Workplace culture has long been vital for companies that want to attract and retain top employees. A 2019 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that one in five workers had left a company due to a toxic culture, and a stunning one in two had considered leaving their current employer. Today these numbers are likely higher with the ongoing Great Resignation.
Yet more people are working remotely than ever before. According to a PwC survey in 2021, fewer than one in five employers plan to return to pre-pandemic office setups. Hybrid teams that work partially in-office and partially at home are the most popular choice, but 13% of employers plan to remain fully remote. Whether you’re working with a hybrid or a fully remote team, the question remains: how do you create a great work culture with remote employees?
What an excellent remote culture looks like
The basics of a good work culture are the same, regardless of where employees sit. These include:
- Employee engagement. Workers are involved, enthusiastic and committed to the company. They might have an occasional bad day, but overall, they enjoy coming in (or logging in) to work.
- Teamwork and collaboration. Teams operate smoothly with little drama. They communicate well and feel comfortable working cross-departmentally with other groups or individuals as needed.
- Individual growth. Employees are recognized as individuals with their own strengths, weaknesses and personal goals. Every worker is on their own path with opportunities to grow and develop.
How to build a strong remote culture
Knowing how to recognize a strong remote culture is an important first step. But you need to take proactive steps to achieve it. Try these tactics.
Remote team building looks a little different, but it’s one of the best ways to boost company culture. This is where leveraging technology comes in.
- Virtual watercooler. Using a collaboration platform like Slack lets you create a separate channel for off-topic conversations. Encourage people to visit with regular fun posts, from short cat videos to “getting to know you” conversation starters.
- Remote workshops. Consider offering optional classes. These can be work-related or completely off-topic, last for a single session or several, and be hosted by management, employees or external experts.
- Online games. Whether your workers are into fantasy sports or dungeon crawls, gaming is super effective for bonding. Take advantage of existing online gaming setups and encourage interested workers to play together. You can even incentivize leagues with prizes tied to business goals.
- Show and tell. Remember how much you looked forward to show-and-tell in elementary school? Ask employees to post short videos showing off their prized possession or talking about something personally meaningful to them.
Set your teams up for success with the right tools. Talk to your IT team about the latest solutions and implement those that make the most sense for your organization. Most remote teams will need at a minimum:
- Video-conferencing software
- Document-sharing systems
- Project management tools
- A customizable collaboration platform such as Slack
In the early days of the Covid-19 shutdowns, many employers tried to simply re-create the in-office experience. Unfortunately, this led to wasted time between technology glitches and trying to coordinate meeting schedules. If you’re planning to embrace remote teams in the long run, asynchronous communication channels can help improve both productivity and company culture.
Asynchronous communication is any conversation that doesn’t take place in real time:
- Text messaging
- Marked-up screenshots
- Recorded video
- Shared files
Some scenarios require a face-to-face meeting or at least a phone call. Think hiring and firing or delivering sensitive news. But for most office communications, you really don’t need to talk in real time. One of the biggest advantages of working remotely is flexibility, and asynchronous communication enables that. You might need to set ground rules, such as how long people have to respond to a message, but embracing flexibility can go a long way toward creating an excellent remote culture.
Putting it all together
Building a great company culture for remote teams requires you to be proactive. But with a bit of advance planning and a few simple techniques, you can foster the type of culture that attracts and retains top talent.