Remote work is becoming a new reality for many businesses this year, as COVID-19 is forcing them to close their offices and focus on working from home as a primary alternative. According to a recent survey carried out by IBM, remote work appears to be growing on people. More than 75 percent of correspondents indicate they would like to continue to work remotely at least occasionally, while more than half, 54 percent, would like this to be their primary way of working.
What’s more, such big corporations as Twitter and Google have already announced that the majority of their employees wouldn’t return to the office until 2021 at the very earliest—if they return at all.
And still, shifting toward a more remote workforce and settling into the new routines is a challenge that requires effort and time. The least any company can do in these times of high uncertainty is to make sure every employee stays safe and productive, feels connected to their team, and knows they’re valued.
That’s where strong company culture comes into play, but how do you maintain one at a distance? We’ve come up with five tips that can help you on your way to building your own company culture.
1. Refine your company values and culture
Company culture is all about shared values and goals. So the first step in creating a strong culture in your company is to communicate the ‘why’ of your business: why you do it in the first place and what you are aspiring to achieve. If you haven’t formulated your values yet, right now is an excellent opportunity to do it.
Working out and refining your values and culture is not enough, it’s vital to document what you’ve come up with and communicate this knowledge to every employee.
Try to make such a document easy-to-read, articulate, and inspirational. Don’t forget that the means of communication you use play an important role, as you’ll be sending your document out to your remote team, so it should be very convenient to access and read. Consider using digital employee handbooks for this task. Each handbook can carry your company branding and style. Plus, you can also add informative videos anywhere in the handbook to welcome new employees and educate everyone on your company culture and policies.
Want more WFH tips? Download the Remote Work Task Checklist.
2. Build trust
One of the pillars of successful remote work is trust: between the boss and the employees or in the team between colleagues. Being honest and open can’t be overrated.
Thanks to our digital era, there are many ways to maintain the connections, transparency, and trust that you had back in the office. For instance, you can establish daily virtual standups for specific teams and weekly meetings for whole departments through various video conferencing solutions.
Every day you can discuss just three simple questions with your team:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- Is there anything standing in your way?
Everyone is accountable to the team, not just to their boss. And, if someone is having any problems or challenges concerning their work, it’s easier to share and find a solution together—brainstorm ideas, share experience, or just feel that you’re not alone in this. This way, everyone is able to do their work as best as they can.
Trust your people. Show your confidence in them, and they’ll be far more likely to do fantastic work for you—remote or not.
3. Improve communication
What is the main challenge for many remote working companies? That’s right, it’s keeping effective communication. When everyone is working from different places, in different locations and time zones, it can be hard to be as efficient as in the physical office. Simple tasks and questions may require more time and follow-ups to be resolved.
That’s why, along with documenting your company values, you can also establish communication norms and etiquette. Such standards will help people stay in the flow, reduce chaotic emailing and messaging, and make communication much more comfortable and transparent.
State that any documentation should always be sent via email and all the tasks you do are to be documented in the project management tools you use. In contrast, quick casual discussions can be carried out via instant messaging tools.
Plus, use video calls for every day and weekly meetings. Text-based communication is easy to misinterpret, and without putting a real face behind the text, your emails and instant messages could look less neutral than you intend them to be. And, of course, seeing your colleagues’ smiling faces, their gestures, and hearing their voices is the closest you can get to the experience of being together at the office again. This lifts your mood and inspires you to work harder.
Check out the practical work-from-home tips from the remote team at Groove on how to keep communication efficient.
4. Don’t over communicate
As great as communicating can be for your company culture, it’s no less important to keep natural boundaries and avoid over communicating.
When you’re working in an office, you can quickly tell if someone is deep in work or if they’re open to a discussion. While remote working, it’s anyone’s guess. Updating your status in communication tools helps your colleagues know if you’re free to talk right now or not. Keep your team informed of when you’re signed on to work, out at lunch, happy to help, or away. Some tools even let you add emojis to your status? Plus, you can make custom emojis reflecting your company style, or perhaps even following some inside jokes. Just give it a try.
5. Share your achievements and stay connected
When you’re working from anywhere, you can sometimes feel disconnected from your colleagues. So sharing what you’re doing, what you’ve achieved, and even chatting about everything that doesn’t concern work is vital.
Sales reports, marketing analytics, client feedback, and general team wins are very inspiring achievements and progress markers that remind everyone in the company that they’re still working and creating together, even while being apart.
And don’t forget about having fun! Encouraging the ‘fun’ interactions makes up for the casual office conversations that many employees value so much. You can set up a channel that is only for non-work-related discussions to replicate those ‘water cooler’ moments. Keep your lunch break talks and small laughs. To get inspired, read how Front develops its cultural events, even while working remotely.
As you see, even if your team is physically apart right now, and given the stress and uncertainty we’re all living with, strong company culture can still help your employees feel connected. Both to one another and to the sense that their work brings value.
Originally published Jul 09, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022