How To Build Culture In a Remote Team

How To Build Culture In a Remote Team

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If you read our last article on how company culture drives performance, you'd probably have wondered how you can build a great culture. Crucial factors that go into building great company culture are the involvement of other leaders, strategic decisions at the company level, and better communication.

Despite being a concept many corporate leaders discuss so much, company culture in a remote world remains an elusive challenge to overcome. 

But why is it so difficult?

Well, the lack of physical presence makes it almost impossible to fully understand each other. After all, communication doesn't involve just words - it also includes gestures, mannerisms, tone, etc. Besides, remote employees don't feel the same level of connection with each other, or with the business goals. Naturally, it's very challenging to build a good company culture.

How To Build Culture In a Remote Team

Why do we need to talk about this?

There's no doubt that a good company culture leads to great performance. A company made up of high performers is sure to register better profits, and also enjoy a better employer branding reputation.

But it's easier said than done. 

Great company cultures - or even neutral ones for that matter - don't form overnight. Besides, shaping company culture is not a simple HR project. It's a collective effort, involving leaders and decision-makers from all business units. As a crucial element to success in business, focusing on company culture becomes very important.

Ways to Build Company Culture & Challenges You Might Face

Different companies have different ways of building company cultures, depending on their values, histories, and target markets. However, the following points more or less cover all the important ways to do it. In addition, we've also discussed related challenges, to give more context to the ideas discussed. The better you understand the problems, the better will be your solutions!

1. Challenge: Communication barriers

Solution: Set up robust communication streams

It's a no-brainer that remote work has communication challenges. Non-verbal cues are almost completely missing, leading to increased chances of miscommunication and misunderstandings. 

But that's not all. Often, even instructions given may not be clear. Expectations can be expressed vaguely, leading to confusion, frustration, and breakdown in workflows. This is why it's important to make sure you have robust communication streams. How? Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage the creation of groups on internal communication channels such as Slack. This will reduce communication loops and chains.
  • Proactively send emails for important communication, and always add as many colleagues as possible who'd have an interest in that email in cc/bcc.
  • Be open to feedback, and questions. Don't shut down someone for asking you questions to understand instructions better, to clarify, or to simply double-check.

Culture depends a lot on effective communication. If communication channels are not seamless enough, you simply may not succeed in building a great work culture!

2.Challenge: Lack of shared vision 

Solution: Reinforce company goals and values

It's easy for teams to lose sight of common goals and visions in a remote environment. Employees, unintentionally, get into a pattern of working in silos. Conversations often end up being only about work, without giving employees a chance to bond otherwise. Employees begin to focus on only their personal goals and don't relate to the values the company stands for.

That's why it's even more important to focus on reinforcing company goals and values in a remote environment. Employees must be reminded constantly about what the company hopes to aspire to and inspire them to feel strongly about those aspirations.

When all employees are oriented towards the same goals, the company will make massive progress. That's why make sure you use every opportunity to communicate your business objectives to employees. Besides, you must also ensure individual deliverables of employees contribute to these overarching goals.

3. Challenge: Lack of work-life balance

Solution: Emphasize work-life balance best practices from the top down

Work-life balance is one of the main aspects of work-life to be affected by remote work. Although that sounds ironic, it makes a lot of sense if you give it a thought. Barriers between work and personal lives have become dim. The constant access to work assets means employees can be expected to work anytime.

How To Build Culture In a Remote Team

A great work-life balance is crucial to a good work culture because it leads to a set of better-motivated employees, who are less frustrated and more relaxed. 

However, simply saying your company believes in a great work-life balance doesn't cut it. Employees feel obligated to imitate the leaders they report to. As such, if your leaders are working 24/7, so will their teammates. That's why it's important to ensure the leaders in your company are particular about their work-life balance too. This is a sure way to build a great culture at work by setting healthy examples.

4. Challenge: Lack of team dynamics

Solution: Organize non-work activities at various levels

As mentioned earlier, remote work leads to reduced team dynamics, thanks to work-only conversations.

