Building a healthy remote work culture is a challenge in good times. Today, with everyone scrambling to adjust to working full-time from home, it’s even harder. Consciously developing a strong remote work culture has benefits that extend far beyond the bottom line and provides your team with the support they need to deliver.
Remote Work Culture is Team Culture
Some companies, including Google, American Express, Microsoft, and REI are leaning into remote work as a permanent model. Others are offering remote employees the opportunity to return to the office on a part-time basis. One survey found that a full 74% of CFOs intend to transition some portion of their workforce to remote work full time in the next two years.
But even if your organization intends to use distributed teams as part of a blended working environment, the connections and camaraderie established as part of a remote work culture initiative will carry forward into a physical office – with all the associated benefits.
Extend Time to Onboarding
It’s important to allow remote employees additional time to acclimate to a new work environment. Take a cue from LinkedIn, which extended one day’s worth of material over an entire week. Unlike a physical office, where colleagues have plenty of opportunities to learn culture organically by observing how team members interact, remote employees also may need additional direct instruction.
A successful virtual onboarding process will include specific modules or activities designed to introduce your new hires to your organization’s broader culture and should model the practices that work best in your remote work culture. Prompting new hires to sign on daily at 9 am, for example, sets an expectation that your newest remote team member keeps standard business hours.
Establish Communication Policies for Your Remote Work Culture
With so many different ways to connect – email, phone call, text message, chat – and competing demands on their time, it’s easy for remote team members to lose track of one another. Strong remote work culture requires strong communication. This may require setting policies and expectations around how and when employees exchange information about projects and deadlines.
Consolidated communication platforms like Slack and Basecamp can be tailored to meet the needs of small and large teams. These platforms centralize all work-related discussions in a single, searchable location. If your organization has well-established procedures for sharing information, consider revisiting policies around response times and availability. Should remote employees plan to sign on at a specific time every day? Is travel permitted so long as deliverables arrive before the deadline?
Prioritize Meaningful Work
Remote employees may feel compelled to respond immediately to calls and voice messages to demonstrate availability and commitment. Particularly if they’re coordinating with colleagues back in the office. Encourage your remote team members to block out periods of time to focus deeply on assignments that require concentration.
Managers should already have a policy in place to ensure equal distribution of substantive assignments. However, don’t forget to recognize your remote team members for their long hours and key contributions.
Create Spaces for Connection
Research shows that even the most dedicated employees can experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Keeping distributed teams positive and cohesive may require some creativity. But fostering friendships at work plays a critical role in building and maintaining a strong remote work culture. Optional lunch dates for employees in different teams or functions allow team members to connect with colleagues they might otherwise never meet outside of a traditional office. Alternately, a 24-hour Zoom lounge can serve as the new company water cooler.
As your organization transitions to full or partial remote work, focusing on culture ensures that all your employees – from seasoned pros to rookies, teleworking road warriors to office traditionalists – benefit from a sense of connection and the mutual support required in a virtual office.