With more people working virtually now than ever before, many employers are struggling to find effective ways to build company culture remotely.
If you are struggling with this too, here are 8 practical ways that you can build a distributed company culture while employees are working from home.
8 Ways to Build Company Culture Remotely
1. Emphasize the importance of kindness, empathy, and mutual trust.
The first step in building a positive brand culture is to foster an environment that values kindness, empathy, and trust. Employees will not want to work remotely for you if they feel as if you do not trust them to complete their job while they are working from home. They will also not like working remotely for you if you are too strict with time tracking or if they feel micromanaged.
To promote trust and empathy in the workplace, encourage managers to evaluate employees based on their output – not on how many minutes they spend logged on to their computer each day.
2. Understand the realities of working from home.
Individuals can be just as productive when working from home as they can be while working from the office. However, it’s still important to understand the basic realities of what working from home is like.
For example, it is unrealistic to expect your employees to not have a personal life. They may have partners or children who live with them – and it is inevitable that they may interrupt a meeting, get sick, or distract your staff from time to time.
As an employer of remote workers, it is imperative that you are understanding of this reality and aware of your employees’ living situations. Try to be understanding and flexible when needed – your staff will thank you for it with their loyalty and productivity!
3. Avoid micromanaging – but set clear expectations.
Nobody works well when they are being micromanaged, and when working from home, it is tempting to want to know what your staff is doing every single minute of the day. However, micromanaging is not only demotivating, but it can even lead an employee to become burned out or disengaged with your company.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t set clear expectations about working hours, goals, and deliverables. It just means that you should avoid using toxic micromanaging tactics like forcing employees to document every minute of their workday or bombarding them with constant calls, texts, or emails while they are trying to work.
4. Build-in time for recurring virtual ‘watercooler’ breaks.
Frequent casual conversation is one of the best ways for employees to get to know one another and engage with your company’s culture. However, with everyone working separately from each other, it can be extremely difficult for this to happen organically.
To ensure that these conversations still happen, managers must deliberately work them into the schedule. One way you can do this is to schedule regular team ‘check-ins’ with a loose agenda. In these meetings, each employee can share something about their workday, or they can play an ice-breaker activity together.
Meetings like this could be scheduled weekly or every other week, depending on your situation and workflow. The important thing is to just make sure that it is scheduled and on the calendar!
5. Encourage mid-level managers to host regular check-ins with individual team members.
Another great way to build company culture remotely is to encourage mid-level managers to check-in regularly with each member of their team. This not only ensures that everyone is on the same page about their tasks and expectations, but it helps individual employees feel connected to your company and appreciated for the work that they do.
While it may not be possible to have a 15-minute check-in every day, a simple check-in once a week or once a month can be extremely helpful in fostering a culture that is open, honest, and positive.
6. Set healthy boundaries.
Just because your staff is working from home, does not mean that they will be working for your company the entire time that they are at home. They still have a personal life outside of work, and they will not be able to be ‘on call’ 24/7.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that all employees set some healthy boundaries for their at-home work lives. This should include taking regular breaks, establishing a dedicated workspace in their home, and not checking emails or work-related messages after working hours.
Healthy boundaries not only help to ensure that everyone is well-rested and motivated each day, but they can help to prevent employee burnout in the long term.
7. Have fun with virtual events.
Even though your staff may be working from home, you can still have some fun together with virtual events! Encourage your managers and teams to host events like virtual quiz nights, murder mystery games, or a simple at-home happy hour. There are also a number of fun remote team building exercises that you can experiment with.
While you might feel like these activities are pointless or a distraction away from work, they can actually help your team build camaraderie and feel more comfortable working with one another.
8. Be flexible and update policies as needed.
Your work from home policy doesn’t have to be set in stone. If something isn’t working, change it! If you’re not quite sure how your staff feels about working from home, send them a simple survey with a few questions about what their remote working experience is like. You can then use this information to see what’s working well and what’s not.
Final Thought: Don’t Disregard the Importance of In-Person Gatherings Altogether.
Face-to-face communication can still be extremely valuable in helping employees building strong relationships, network with each other, and feel engaged with your company.
Even if your company plans to work remotely on a permanent basis, you should still consider investing in in-person events like retreats, conventions, or workshops. These events not only help your staff build trust with each other, but they can foster creative thinking and problem-solving.
With in-person events as a strong foundation, you can then continue to build company culture remotely more effectively going forward.