According to Small Business Trends, 66% of employees are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And until a COVID vaccination is readily available, virtual work arrangements may not see much change in the near future. Bottom line: remote work is here to stay. But what does that mean for business owners and employers? While the transition from brick-and-mortar buildings to the virtual office is a balancing act, employers should also pay close attention to remote company culture. By doing so, the isolation of teams is overcome; cohesion and goal attainment becomes a realistic possibility.
What Is Remote Company Culture and Why Is It Important?
Remote company culture can vary from business to business. But in a general sense, remote company culture can be defined as the accepted set of actions and values that propel a team toward a common goal in a virtual setting.
Although the importance of company culture seems self-explanatory, it produces more benefits in a remote workplace. In addition to goal achievement, remote company culture provides a number of other advantages:
- Reducing loneliness and isolation of employees
- Setting the tone for work ethic and collaboration
- Building relationships between co-workers
- Increasing employee retention
- Improving morale
For these reasons, employers should put company culture high on the priority list, much akin to revenues and expansion.
Ways to Create a Tight-Knit Remote Company Culture
Business models aren’t created equal. Different industries require different solutions pertaining to company culture. But by implementing the following methods and techniques, you can create or improve your company culture, even as a freshly minted remote employer.
Hold Video Gatherings
To achieve a tight-knit remote company culture, video gatherings are essential. If possible, hold these gatherings with non-work-related topics on the agenda. Or, a better way to think of these videos is as a virtual “water cooler.”
Daniel Pacheco, a human resources specialist, as well as CEO and founder of Zety, an online resume-building company, uses video chats to build team camaraderie and cohesion:
“One good practice is online meetings—daily if possible. Ideally, your remote colleagues live in a timezone that allows them to join your daily or weekly team meetings through Skype/Zoom/etc. This not only guarantees that your workers remain accountable, but it also ensures everyone is in sync. If time zone difference becomes an obstacle for morning team meetings, make sure the team leader schedules an online meeting with the remote worker once or twice a week at a more convenient time of the day.”
But Don’t Overdo Video Chats
Contrasting views of video gatherings also exist, especially with regard to frequency. As digital marketer Gregory Golinski of Your Parking Space, a UK-based app to find and book parking spaces, mentions:
“Many businesses believe that to create a tight-knit culture at a remote company, it’s necessary to organize endless Zoom meetings several times a day. In my opinion, this is a great way to tire and put off your employees.
A video call once in a while is fine. But too many video calls can be more tiring than real-life meetings in the office. Video calls often suffer from video and sound issues, and many employees find them weird and uncomfortable. If you organize too many of them because you think it’s the only way to maintain cohesion in your company, think again. In my opinion, all these video calls are another way to try to micromanage employees.
But it’s better to give more freedom to employees and let them do their job instead of constantly calling them on Zoom. They’ll feel more valued as a member of your business and will also be more efficient in their work because they won’t be constantly interrupted by video calls.”
As Golinski illustrates, the key to successful video chats is to strike a balance between making these gatherings fun rather than a tiresome chore. How to find that balance is likely the product of experimentation. Schedule a weekly video gathering and base the frequency off feedback from your employees.
Video Gatherings for Remote Teams in Different Time Zones
Globalized workforces can pose problems to remote company culture, especially if your team works in several time zones. Not only does this create a scheduling problem for video gatherings, but it can cause stress on those who don’t want to have a video chat at 11 p.m. As a result, employers must find a time that works for everyone. Even a one-hour, once-a-week gathering can provide the cohesion a team needs.
Dr. Monique Skidmore is an award-winning cultural anthropologist that’s been featured and interviewed on CNN, ABC, PBS, and other news outlets. Her teams have been highly diversified, but she’s found a way to make video chats work and thus, build company culture.
“I’ve found that to truly create the same high-performing team remotely as I can in a more traditional office environment, I have to get everyone together each week at the same time. This is a headache for scheduling, but in the global engagement team I led at the University of Queensland, we managed to find a one-hour window that everyone—from Jakarta to Birmingham to Santiago—could commit to making each week.
