Buffer and a host of other remote work tools, platforms, and companies recently published their State of Remote Work report for 2019. This annual report contains a wealth of information about the highs and lows of remote work, how companies structure their operations to work remotely, and what remote work looks like for each individual.
There are many insights in the report, from where virtual teams set up their office each day to average salaries and benefits of working remotely. 99% of those surveyed said they would “like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.” Remote work is here to stay: and companies must evolve to keep pace with the growth of virtual teams. Here’s how a company seeking to attract and retain remote talent can build a culture that lasts.
Establish your values
The most successful remote companies are those which establish their values and live by them, day in and day out. Tortuga, a travel backpack company, is one great example of a remote company that’s uncompromising on their values. In one podcast, the founder of Tortuga noted that “living and working on your own terms is part of the core vision of Tortuga”; remote work is a core value of the company, and one which they’ve never questioned despite the difficulties in manufacturing a product in a distributed team.
Values are important to every company culture, no matter what percentage of your organization is distributed. “Identify your company's core values and make sure they are true guideposts for you and your team. Then let everyone know about them,” writes one expert in Inc. magazine. “Ultimately, values work only when leaders live and exhibit them.”
Hire with culture in mind
Often, a remote worker is also a contract hire, someone who starts on a specific project and is hired for a discrete period of time. As a result, recruiters spend less time vetting a remote worker than they would a full-time, in-office hire – to the detriment of the team and the company. Just because a remote worker isn’t in the office doesn’t mean they won’t influence the morale, teamwork, and productivity of the rest of the organization. Even for contract positions, recruiters must hire with culture in mind.
“Put your remote workers through the same rigorous hiring standards you would anyone else,” writes the software company Atlassian. Not only should you hire a team that brings a wealth of experience, diversity, and expertise to the table, but you should onboard remote hires as you would anyone else. “Give them a rundown of the entire company and its mission, introduce them to everyone, and make every tool and resource available for their use or review. Don’t stumble at this stage by assuming you won’t need to include your remote workers the same way you would an in-person employee.”
Have the right tools in place
There are many tools that can help your remote teams work productively, and those are vital to your company’s operational success. Don’t ignore tools that can also help you build a team culture. Culture-building tools and platforms are those which help replicate the best parts of a shared office environment. Co-located offices benefit from inside jokes, shared experiences, and collaborative meeting space where formal and informal brainstorming can happen. Give your remote employees the same space to network, share ideas, or just post memes.
Here are some ways to build culture through your online tools and platforms.
- Add a few “fun” Slack channels dedicated to water cooler chat where everyone can participate
- Be GIF and meme-friendly: add integrations to your Slack or other communications tool to let your remote employees express themselves (appropriately)
- Try Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another video chat tool to let your remote workers chat face-to-face
- Give your employees perks through Tango Card, which lets you gift Spotify Premium as well as credits at Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play
Communication is key – but it shouldn’t be limited to formal emailing. Let your remote employees join in the conversation to build transparency and build a culture that’s inclusive.
Host regular meetings
In-person meetings get widely panned as a waste of time; death by meeting is one reason why remote workers heavily favor being out of the office. Nevertheless, there are benefits to having regularly scheduled communication, especially when a percentage of your team is virtual. Depending on the size of your organization and how many people are distributed out of the office, here are a few of the regular meetings you should be having:
- Team meetings: team meetings must go beyond simple status updates. These updates can be sent over chat, so using your time for live chat needs to be more meaningful. “Meetings create a regular opportunity to inspire and lead, and managers should err on the side of involving all team members so that everyone feels like a critical piece of the whole,” recommends Toptal.
- One-on-ones: one-on-one meetings between employees at all levels of the business are important for deepening relationships, mentoring, and building employee loyalty. Make it a priority for all your team members to have regularly scheduled one-on-ones with an agenda that addresses both personal and professional development.
- Informal catch-ups: as mentioned in the previous sections, there must be space on your chat tool for informal conversations to take place. Keep your team channels free from off-topic banter and establish some policy on those channels around the use of emojis to keep communication clear.
- Team recognition: remote workers need encouragement too! And, by providing team recognition in group channels, you share that person’s accomplishments more widely. Build a culture of recognition by regularly sharing kudos when a remote worker has done something praise-worthy.
- Group offsite retreats: culture doesn’t sustain itself, and ultimately, your team should try to meet up in person at least once a year. Semi-annual retreats can improve productivity, bring teams closer together, and fuel innovation.
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