Building a Remote Workforce

How to Build a Remote Company Culture and Why It's Important

by Preston Lee
How to Build a Remote Company Culture and Why It's Important

Remote work culture is key to the success of virtual teams. Read our advice for building and maintaining a positive company culture in remote workplaces.

Building a healthy company culture is more important now than ever before. If you don’t believe us, take a look at some basic numbers.

  • 47% of job seekers say the biggest reason they’re looking for new work is because of "company culture.” 
  • Over one-third of American workers say they would turn down an otherwise "perfect" job if the company culture wasn’t a fit.

With the rapid growth of remote work in a post-pandemic world, these trends aren’t going anywhere. That’s why maintaining company culture in remote workplaces is now the critical next step for many companies.

Consider this:

  • Businesses that allow remote work experience a 25% lower employee turnover rate.

If you’re in a position to influence company culture (and let's face it, who of us isn’t?), then it’s time to take remote work culture more seriously.

What’s at Risk, Anyway?

"What’s the big deal," you might be asking, “if our remote employees don’t feel like a part of our company culture?”

After all, it’s not like they’re in the office, moping around, gossiping about upper management, or dragging their teammates down with them, right?

Wrong.

In a more connected world of virtual teams, having a disgruntled remote employee is just as dangerous (or more) to the overall company morale and its positive company culture. That’s why company culture is important—regardless of where your employees are actually working.

In fact, since statistics show remote workers have an inclination to be happier in the first place, harnessing their job satisfaction and letting it rub off on employees company wide can make a positive impact for everyone on your company’s payroll—remote or not.

If you fail to incorporate remote workers into your overall company culture, you risk:

  • Less teamwork between virtual teams and in-office teams, which can turn into a productivity lag
  • Higher turnover in remote workers who, studies show, are among some of your most productive employees
  • Siloed company cultures that can collide or disagree on the overall mission of the company, which can lead to a lack of direction and an increase in employee frustration

How to Build a Culture That Transcends Company Walls (7 Action Items)

The risks of not incorporating a remote work culture into your business are very clear.

However, just because it’s easy to see why you need a solid remote team culture, doesn’t mean it will be equally easy to implement.

So today, we’ll unpack seven of our best pieces of advice for building a remote work culture and show you why combining it with your company culture creates optimum job satisfaction—both in and out of the building.

1. Clearly Establish a Company Mission and Values

When it comes to company culture, one of the best places you can start is by developing, clarifying, and living by your company mission and values. In fact, sharing a common goal and belief is one of the reasons why company culture is important.

Ensuring all employees share the same mission and values in their daily work is a great way to build loyalty, unity, and trust among coworkers.

Plus, since most HR professionals say their employees probably don’t know what the company’s values even are, this is a great place to start.

2. Make Equal, Meaningful Onboarding a Priority

Onboarding an in-office employee is fairly straightforward. You share company values, hand over necessary paperwork, give them a tour of the office, and introduce them to important people in the building.

To improve your remote team culture, it’s critical that you give remote workers an equally well-thought-out onboarding experience. Show your face over Zoom, take them on a virtual tour of the building if there is one (even if they’ll never set foot in it), and help them feel like part of the company family.

3. Improve Communication and Include Everyone

As a remote worker, there’s nothing more frustrating than hearing you missed an important conversation or check-in meeting regarding your work, simply because you weren’t in the office when the topic came up.

With modern technology, there’s no excuse for not dialing, Zooming, or FaceTiming an employee when conversations arise that are relevant to them.

When planning company meetings, make sure you invite remote employees and they have time to plan ahead to attend the meeting. In an impromptu meeting or conversation, take an extra 30 seconds to get a remote worker on the line.

Further to this, value and reward excellent written communications. When meetings “could have been an email”, everybody loses. On the flip side, when employees redirect that energy into writing a comprehensive summary of the situation and collaborating with teammates in-doc to progress key decisions, not only is it easier to loop others into the conversation regardless of their timezone or availability, but you have a permanent and searchable record of the decisions made.

4. Harness the Power of Asynchronous Communication

In a pre-internet era where remote workers were extremely rare, all communication was (naturally) synchronous. Synchronous communication essentially means all communicating parties must be present for the conversation to occur. Thus they're "in sync."