This one hour made all the difference. We could eyeball each other and check what other members were thinking about our ideas. We could interrupt, exclaim, and show bodily movements that showed us how our ideas were coming together and how we felt about our progress toward our KPIs. Individual team members found others in the group they felt ‘sympatico’ with and reached out to them directly to form new relationships.
As an anthropologist, I know that humans are wired for contact and for communication. We use all our senses when we communicate. Visual cues are critical to establishing rapport and trust and each member of a global team deserves to be seen as well as heard.”
Specificity and Consistency Reign
While communication remains a crucial aspect of successful remote teams, employers can’t stop there. They need a concrete, consistent set of demands and expectations in order to foster a strong remote company culture.
CEO and co-founder Malte Scholz of Airfocus, a product strategy firm, sums up the importance of specificity and consistency:
“People naturally see remote work as more casual, and your job is to set very clear rules of the game. You don’t have to be as strict as you have to be clear and consistent. For instance, if you want to give flexible hours to people but also be able to reach them easily, try and set some limitations as to when the shift can be completed.
If, however, you cannot afford people working whenever they want, simply introduce regular 9-to-5 shifts and stick to it. You may even purchase time-tracking software to make sure everyone is following the rules, but also to allow employees to acquire certain work habits. Don’t forget—good remote company culture depends on how specific and consistent you are, not on how strict your rules will be.”
Empathy is a crucial part of remote company culture, simply because it’s necessary for strong leadership and understanding during COVID-19. The concept of empathy enables employers to endear themselves to workers while also providing understanding that can promote cohesion.
As Jay Singh, co-founder of LambdaTest, a cross-browser testing system trusted by 200,000 users, opines:
“Deepen your commitment to being empathetic towards your employees. We all know that motivated employees are likely to perform better. But do you know that higher empathy can lead to an increase in productivity, morale, and loyalty? While most businesses are already practicing empathy, what makes your business different?
Well, you need to shift from superficial empathy to ‘genuine concern.’ The first step to do that is to understand how your teammates are feeling by making sure you’re fully present when you’re talking with them. Secondly, you have to try to cultivate that ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling.”
As Singh states, empathy is crucial. Presenting your business goals as something that requires everyone’s abilities and talents is half the battle. You also need to add in flexibility and understanding to fully embody the idea of empathy, especially in a COVID-19 world.
Choose the Right People
Employers can’t develop remote company culture without the right people. You need people who are experienced, good at their job, and have the right work ethic in order to build that culture.
Editing manager Erik Pham of Healthcanal, an informative health website, builds on this idea:
“Choose the right workers. Everyone can do remote work with their skills, but not everyone can contribute to collaboration. You need to carefully consider that a worker is able to or open for communication and collaboration. Additionally, those with experience are more fit to a tight-knit culture.
Pay extra attention to their actions. Remote worker’s tasks and jobs have different impacts on each one of them. They may show unusual behaviors and actions which is an opportunity to know them better. This is a method where you can think of how to handle each one of your workers. A tight-knit culture makes a team whole, so if one of them had problems, you and your team should be able to help.”
Get Feedback on Everything
Feedback from employees is essential to building a remote company culture. Not only does it include them in the activities in the business and make them feel valued, it also is a phenomenal way of improving workflow and business processes.
However, feedback is a two-way road. That is, giving feedback to your employees is also important. Showing appreciation for a job well done and providing this type of transparency can build a company culture based on honesty and openness. It can also help introverts open up and make them feel like they’re part of the team.
For companies that have only recently gone virtual, creating a tight-knit remote company culture will take time and a period of trial and error. But an emphasis on developing this culture reaps endless benefits. Cohesive cultures breed productivity, efficiency, and employee retention—a trifecta of performance factors that can make any company successful in a digital world.
Do you have any tips on how to create a tight-knit remote company culture? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
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