Think back to the last job that you really loved. Maybe it’s your current one, or perhaps it’s a job you had years ago. What made it so special? We’re willing to bet that part of it was the workplace culture. Whether it’s the colleagues you work with or the perks and benefits available, culture can make or break a job experience. This fact is especially true with remote working teams.
These days, 16% of companies exclusively hire remote teams (and this number is growing every day). These businesses are also seeing a 25% lower employee turnover than traditional teams, as well. Why? Typically, this greater flexibility leads to better productivity, work-life balance and overall happiness. However, none of this means anything if your remote work culture is toxic and unhealthy for employees.
Creating that culture
So how do you create a good culture when you can’t bring in a cake for your colleague’s birthday or hang out in the break room swapping fun weekend stories?
Here are five essential aspects of accomplishing exactly that.
1. Set excellent communication standards
There’s no denying that non-verbal cues are an essential part of communication. When you take away the standard office environment, it can be exceptionally easy for team members to miscommunicate. After all, the tone cannot necessarily be determined accurately in an email or instant message.
It’s also hard enough to communicate when both team members are in a shared space. What about when you’re speaking to each other across time zones, states and possibly even countries? Imagine that you are working on an important project with three other colleagues who are both in different time zones. You complete your part, then realize you need their input. So, you send them a message via Slack, email or some other communication system. Now, you have to wait for them to begin their own workday to continue with your part of the project.
Setting up designated times to hop in a meeting, or a “virtual office,” so-to-speak, can help alleviate these types of issues. With an hour or two to collaborate with each other at the beginning, you’ll have all the components and information you need. You will be ready to forge on with your project when it comes time to work individually. Additionally, having opportunities for a virtual office is an excellent way for team members’ tones to come across effectively. This practice helps everyone get to know and understand each other more than they would with written communication.
2. Allow for team bonding
When your employees are busy working alone in their home offices, it can be easy to become somewhat isolated. Water cooler talk, while seemingly not a big deal, actually contributes to bonding and creating relationships with one’s co-workers. With remote employees, this is no longer possible. So how can you fix this?
Well, remember those virtual offices we mentioned? Not only are they great for collaboration and resolving communication issues, but they’re also a perfect opportunity for friendly discourse over non-work-related topics. Set up some ground rules such as how often employees are required to attend and how long they must be there. Then allow them to go in and out of the virtual office just as they would a real office. Over time, this relaxed environment will enable employees to discuss their outside interests and find common likes and dislikes to bond over.
If you find that your team needs an additional boost, try a more structured bonding activity. For instance, have everyone take a personality survey like this one, and then allow for an informal discussion time.
3. Empower and enable leadership
When you’re never face-to-face with your boss, you need clear paths and boundaries. It is difficult for employees to feel empowered enough to make leadership decisions or take the initiative on their own, otherwise. It’s important that you’re not simply delegating a list of tasks, but giving team members a chance to help the company grow. Encourage anyone on your team to share any ideas they feel could improve work processes, strategy and other procedures.
Go a step further and set up one-on-one meetings with your employees. If you have a small team, you could talk to everyone. If you have a larger company, speak to key players such as your managers. Let them know that this is a time where they can share what they feel is working well and what could be improved. This time is also where they share any ideas they might have for the direction of their department or the company in general.
4. Recognize and reward good work
When someone in the offices gets a win such as closing a big sale or finishing an important project, it’s easy to celebrate right then and there. With a remote team, this enthusiasm can be too diluted to make an impact. This is why it’s essential to come up with a good system for recognizing and rewarding good work.
If you have some type of regular operations meeting, call out team members who had great performances that week. Or even give them a shoutout in the virtual office. Then, set up a rewards system to incentivize continued excellent performance. An excellent option for remote teams is to set up lifestyle savings accounts (LSAs).
As a manager, once you enroll your employees in a program, all you have to do is add funds to their account. They can then choose to spend it on various perks that are available in their area. There are plenty of options to choose from including wellness activities, travel and vacations, adventures and more.
A lifestyle savings account is the added benefit of being a cutting-edge perk that the majority of companies in the US have not caught onto yet. If you’re looking to retain your best employees, an LSA is a great ace to have in your pocket.
5. Create rituals and traditions
Lastly, create office rituals that unify the whole team, whether members have been working at your company since the beginning or for just a few weeks. These rituals and traditions will vary with the business, but an easy way to do it is to tie them into holidays. For example, around Christmas time, have everyone participate in a low-cost secret Santa exchange. Employees will have planning gifts for each other, and who doesn’t like mail?
From the top down
Culture begins at the top. Set a good example and steer your company’s culture in the right direction with these five major cultural components. You’ll be happy to find your employees have increased work satisfaction and better productivity.