This kind of communication—requiring the real-time presence of two or more parties—can be a real hindrance to remote teams in different time zones. While some people believe the constant looming possibility of a Slack or email interruption is keeping employees from doing their best work, most experts agree: when people use asynchronous communication correctly, everybody wins.

The entire point of asynchronous communication is to limit interruptions that drag down your company's productivity. One study found that interrupted tasks (often with synchronous communication, such as a coworker showing up unannounced at your cubicle) don't get completed 41% of the time.

Old-fashioned, synchronous communication in the workplace can be a real drag on the most meaningful, important, and impactful work you and your team could be doing on a daily basis.

To see how async could work for your organization, consider this: instead of a quick ad hoc meeting in the hallway (synchronous), try starting an email or a Slack thread where remote workers can chime in on their own time or in their own time zone (asynchronous)—thus allowing everyone to contribute. Before calling an in-house meeting (synchronous) where remote workers may not be able to attend, ask yourself, "Could we do this over email, Slack, Teams, or Messenger?" (asynchronous).

Then treat async communication tools like what they are: a way to interact on various timetables. Async communication will not work if you expect an immediate response to your email message or a rapid answer via Slack. But with good planning and a company-wide consensus that async is the ideal, these situations are few and far between.

5. Establish a Clear Work Policy to Improve Teamwork

To remove animosity, frustration, and confusion between your in-office employees and remote workers, it's essential to establish a clear work policy that applies to all employees.

A few questions you might ask yourself in order to find clarity on this issue include:

  • When are remote workers expected to be "in the office"—meaning they’re working and available for quick response times?
  • What is a reasonable timetable in which an in-office employee should expect to hear back from a remote employee, or vice versa? As a starting point, we suggest 24 hours for timely topics and 72 hours for non-urgent.
  • Which technologies can everyone use to communicatecall one another, and manage projects with a distributed team?
  • How will timezones, vacation days, sick days, and other "out of office" moments be communicated clearly so all employees are aware of the availability of their virtual teammates?

Briefing all employees with this information will help you manage expectations in both directions, preempting future frustration, increasing morale, and ensuring high productivity.

6. Set a Regular Schedule and Hold Frequent Team-Building Activities

When you’ve got distributed teams not physically in the same place every day, it's hard to build team unity.

Solve this by setting a regular team schedule and/or routine in which everyone knows when certain work occurs and what their role is in it. Remember to prioritise asynchronous methods.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you thinking:

  • Create a "just for fun" Slack channel where there’s no work allowed—just amusing conversation.
  • Encourage regular sharing of hobbies and other interests at check-ins or team meetings in order to help your employees see their remote-working teammates as fellow human beings.
  • Be creative with one-off Zoom team-building activities.

If budget allows, consider holding more extensive team-building activities where you fly in your remote workers to meet in person or send your entire distributed team or company to a third-party location.

7. Provide Extra Attention, Mentorship, and Guidance Where Needed

Finally, just because you don’t see an employee every day doesn’t mean they don’t deserve (and even crave) the same attention, mentorship, and guidance from the HR team, their managers, or other leaders in your company.

Ensure you take time for important virtual one-on-one meetings with each remote employee.

Consider sending private DMs to remote employees to offer tailored coaching, support, and affirmation.

Treating a remote worker just like you would an in-office employee will build trust, job satisfaction, and a better company culture overall.

Getting This Right

Remote work isn’t going anywhere.

So it’s up to you and your company leadership to get your remote company culture right.

Just like building any kind of culture, it won’t be perfect from day one. In fact, it will probably never be perfect. But the benefits of a solid remote work culture are well worth the effort.

Happy remote workers are more productive, they save your company money, and they stick with the company longer, as well as a slew of other benefits. In fact, we firmly believe that most tech companies – and their employees – would be better off if they transitioned to 100% remote and embraced the power of a distributed workforce to deliver non-stop momentum. But that’s a topic for another day.

If you haven’t taken the time to focus on building or maintaining company culture in your remote workplace and you're planning for the future of your company’s remote team culture, now’s the time.