The invention of the PC brought about a startling possibility for workers around the globe – the emancipation of jobs from the office. Several people expected working from home to be the norm and the exciting future of work eventually.
While they weren’t wrong, businesses couldn’t permit work from home on a corporate scale for obvious reasons. So, when the coronavirus outbreak triggered an anxious trend of paid furlough for remote work, organizations were left scratching their heads on how to maintain or cultivate a viable remote work culture in all projects and teams. Most employers and employees are realizing the dramatic effects that this radical shift to remote work has brought. With the sudden, unforeseen nature of such a change, employers have not had time to come up with clear remote work guidelines or policies.
The takeaway here is, in case of such a calamity, if people are forced into remote work again, along with crystal clear guidelines for operation and productivity, a culture of adapting to suboptimal workspaces and maintaining efficiency without being in office is also required.
With many of us working from home, video collaboration software, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, have seen a 500% uptick in the number of people turning up on it for team meetings, calls, and conferences. However, even before the flare-up of the outbreak, remote working was on the rise.
But when it comes to work from home, creating a sense of corporate culture is a topic of fervent discussion, one that often presents a huge challenge. So, in a scenario as unprecedented as the current one, how do organizations build a culture that promotes employee engagement of a remote workforce? Let’s find out how.
Organizational Culture for Remote Teams
Culture is often what makes or breaks an organization’s operational success. However, executives and business owners who wish to espouse the model of distributed teams often grapple with the predicament of fostering a healthy culture when their employees aren’t in the office.
When an employee works remotely, creating a strong culture that’s consistent throughout the organization can seem challenging. Fortunately, the task is far from improbable. Here, we will look at five ways of building a great company culture in a remote workforce.
1. Choose relevant tools for collaboration
As part of your day to day work rigor, you have to ensure that you have the relevant tools for team meetings and collaboration that help you propagate the culture you are trying to build. Not doing so could mean low productivity and work satisfaction levels. In fact, 71% of millennials complained about the lack of relevant collaboration tools, with Generation Xers coming up behind them at 62%.
Zapier, a company that enables users to integrate their web apps, has an interesting take on this as its workforce is entirely remote. They say;
“A co-located office develops its own personality through inside jokes, shared experiences, and a collaborative environment. A remote team needs to develop something similar. The easiest way to do this is with your day-to-day toolset.”
Apart from this, it’s paramount to find ways to make your remote employees feel updated with the latest trends and practices. Whether you employ video conferencing tools or team communication apps, it’s important to have a variety of ways for team members to keep in touch.
2. Enable easy communication
Hurdles in clear communications might be a cinch for in-office teams, but they can become insurmountable obstacles while working remotely. In fact, the frequency of face-to-face collaboration among connected employees stands at a high 98% as team members turn up to effectively communicate and patch up hawseholes that might have erupted while in office.
However, in the case of remote teams, quick fixes aren’t as easy to implement. With more than 50% of remote employees testifying to the same, the reason behind it was termed as feeling disconnected from in-office respondents. Turning it around would mean providing employees with exclusive channels built for a purpose that makes for immediate and clear communication through the right tools.
Since casual communication is the lynchpin when it comes to team building for remote workers, you should have tools that enable work chatting, but preserve the spontaneity of working in an office, and also promote casual collaboration more effectively.
3. Make employee induction public
This is a specific suggestion that makes a boatload of difference. Employee inductions are always exciting for both the recruited and your current task force. The practice of public employee inductions shouldn’t be given a rest just because teams are communicating virtually. If anything, it will accelerate the induction process and put the newly recruited employee at ease sooner.
For example, you can send a casual public mail exclusive to the members of a team and encourage them to ask the new employee basic questions to get to know them on a personal basis and to break the ice. An example of such a mail could be:
Hello team XYZ,
We have, in our midst, a new hire who will join our marketing team today. Alastair is from Philadelphia and previously was the Associate Marketing Manager for Cumberland Paper Mills. He had been at the position for five years, where he was tasked with overseeing customer outreach.
Alastair is @username on our private chat server with the extension 789. His work email is email@example.com
As part of our usual induction affair, I have asked Alastair for answers to a few questions.
- How would you describe yourself in four sentences?
- Which achievement are you most proud of in your life and why?
- Which genre of movies would you never watch, and why?
- If you had a superpower, how would you use it while concealing your identity?
- If you could choose between a private island and a private jet, what would you choose and why?
I urge everyone to correspond with Alastair in the coming week and welcome him to our team!
If you want to take it up a notch, you can even play some virtual team building games. Trust us, we’ve tried it too many times these days, and we’ve never got one eye roll or groan!
Social interaction often comes at a premium in distributed teams, and being aware of it can help you focus more on spending time with new employees to nurture a semblance of team bonding. Your current employees will be able to teach the new hire more about your company’s culture in a day than any manual ever could while also getting acquiesced with them personally, leading to better chemistry among members.
4. Encourage shared leadership
“Hire great people and give them the freedom to be awesome.”
– Andrew Mason, Founder, and CEO, Groupon
Businesses often wrestle against the thought and model of hierarchy. However, in an age where everyone is a specialist in their role, doing so isn’t a particularly great idea.
Promoting a semblance of shared leadership, in that sense, is not only essential to building a great company culture, but it also takes the onus of leadership off the requirement management’s already burdened shoulders and instead gives employees opportunities to rise to the occasion. Organizations must prepare employees from all levels for leadership and ready new leaders for success.
The practice of shared leadership and partnerships can announce a number of fundamental changes to distributed team composition as the model of teams helmed by an absolute leader falls to the wayside.
When business owners understand that employees need only a measure of recognition, and feel like they have a secure space to share their ideas, it leads to higher motivation among staff members, eventually boosting team performance and overall results. It is crucial to understand the things to look for in a shared leadership model so that you can allow some basic rules of coexistence for the same.
5. Prioritize health and wellness
When working remotely, it’s easier for the management to assume that the work-life of employees is in better harmony with their life outside of work. However, dodging the usual components of in-office working like daily commute as a virtue of working remotely has a darker side.
Plus, since we’re all home and amidst a pandemic, most of us are grappling with the burden of uncertainty, anxiety and domestic or familial responsibilities. In such times, it is more difficult than ever for remote employees to be productive and feel like a productive part of the office and the team.
But in the most normal of conditions too, remote teams face some unique challenges. Remote employees feel uneasy about asking for leaves. In fact, a survey reported that 55% of employees took fewer than 15 leaves annually. On the whole, remote workers were of the opinion that work bleeds into their lives more easily if they are working from home, with 22% saying that unplugging after work hours is one of the biggest challenges remote workers face.
Unfortunately, remote teams can’t win much for you if they aren’t emotionally and physically well. That’s why organizations should take care to make health and wellness a high priority as a part of the corporate culture.
You can start with regular one-on-one health check-ups. Make sure that benefits schemes are reflective of the organization’s culture. To do so, you can consider periodic health assessments in the local physical area of each employee. Don’t forget about your employees’ mental health and show them that you are invested in it, too, by providing access to support groups or health packages through insurance benefits.
Successful Team Working as a Constituent of Remote Culture
Organizations over the globe have begun to realize the efficiency gains and intrinsic benefits delivered by remote teams. Combine this trend with the rise of freelancers, and you are effectively looking at the future that the invention of the personal computer promised.
A remote culture isn’t too hard to promote, and it definitely doesn’t require exotic technology or fundamental organizational shake-ups. By simply adopting the practices mentioned above, you can be well-positioned to address and resolve the unique challenges of building a proper culture for your remote teams — whether its members are spread out locally or globally.