5 Ways to Build Great Company Culture in a Remote Business
Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more businesses looking to take advantage of the many benefits it offers. For many business owners, the idea of a remote workforce is appealing for a number of reasons. It can help to reduce overhead costs, increase flexibility and allow you to tap into a global pool of talent. But while remote work can be a great way to run your business, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
One of the most important of these is company culture.
What is company culture and why is it important in a remote workplace?
Company culture refers to the shared values and norms that define how employees interact and work together.
A good culture is very important for creating loyalty for your employees, helping with morale when times get tough, and just making work more fun in general.
The problem is that it can be difficult to create a strong company culture in a remote workplace, as there are often fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction and team building.
However, it is still possible to build a strong company culture in a remote workplace.
Here are 5 ways to do it (+ a few companies that are doing it well):
1) Encourage regular communication and organization
In a remote workplace, it is critical to encourage regular communication between employees. This point cannot be overstated. All businesses run on communication (and coffee), but in an office scenario this can almost be taken for granted because people see each other all the time.
In a remote environment, the idea of “out of sight out of mind” can really hinder your business.
The good news is that there are more tools than ever to foster communication. Slack, Microsoft Teams, and a few others are built from the ground up to make this easier.
You can chat, send links (and animated gifs!), and set up easy video conferencing and screen sharing.
Bonus tip: Encourage the use of webcams. If you are the CEO, manager, or other kind of boss, be sure to turn your camera on first. It will encourage others to do the same and the connection of a video chat is 10x better than just audio.
A word of warning: While communication is great for culture, it should not be confused with organization. We like to say “Slack is for discussions, ClickUp is for decisions.” ClickUp is our planning/task management tool, but there are a lot of others (Asana, Trello, Basecamp are some good ones).
If you make a decision about a project or task in your communication tool it can and absolutely will get buried in other chats. The key point is to move the decision into your management tool so that it is tracked, assigned, and managed.
2) Create opportunities for social interaction
While there may be fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction in a remote workplace, there are still ways to create opportunities for social interaction. This can be done through virtual team-building activities, online social events or even just setting up regular coffee chats.
InVision, a company that builds an online whiteboard and productivity platform, fosters community by hosting a remote happy hour every week.
Similarly, we have company get-togethers where we “share a meal” over Zoom.
We even send each employee DoorDash so they can join in the fun.
Another option is to use a company that specializes in hosting online social events. Confetti, for instance, does virtual murder mystery parties (among other fun things).
3) Encourage transparency
Have you ever heard the phrase “emotion is lost in a text message”? This is doubly true for business chats. Online communication tools often lose some of the nuance of regular speech. As such, it is important to encourage transparency and direct communication.
This means being clear about expectations, goals, and deadlines. It also means being open to feedback and giving employees the opportunity to provide input on decisions that affect them.
In a virtual environment you often don’t get the day-to-day “human cues” from the people you work with. The “atta boys” or side glances that let you know that things are going well, or not so well.
Being up front and a bit more obvious than you might otherwise be in person can make a real difference.
4) Create a shared sense of purpose and values
Culture is often the act of making someone feel like they are “one of the tribe”. The more one feels like they are part of something greater, the more they will work hard and enjoy themselves while they do so.
Developing company values and norms define how employees should behave and work together. This sounds dry, but the point is to set a standard.
And while you are at it, have a mission and vision that makes people want to rise to that standard.
Zapier and Basecamp are two remote companies that, since their inception, have team handbooks that outline their values and how they work together. This also helps employees to understand the company’s mission and vision.
5) Recognize and reward good work
Rewarding good work and extra effort is always appreciated, but again, the subtle cues are often lost in a remote environment. So, just like you might have to be a bit more obvious when communicating, you need to be even more so when handing out the rewards.
This can be as simple as using the “@channel” feature in Slack (@general in Teams) to make sure everyone gets notified when amazing things happen.
You can do this more formally during a video chat, or just do it in your communication tool. HeyTaco is a relatively new app that connects to both Slack and Teams to make this a more fun and rewarding process for your people.
The key is to make it public and do it a bit more often than you might if you were in the office.
Creating a remote company culture can be a challenge, but it is possible to build a strong and healthy culture in a virtual workplace.
By following these tips, you can create a remote company culture that is positive, productive and engaging.