Remote-first work culture is a relatively new term that was set ablaze during the coronavirus pandemic. Where previously most companies preferred to hire in-person workers, many have now realized the benefits of working remotely.
The practice of working online from a remote location is strikingly different from the experiences gained when working in person. As a result, many remote-first companies struggle with setting up a beneficial company culture that supports its employees.
In this article, we will go ways to develop a healthy remote work company culture that benefits you and your teammates.
Understanding Remote First Companies
Remote-first companies may not currently be the norm, but that’s changing fast. These organizations aim to empower themselves and their employees by creating a positive company culture that supports off-site, distributed work.
A company built upon the “remote-first” foundation seeks to maximize its number of off-site workers. Only a few – if any – employees will be based within the company’s own in-person office space. Many remote-first brands even choose to skip the option of maintaining their own in-person office, settling for a remote-only approach instead.
Remote-first companies have a unique workplace culture like no other. Firstly, they champion diversity by hiring experts from around the country (or even the globe!) They also enable individuals who might not been otherwise able (or willing) to move from another city or country, and/or commute every day to work, to develop professionally without constraints.
Thanks to these power points, remote-first can easily create a healthy company culture that features a diverse fleet of workers. However, despite these pros, maintaining a positive company culture while working with remote employees is not without its challenges. This brings us to our next point, which seeks to understand company culture, especially within a remote workplace setup.
What is Company or Team Culture
Company culture, also known as team culture, refers to the overall workplace attitude maintained by a brand and its employees. Team culture is primarily developed by the company’s CEO or team leaders. Upon seeing their leaders behave a certain way, employees follow suit and adopt a similar work ethic when on the job.
Team culture is an extremely important concept that determines an organization chances of success. Companies that value healthy principles, like honesty, respect, and dedication, are highly likely to find success thanks to their positive team attitude and overall behavior at work.
Teams ridden with dirty politics, dishonesty, and lack of dedication are less likely to meet their goals. The same goes for companies with a poor company culture that stems from a lack of effective leadership. Such organizations may fail to produce quality products due to their team’s negligence or overall employee unhappiness.
Remember, a company’s success depends upon how committed its employees are. Organizations maintaining a positive workplace attitude have little trouble cultivating a team of motivated, productive employees.
Staff members produce their best work when they are happy and feel empowered when working under their boss’ umbrella. By creating a healthy work culture, you can significantly boost your employees’ happiness levels and overall productivity.
So, needless to say, every company first goal should be to create a healthy, supportive team culture for its employees. Like most things, this is easier said than done. However, achieving this goal becomes significantly trickier when working with remote employees that have negligible in-person contact, if any.
Popular challenges when setting up a remote-first work culture
Among the most common challenges found by companies when establishing a remote focused culture, we have the following:
Encouraging teamwork amongst employees who have never met in person
Developing a positive team culture becomes significantly easier when there is a comfortable communication flow between employees. However, due to the lack of in-person meetings, there is a high chance of a serious communication gap developing amongst team members. As a result, there is a higher chance of misunderstandings between workers and their employers.
Not only that but there might even be many communication struggles between team members working from different remote locations. It’s also tricky to create an organic culture that’s influenced by observable actions rather than by words sent over email. This brings us to our next point…
Establishing a similar work ethic between all staff members despite them working remotely
We have already established that it’s difficult to propagate workplace values through online communication. However, this becomes significantly trickier when you’re trying to instill the same teamwork values within multiple remote workers at once.
It might be easy to brief multiple people together in an in-person setting, but not when addressing remote workers. Hence, team leaders might fail to ensure every member of their team is on the same page regarding workplace ethics.
Creating a sense of belonging and dedication to the brand amongst remote workers
As noted previously, a business can only expect to be successful if its employees are dedicated to the cause. It’s also important to acknowledge that employees who share a sense of belonging with their workplace perform better at their jobs.
Unfortunately, curating this “sense of belonging” isn’t so simple when you’re dealing with remote workers. Firstly, they have no physical setting to identify with. Secondly, they cannot pledge their devotion to teammates and leaders that they’ve never even met!
These challenges make it difficult for remote-first organizations to develop a healthy company culture. However, despite being tricky, it is not entirely impossible to achieve a positive team culture despite working remotely. We’ll go over handy tricks to create a thriving remote-first work culture later in this article.
What to Consider When Setting Up a Work Team Culture
A couple of things to think about when laying the foundation for your remote-first company culture are:
Employees availability and communication workflow
You might want to host frequent video calls to help your team members get to know one another well. However, most remote workers don’t have fixed timings. If this is true for your employees, be sure to consider their availability before scheduling meetings or setting deadlines. While it’s beneficial to conduct regular video conferences with your employees, it’s important not to overdo it.
Do not schedule more meetings than you really need. Doing so will reduce your team’s freedom of movement, which can potentially upset them in the long run. Remember, an unhappy employee is an unproductive employee!
This is why it’s fundamental to establish communication and coordination principles that are clear, reasonable and easy for team members to follow based on their roles, projects and timezones, while embracing asynchronous communication to minimize disruptions.
