Remote work is here to stay. Read these tips on how to build company culture when working with remote teams.
But as businesses discover the advantages of a remote workforce, many find that maintaining a sense of community and culture is a significant challenge. And with workers still fighting pandemic fatigue and burnout, it’s imperative that companies focus on healthy culture-building efforts that will support employee wellness long-term.
Here are five ways your company can build a positive company culture remotely.
1. Set Healthy Work and Communication Expectations
Remote work culture starts by defining your company’s remote work norms and setting healthy expectations, something many businesses still neglect to do. In a recent study by Zenefits, 58% of respondents said they were unaware or unsure of their companies’ official remote work policy and 30% reported theirs had no policy at all.
Create a document that summarizes your company values and lays out the tools and processes required for remote employees to perform their jobs, including:
- Specified work hours and worker availability
- Communication channels, usage and frequency
- Project or task management and reporting
- Technology and systems training
Make your policy easily accessible to all by posting it on your website, in communication channels, and sharing them with new employees during the onboarding process.
2. Pay Mind to Safety and Trust
Even when employees aren’t working side-by-side, they should still feel they’re part of an inclusive work environment. Sadly, just 3 in 10 believe their opinions count at work.
Fostering a culture of psychological safety ensures they are comfortable sharing ideas and disagreeing with team members without fear of rejection or consequences. It drives healthy, two-way workplace communication that gives workers the freedom to express themselves and keeps them mentally and creatively engaged.
Get to know your team personally by scheduling recurring one-on-ones and have your managers do the same. Encourage feedback during meetings and be deliberate about drawing out quieter team members and asking for their thoughts.
3. Make Employee Wellness a Priority
A majority, 75%, of people deal with burnout at work, a recent Flexjobs/Mental Health America study reported. And 40% say they’ve felt burnt out during the pandemic.
Employee wellness programs should be an integral part of every positive company culture.
Rather than immediately focusing on wellness programs and perks, however, take some time to consider how your infrastructure as a whole is set up to support a distributed workforce.
Study respondents reported that companies could support them more effectively by offering work flexibility, mental health days, increased PTO and better health insurance.
Create a poll for your team to get a sense of which wellness practices would serve them the best. Include any suggestions they bring up in meetings and stay open to adjusting virtual work policies.
4. Install a "Virtual Watercooler"
At a traditional office job, employees might gather around the watercooler to exchange notes about their day and socialize. But that sense of community in a remote workspace can get lost in between endless Zoom meetings and project updates.
Make it a point to recreate a "virtual watercooler" for your remote workers. Pick a platform or channel they are already familiar with while keeping it separate from other work conversations. If you want, lay down a few basic ground rules about content to minimize complaints.
But let them know that that channel is only for them and encourage them to make it their own, whether they want to share pet photos, make funny videos, or discuss favorite hobbies.
5. Develop New Team Rituals
Whether you plan to work apart forever, temporarily, or become a hybrid workforce, team rituals can help you maintain that sense of community for as long as you need.
Start with the basics. What recurring meetings do you want to have on the weekly agenda? Will you have small team planning sessions, all-hands meetings, or a mix of both? The key to culture is consistency, so try to commit for at least a short while before reassessing.
Team rituals also mean bringing the company together to connect outside of work. You could host online get-togethers such as virtual coffee breaks, karaoke or family talent shows, or events like company-wide contests, raffles and game tournaments. Down the road, consider an in-person conference or team summit, so everyone can reconnect.
6. Looking Ahead for Remote Work Trends
Remote work is here to stay. But will COVID-19 truly mark the beginning of more flexible, worker and wellness-focused company cultures? Positive work cultures have been linked to higher levels of productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. By adding flexible work schedules and a stronger emphasis on mental health, you get a worker-centric culture—and company—built for resilience.