It’s one thing to go into an office every day and feel connected with your co-workers because you are literally in the same building. But remote work is an entirely different cultural animal. And it’s simply the nature of being in separate places only connected by digital interfaces.
But remote work doesn’t mean that workplace culture doesn’t exist or that it isn’t important. Employees, regardless of where they work, think “good cultural fit” is important when considering a new job. And we aren’t talking about just over 50% of employees–but a whopping 85% of them!
Why is Workplace Culture So Important?
So why is culture so important? Your company culture defines your organization. And it’s not just your stated culture (mission statement, goals, values of the company), but it is also the actual culture (such as how your employees treat each other). A strong or good company culture isn’t built overnight. It is built from the top down and must be modeled by leadership and continuously stated to ingrain it into the workplace and all employees.
But it’s not just about defining your organization. A good workplace culture massively benefits your remote employees. First, it curbs feelings of loneliness and isolation. A strong culture helps remote employees feel united, gives them a shared sense of purpose, and promotes camaraderie. Second, a good remote work culture builds long-term relationships through strengthened bonds between co-workers. This brings improved trust and better communication to the workplace–something that is especially key for remote work.
And when you set your employees up for success in the remote workspace with a strong culture, it leads to overall company success. When your employees are happier and communicate better, they do better work!
Building a Strong Remote Work Culture
So now you are probably wondering just how do you create a good workplace culture with remote employees. When you don’t work face-to-face all of the time, creating a workplace culture that successfully reaches everyone can be a big challenge. But it isn’t impossible! The key is to create an environment of transparency and productivity while giving employees a sense of belonging, even if they are scattered across the globe.
Trust in the Process
We know you can’t do trust fall exercises with remote employees! But creating an environment of trust is the foundation of a strong remote workplace culture. Remember, trust is a two-way street and your employees will only trust you when you trust them. So be sure to communicate all high-level decisions with your team and show that you trust them to handle their work even though they do it remotely and avoid micromanaging. Also, focus on the output of work, rather than the number of hours they spend online.
Good workplace culture, whether it is online or in the office, is characterized not just by trust, but also by mutual respect. Create a safe space for employees where they won’t feel embarrassed, rejected, or punished by someone for speaking up or making a mistake. When remote employees have a sense of psychological safety, they are more willing to share a crazy idea or push back on something they don’t agree with. In order to create this safe space, leaders must show humility, curiosity, interest, and fallibility. It should be okay to make mistakes or be proactive. Then, make sure that teams give constructive feedback that avoids blaming or making things personal.
Communicate the Culture
Communication is so important for any workplace, but especially a remote one. And just like you want to communicate your company culture to your in-office employees and model it from the top down, you want to do the same for your remote employees as well. Everyone in the organization should understand the mission and goals you are trying to achieve. Don’t just communicate once when you hire the employee–find ways to constantly remind employees about those goals. Leadership also needs to model how to treat others in the workplace each and every day. This serves as a constant reminder for employees what the organization as a whole is trying to accomplish while working together.
Tools of the Trade
Make sure you are using the right tools to manage remote work as well as the right platform for teams to communicate and collaborate in a unified virtual space. Because each company is different, the tool that is right for one company may not be right for another. So don’t be afraid to switch platforms if you see something isn’t working for your company.
Remote work is often flexible but you should still have some guidelines that should be specified so your remote employees know exactly what to expect. Do they need to be online a certain number of hours each day? Do they have to be available at certain times? Do they have freedom to make their own schedule? Whatever your remote policies are, make sure they are clearly defined.
Zoom to It
Whether you use Google Teams, Zoom, WebEx or some other video conferencing solution, be sure that you make face-to-face meetings a priority so your remote workers don’t feel isolated. Whether it’s team meetings or one on one calls, these video calls can help build connections and relationships. Be sure to encourage your remote workers to turn on video during meetings to reinforce the face-to-face communication environment!
Beyond Creating Culture
Finally, while it is important to build a strong workplace culture for your remote employees, it’s also important to hire people who better align with the culture of your organization. Skills can be taught if needed, but the personality of people is not so malleable. So don’t hire on skill alone and cross your fingers that it will all work out. Hire for personality using the Workzinga Culture Alignment Assessment.