“Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships,'' said Michael Jordan. And we can all agree that he knows a fair amount about team performance and success.
But basketball players spend months together practising, hanging out and what not! Whereas remote employees almost never meet in person. So how are the two comparable?
One thing that remains common between the two is a sense of unity. In general, when people believe that they belong somewhere, they work harder and better with each other. And when you initiate the same sense of belonging among remote team members, you are able to build a culture unique to your team.
Remote organizations today aim to enhance collaboration and productivity. But those eyeing the big prize aim at building a better culture within the team. And a healthy team culture is exactly what you need to turn colleagues into teammates!
Remote Culture Isn’t Built Around Ping Pong
An organization’s core values, discovered or developed by the team members define its culture.
It is crucial for you to understand that culture is built more on the basis of how teams work on a day to day basis. The occasional engagement activities are sure a part of it but they do not define it. Since you hire employees to work, the culture should define how rewarding that work is for your team members.
Team culture should be built based on how teams communicate and collaborate on a regular basis and how they work together.
For instance, we use Slack to celebrate the success of a project or task. Our virtual office, over time, has developed its own personality through inside jokes, gifs, and a collaborative environment.
5 Key Elements of Building Remote Team Culture
You already know that culture is about how you work. So let’s get down to it!
Building a unique culture is a tedious task but at the end of the day, it is rewarding for your team. With a fully distributed team, you already have employees that are more productive than in office employees. But once you efficiently engage them (as you would with an in-office team), you have a true A-team. And here’s how you can do it.
Make Communication Easy as Pie
Communication is the lifeblood of remote teams. Without clear communication, no remote team would survive. Which makes it important for you to set standards and guidelines for communication to have your team smoothly operate.
In remote teams, ‘quick fixes’ aren’t an option when it comes to communication. Instead, employees need dedicated tools for easy and upfront communication.
In our teams, we use a combination of tools to ensure the same. For instance, we have Slack for quick and immediate communication, email for asynchronous communication, Trello for project-related conversations, and phone/video calls for only urgent work. This ensures that all the team members are on the same page and know how to respond to each type of platform.
On the other hand, casual communication is also a cornerstone to building remote work culture. We have separate Slack channels named #Random and #Sparta for employees to virtually interact and engage with each other.
Employee engagement is another important aspect of building a culture in remote teams. And it entirely depends on how you prefer to do it. Here are some easy ways to engage remote employees -
- Use Tools To Create Virtual Water Cooler Moments - Tools like Slack, Giphy, Hangout, and even Spotify can help you engage remote employees. For instance, team members could share their current playlist or a picture of their work from home setup. Or simply find some similar ground for all team members and choose a tool that would be the best medium for the team to share their common interests.
- Curate Weekly Activities - List down activities that each team member can participate in based on their common interests. For instance, we have Movie Nights every Friday where we mutually select a movie that the team (virtually) watches together.
- Monthly Newsletters - This is the easiest way to engage remote employees. Your ‘employee of the month’ might not be able to get the best parking spot when working remotely, but they sure can get a mention in the employee newsletter. Add other fun elements in your newsletter like new hire announcements, behind the scenes of working remotely, or even jokes sent by your own employees.
In remote teams, burnouts may be harder to detect compared to office employees. But it is essential for you as a leader to handle them efficiently. The remote employees often end up working beyond their designated hours and even on vacations.
Setting guidelines for work hours is an important step that you need to take to avoid burnouts. Remember it is always better for your team to work an hour less one day than facing lower productivity throughout the rest of the week.
Make sure you have a system in place to avoid or overcome work stress for the employees as well as have a healthy mental status.
Give Importance to Recognition
Your employee shouldn’t feel that their work-from-home job is coming in the way of recognition, appraisal or promotion. Since the contribution of each employee is valuable for the organization, it is your duty to recognize good work and provide feedback to the employees.
Shout outs during team meetings or specific mentions on group chats or public communication channels set a great example and provide team members with the standards they must strive for!
Enhance Transparency and Visibility
Absolute transparency can do wonders for remote teams! In our team, we are completely transparent about who does what. Everyone has access to each member’s Trello board and can access all the information related to their tasks and projects.
It helps in developing responsibility among team members and they are able to work better towards achieving organizational goals. In fact, we are also transparent about our revenue. We believe the employees are an essential part of reaching a target revenue and the numbers must be visible and accessible to them.
However, it is your choice whether you wish to share those numbers with the team!
But when it comes to tasks or projects, there must be 100% transparency to help employees encourage each other and provide their feedback.
Remote Teams Succeed by Focusing on Culture
Building a strong team culture remotely, enables you to better communicate with your employees, retain them, attract more talent globally, and most importantly, take better care of your existing employees.
Our personal experience shows that a strong culture can be adapted by following the best practices listed above and create an ideal remote environment for the entire team. Moreover, a strong culture is the stepping stone to scaling a remote organization.
A strong remote culture helps you overcome the challenges of remote work and enhance personal and team growth.
Learn how you can focus on company culture and scale remote teams!