Setting meaningful productivity focused goals to assess teams performance
One of the aspects that will make employees nervous when they start working remotely is not to know how their managers will assess their performance if they’re not able to see them “in the office” working. This is especially true when companies don’t have clear performance focused goals and key performance indicators to measure how well employees perform.
Avoid burdening your employees with goals that are not meaningful, measurable, or not tied to productivity, that will only weigh them down. For example, don’t expect them to show up for 3 online meetings every day or to be all the time connected and available for chats or calls during the day, when it’s not really necessary and the activity is not directly tied to their performance.
Instead, adopt an approach that will allow you to measure your team productivity and work outcome while improving your company culture without burdening your employees. We’ll go discuss how to do this in the next section…
Steps to Establish a Remote-First Work Company Culture
When setting up your remote-first company culture, be sure to take note of the following themes and practices:
Pay attention to whom you’re hiring
Remember, your team members make up the backbone of your company. As a result, they will have a direct influence on your company’s culture. Hiring people with records of poor discipline will make it difficult to cultivate a positive work culture. However, hiring individuals with excellent records of collaboration in similar organizations, can make things much easier for you.
When interviewing candidates, be sure to quiz them on what teamwork and remote work team culture mean to them and about previous experience. This will help you gain insight into which individuals are worth hiring and those who are not.
Schedule team building, ice-breaking virtual events and in-person meetups
Many in-person workplaces dedicate special days towards team building office parties and ice-breaking events. Though it might be a little tricky to pull this off virtually, there are still many ways for you to replicate these events online, as we have described in this guide, from watercooler group chats, to virtual scavenger hunts, and even in-person company meetups for team members to attend for a few days once or twice per year.
Try to schedule fun events every few months to help create a relaxed and enjoyable remote-first work atmosphere. Doing so will also help improve your employees’ sense of belonging. They may find it easier to identify with team members with whom they are interacting. As a result, they’ll be motivated to work harder at their jobs, especially when collaborating on projects with other employees.
Remind employees how important their work is
Appreciation goes a long way – this is a fundamental fact within human psychology. Exposing your employees to positive feedback will encourage them to work harder at their job. Knowing that their contribution is valued can help boost their self-esteem.
So, be sure to regularly give your workers positive feedback (or advice). This will also help your employees develop emotional ties with the company. It’s also an excellent way to encourage a culture of hard work within the workplace.
Set up accessible platforms for open communication
It’s easy to communicate with one another when we’re physically present within the same environment. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when it comes to remote-first companies.
To overcome any possibility of miscommunication, be sure to set up a convenient communication platform for employees to use, and provide best practices and principles to use it with other team members as well as company leaders. They should be able to reach you – their leader – any time they need to. You should also brief them on this so that they know that open communication is allowed and encouraged.
So, in order to create a positive remote-first company culture, start setting up various communication channels for your team. You can use popular group chats, like Slack or Discord for async, text first communication or Google Hangouts for real time, video one. Most importantly, you should provide certain criteria and principles so they know how they should be used and when.
If you fail to do this, you risk creating a company culture that doesn’t give its workers a voice. Doing so can significantly reduce employee satisfaction, which, in turn, will reduce productivity.
Encourage employee feedback
This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Allow your employees to provide feedback on their experience as a team member of your company. You can always ask them how they feel about the existing work culture within your company. Or, if you’d like to take a more formal approach, try handing out an employee satisfaction survey instead.
Do not penalize your team members for being honest, though! Also, you should only share surveys if you already have an existing remote-first work culture in place. You can also consider sharing one now and then circulating another one later to see if their opinions have changed. Doing so will help you understand which areas you need to work on as a leader.
- Maintain a positive tone when speaking to employees: Your speaking style and tone play an important role in the process of company culture development. As a leader, it is your duty to create an environment that is safe, accepting, and productive. You can only achieve this when your own tone is positive and encouraging. Avoid briefing employees in a harsh tone – doing so will make them feel undervalued and unhappy. By speaking with dignity and respect, you will create an unspoken rule regarding workplace tone. As a result, your employees will likely use a similarly positive tone when speaking to other team members.
- Host regular video meetings: As noted previously, it’s important to conduct regular video calls with your employees. Allowing everyone to be virtually present (with cameras open) can help employees connect with one another.
Of course, as their leader, it’s your job to ensure the conference flows smoothly. Use this as an opportunity to brief employees on your expectations regarding their behavior and work ethics. Remember to speak in a reverential tone to reinforce the idea of workplace respect.
You should also try and space the video meetings apart so that they’re not too overwhelming.
The aforementioned tips can help you create a positive work culture for your remote-first company. Be sure to implement them as soon as you can, though. If you allow a disrespectful culture to sustain itself for too long, you risk losing the chance to ever fix it!
If you liked this post, take a look at…
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- Worst Mistakes That Companies Make When Starting To Work Remotely And How To Fix Them
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- A Guide for Remote Workers Salaries: How to Pay Fair Salaries to Remote Employees