How to build culture in a remote team

by Carly Clyne | Mar 03, 2022

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The events of the past couple of years pushed many organisations to become fully remote, and the experience has been better than many imagined. Adapting to this working model might seem straightforward in theory, but can prove to be more nuanced in practice, especially when it comes to organisational culture. In most cases, you’ll have to take a different approach when building a healthy remote culture in your business.

As a leader, you will know “the way we do things around here” and can sense your organisation’s culture, albeit it is not always easy to define. In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic many conference room meetings, informal watercooler catch-ups became virtual. Employees were forced to adapt to new ways of communicating and collaborating. As a result, those cultural norms that were once reinforced every day when people shared physical spaces began to shift.

What are the challenges in building remote teams?

There are, however, challenges to building remote teams and a remote working culture. We’re going to share some of the most common challenges that leaders face. 

  • Poor Communication – We have many digital tools available to us that can help remote workers stay connected, but these tools can lack the personalisation of interaction face-to-face. Communicating over email, text, or other messaging channels, lacks body language, tone and other subtle non verbal cues that you would receive in person. This allows for misinterpretation and can sometimes lead to conflict or other issues that can be avoided. It can also be a big challenge to get everyone together in the first place. With remote workers often spread across geographies this can make booking a meeting all the more difficult.
  • Delegation Issues – It must be clear from leaders and line managers what they expect from their employees, what are their roles and responsibilities. You don’t want any ambiguity, misinterpretation or confusion over who’s doing what. It’s also important as a leader you avoid the temptation to micromanage your teams, you must balance the need to set clear expectations and trust that they’ll be met.
  •  Isolation – Remote workers can often feel isolated and this can create a negative effect on team unity. When teams feel disconnected and lonely, it has an impact on their motivation levels and build overall happiness with an organisation.
  • Maintaining high productivity levels – Productivity is an essential ingredient in the remote working landscape. Without productivity your team members might find themselves getting distracted by things around the house or anything else that allows them to procrastinate. While it’s often thought of as one of the more damaging virtual team challenges, the majority of workers actually find working from home more productive than working from the office. 

    A study from the TalkTalk Group found 58% of respondents believe they’re more productive working from home than before the pandemic. But that still leaves a large chunk of employees who struggle to focus and stay on task.

What tools can you use to build a positive remote work culture? 

There are tools that you can use to build a positive remote work culture, we’ll share a few good ones with you!

Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype and Teams are essential for promoting a healthy remote culture. These tools make it easy to connect with your team face-to-face from anywhere, meaning you can still get to see facial expressions, reactions and other non verbal cues. Features like breakout rooms are useful for sparking conversation, collaboration, and innovation as employees work together in real-time. 

Online tools like Slack, Teams, Skype, Google Chat and more work especially well to streamline communication and connect remotely too. Employees communicate through “channels” to organise conversations and work.

You can use dedicated channels for different projects to organise all updates, files and notes in one place.

Another useful tool for leaders is employee survey tools; employee survey tools are crucial to understanding your employees’ experience. They are used as a simple but effective way to check in and see how things are going. The right questions can help you uncover early signs of burnout, potential roadblocks to performance, and opportunities for growth and improvement.

Tips & tricks for creating a healthy remote culture.

  • Foster Trust Through Strong Communication – Trusting relationships and candid conversations are the backbone of cultures that demonstrate open and honest communication. Better conversations yield better culture. If you’re managing people who are working from home, be sure to schedule in 121 conversations to find out how they are doing, how they’re feeling and to get a feel for any support they might need. When you talk to your team members, listen for their feelings and values, these are what motivates them and drives their behaviour. Creating a psychologically safe work culture where people feel comfortable speaking up is important.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities – One of the challenges with remote work environments is trusting that everyone is pulling their weight when you can’t physically see them working. It’s important that leaders focus on performance and work, and insist that colleagues communicate if they need help. As a leader, you can build a culture of integrity by being transparent about your role and what you intend to deliver to your teammates. Provide specific details about your tasks, and follow up on verbal agreements in writing. This is especially key if you are managing remote employees and leading from a distance.
  • Communicate your culture and share your company values – A big part of your company culture is your values. They are the core pillars guiding your organisation and need to be at the forefront of your employees’ minds.
  • For remote employees, your company values are a concrete understanding of how your organisation operates and how you create a positive work environment. Incorporate your values from day one; asking value-centric questions during the hiring process is a good way to do so.   Add your values to the company website and ask value-centric questions during the hiring process.
  • Communication, communication communication – As we’ve already spoken about, communication is key when it comes to remote workers. Communication is one of the biggest obstacles to remote culture. Because everyone is working from different locations, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. Establish communication norms to ensure clarity.  Sending a survey for feedback gives employees the opportunity to share what they do and don’t like about the current culture and suggest ways to improve it.

It’s imperative to build a healthy remote working culture. Fortunately, here at TBG we can help you with that! We provide in-depth training that will show you how to build culture in a remote team and create a positive work environment where OKRs thrive. Get in touch with a member of our team today to get started.