If team members don't feel a sense of belonging, they may not be as effective as they could be together. In a team that has members with a good sense of belongingness, individuals don't just work to finish their targets, but also to help the others finish theirs. In the end, it's the company that benefits from such synergy.

There are multiple levels to the word 'team'. The whole company is a team, and so is each vertical, each unit in each vertical, and so on. If you want to create a great culture, you must organize non-work activities at each of these levels. Team dynamics is important not just between individuals within a team, but also between the teams within a shared vertical.

Such activities are not only great stress busters, but also opportunities for employees to connect better with their teammates, and to network with employees from other teams. More networking = better interaction = stronger work culture.

5. Challenge: Harder to assess performance

Solution: Look at output and impact

Naturally, it's harder to assess performance when employees are not in front of you. In a remote work environment, it's not easy to say who's pretending to work hard and who's working hard.

Leaders often make the mistake of thinking employees who are vocal, always wanting to take the lead, or available over call, text, or email are more hardworking. However, it may be the ones who are silent and thoughtful who may be doing a lot of the heavy lifting. This is how work cultures become toxic. Because it's a remote environment, demotivated employees may simply switch off mentally. 

So, to make sure you have a culture that's based on fairness, your leaders must focus on only two things - effort and output. Both are strong indicators of what the employees are capable of. It doesn't matter how many promises an employee makes - if they haven't delivered, or aren't able to show what efforts they've put in, their promises are of no value. An employee who completes one task fully is much better than one who takes up 10 but delivers on none.

6. Challenge: No sync with existing culture

Solution: Leverage your onboarding experience

Onboarding new employees is a very important touch-point in work culture formation. While it may be tough to get existing employees to adjust to changing cultures, it's easier to shape the minds of new employees.Don't think of onboarding as a mandatory process to check off your to-do list. This is where a new generation of workforce is getting added. So, if you do it right, your new joiners can act as powerful catalysts to forming the work culture you want.How To Build Culture In a Remote Team

7. Challenge: Lack of coordination among leadership

Solution: Unite Leadership under a common goal 

We've said this before, and we'll say it again - work culture can be shaped better if you have all leaders onboard. They translate the company culture into their teams, who in turn will look to them for cues on how to behave correctly. 

If your leaders are not on the same page as you with culture formation, the whole exercise may be futile. As a leader yourself, you're not going to be able to police every interaction or monitor every meeting to ensure that new decisions related to culture are followed. It's your fellow leaders who are going to embody that vision and help you shape the culture across the company.

That's why make sure all leaders share the same vision for your company's work culture as you if you want your efforts to bear fruit.

8. Challenge: Employees can quickly feel ignored

Solution: Take a genuine interest in their growth and well-being

In a remote world, it's almost impossible to pay attention to everyone. Naturally, many could get into a quiet zone, never getting recognized or acknowledged. Although this may not happen on purpose, it's inevitable anyway.

The only way to ensure this doesn't happen is through a structured approach. We're talking right policies and regular feedback mechanisms.

Companies with good work cultures have great policies to enable personal growth and the betterment of employees. These can include financial assistance for higher studies, gym memberships at discounted prices (through partnerships), or even something as simple as a better health insurance plan. Such policies speak volumes - and make the employee feel valued and positive towards the company.

Regular feedback mechanisms ensure no employee goes unheard and is given equal attention. It also helps build better work relationships between manager and reportee, thereby powerfully driving company culture at the grassroots level.

How To Build Culture In a Remote Team


Final thoughts

So there you have it - our take on how to get started on building a great work culture. Hope this blog was as helpful to you as we hoped it would be. Remember, these are not the only ways to build a work culture. As you go about it, you may identify other ways to do so, more suited to your company's needs. However, these pointers are sure to help you get started in the right direction and also give you some great ideas if you're looking to bring about a culture change in your organization.

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