remote Work Culture: How to Build it with a Distributed Team
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: the pandemic changed everything about work. More people than ever are working remotely, and that doesn’t show signs of changing.
In this new remote-working world, companies need to be strategic about building strong satellite teams and ask themselves important questions like how to maintain company culture in a hybrid environment.
Here’s the what, why, and how of remote work culture so leaders can start building it today.
What is Remote Work Culture?
To understand remote work culture, let’s first look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of culture:
- Customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a specific group.
- Shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices.
- Set of values, conventions, or social practices.
So, when applied to the workplace, culture means:
- Shared beliefs about the purpose and value of work—i.e., rallying around company goals and vision.
- Common social practices and norms—i.e., how you work and expectations.
- Conventions and social practices—i.e., socialization opportunities and a sense of belonging.
Workplace culture boils down to what everyone has in common, shared expectations surrounding work, and how people interact with and feel around each other.
Remote work culture, then, is a workplace culture in a remote or satellite team setting when employees aren’t in the same physical space.
Why Work Culture Matters
Most people know intuitively that work culture matters. We all want to work somewhere where we “click” with management or our colleagues. A strong work culture promotes employee engagement—when employees feel connected and share common values with their colleagues, they’ll get more out of the job.
But it’s more than that. Strong remote work culture also decreases turnover and increases productivity—it’s good for both the employee and the employer. Consider these stats:
- Highly engaged employees have 41% lower absenteeism and 17% increased productivity (Gallup).
- Highly engaged business units have a 21% greater profitability (Gallup).
- Toxic corporate culture was the top predictor of attrition during the Great Resignation (MITSloan).
- 56% of study respondents stated that workplace culture was more important than salary for job satisfaction (Glassdoor)
On top of these benefits, strong work culture can also combat loneliness and isolation. Employees reported missing social connections and human contact in general while working remotely. This lack of connection and interaction makes it harder to build or maintain remote work culture. The connections and camaraderie normally formed around “water cooler talk,” in-person meetings, or quick check-ins just isn’t possible for a remote team.
Work culture, then, is harder to maintain on remote teams. Managers and leaders need to be more intentional about building remote work culture in order to combat loneliness, boost productivity, and increase employee engagement.
How to Build Remote Work Culture
A strong and positive remote work culture is a win-win for employers and employees alike. Here’s how to do it.
1. Provide excellent internal communications
With a remote team, there’s no option to casually pop by someone’s office for an update. Employees also miss out on the “water cooler” chat to pick up important information.
So, to keep employees in the know (key to building a sense of belonging), strengthen your internal comms. Do this by:
- Streamlining information sharing. Create a central database of important information and ensure that it is up-to-date at all times.
- Providing regular company and team updates. This is particularly important during transitional or unprecedented seasons (i.e., pandemic, management change, industry events).
- Using clear, concise, and strategic communication. Good communication isn’t the same as a lot of communication—it’s about knowing what to say, when.
- Choose the right tools. There are so many options and apps available these days, so thoughtfully pick what’s best for your team. This is one of our key tips for successfully managing remote teams.
2. Make space
When people can gather physically in a centralized space, it’s natural and easy to connect. But without a HQ or central office, this isn’t possible. Your company may not need a full office, but it’s good to have some options.
Coworking spaces offer flexible solutions that benefit remote teams by providing space to gather when needed. Here’s how it can help:
- Coworking memberships or private offices for local team members allow them to work together on occaison.
- Bookable meeting rooms for periodic face-to-face team meetings.
- Workspace for out-of-town team members visiting the area.
With some creativity and flexibility, you can create more in-person touchpoints and build a communal space for colleagues to connect.
3. Recognize achievements
To feel a sense of belonging, employees need to feel recognized for their contributions. On a remote team, this needs to be done in a thoughtful and considerate way. Try these options:
- Include “kudos” and “shoutouts” at the beginning of team Zoom meetings.
- Use one-on-one meetings to give positive feedback on an employee’s achievements.
- Offer prizes or incentives that correspond to KPIs and goals.
Recognizing achievements goes a long way to establish trust. Trust, along with active listening and strong remote communication skills is an essential leadership skill for the “new normal.”
4. Nail your hiring and onboarding
Workplace culture is often evident right from the initial interview—it’s all about those first-impression “vibes” (scientific, we know). The hiring and onboarding process will communicate who you are as a company to prospective and new employees.
Consider these best practices:
- Talk about remote work culture in the interview and encourage the applicant to ask questions about it.
- Have a clearly documented plan for onboarding so the new employee knows what to expect.
- Set up virtual meetings for new employees so they can get to know their colleagues
You can also check out some of these tips for hiring remote talent.
5. Offer career advancement opportunities
Providing career advancement and professional development opportunities tells employees they matter while contributing to a culture of ongoing growth and learning.
Here are some ways to do it:
- Devote some time each month or quarter to professional development.
- Have conversations with each employee about their professional goals.
- Provide mentorship opportunities, either formally or informally.
- Offer professional development funds or tuition reimbursement.
- Allow discretionary time in each employee’s schedule to devote to their own learning, growth, or development.
6. Create interpersonal touchpoints
Remote teams simply don’t have the same natural touchpoints to interact with colleagues. So, to build a strong remote work culture, you need to create them. Here are some ideas:
- Create a “fun-only” communication channel on Slack or Google Teams. The only rule is no work talk! Keep it fun and light so colleagues can casually connect with each other.
- Have virtual social activities… but don’t overdo it! Every once in a while it’s fun to meet up and play a game or have a happy hour together over Zoom. Just don’t rely on this as your only strategy—it can get old after a while.
- Meet up occasionally in person. If your team structure allows it, try to have in-person meetings every once in a while. Consider renting a meeting room at your local coworking space, catering lunch, and making those interpersonal connections.
Remote work culture may look different than what’s possible in person, but that doesn’t make it any less important. If anything, companies need to be more intentional than ever when building up their remote teams, making sure that employees feel valued, connected, and have a sense of belonging.
If companies can get remote work culture right, it’ll pay dividends in employee engagement, retention, productivity, and increased revenues.
If you’re interested in a supportive, all-inclusive flexible workspace from which to run your business, book a tour of Co-Balt today. You’ll find everything you need here.