By Laura Rives — Aug 13, 2020 11:00 AM
For many, remote work is the new normal. Creating and maintaining a strong culture in the absence of physical closeness can be a challenge. How do you build trust when everyone’s not in the same space?
In order to keep employees engaged and happy, remote teams need a combination of communication, trust, and transparency from leadership to be successful.
Here are our six tips for creating a strong remote culture:
Tip 1: Set Communication Expectations
Missed chats around the watercooler can make us feel lonely, but so can infrequent or slow communication from teammates. If responses are delayed, employees may start to lose engagement or experience a drop in productivity.
It is important to define (and stick to) working hours. When does the work day begin and when does it end? Under what circumstances is it acceptable to communicate outside those hours? How long should it take to respond to a chat message, email, or voicemail? Similarly, what is the cadence for 1:1s, team meetings, and town halls?
Predictability here will go a long way towards building relationships, fostering morale, and catching up on priorities.
Tip 2: Recreate Office Culture With Virtual Tools
Even though we can’t physically get together to talk about weekend plans and favorite tv shows, there are numerous tools available that enable instantaneous communication.
For example, consider a private Slack channel for your team where dialogue doesn't always have to be work related. If several team members in your organization share a passion, create a channel for that. A watercooler channel may foster communication among people that don’t ordinarily work together.
Tip 3: Become a Video-First Organization
Chat and email communications, even phone calls, can lack the nuances of digital body language and non-verbal cues. In some cases, our message may be intended one way, but quickly taken out of context or misinterpreted.
Placing priority on video conferencing can alleviate these instances of miscommunication. It can also speed up decision making that would otherwise take lines of chat to resolve.
Additionally, requiring video for 1:1s and team meetings encourages people to take calls from a professional and quiet place. There’s also an added benefit of motivating people to get dressed in the morning.
Tip 4: Recognize Team Members
Don’t forget to recognize team members for their effort and achievements. Share positive feedback publicly and include details about what they did and how it positively impacted the company. Give people a virtual pat on the back when they’ve gone above and beyond.
Similarly, let people know that vulnerability is okay and can lead to learning experiences for others. Regularly share mistakes to normalize failure and promote growth.
Both can be done either in real time or on a scheduled cadence.
Tip 5: Default to Metrics and Transparency
“How do you know people are actually working when they’re not in an office?”
If this question has crossed your mind, you are far from alone. But this risk can be mitigated with clear metrics, KPIs, and accountability. Assess employee performance with metrics tied to company goals, not subjective qualities like communication style.
Managers should set crystal clear expectations and document them in a shared space. Define milestones and timelines required for success and consider asking the employee to self report on progress. Consider a public leader board or daily check in.
Tip 6: Continue Team Building Exercises
Maintaining friendships and camaraderie at work is an important component of job satisfaction. It can also reduce unproductive conflict.
Consider pairing up team members and giving them time for chit chat. Use time during 1:1s to ask people about their weekend or the book they are reading. Create an online area where people can share photos of kids and pets.
Remote work is here to stay. As we continue on this long-term trajectory, it’s critical to prioritize culture and keep a pulse engagement and happiness. No matter the current state of affairs at your organization, it is not too late to put some practical steps in place to build a strong remote culture.