10/16/2020

Strengthening Remote Culture to Grow Your Business

As all of us are well aware at this point, Covid-19 has made significant waves in the way we do business. Not only has it temporarily shut down some industries altogether, but it has changed the way many companies are interacting both with customers and internally with employees. Perhaps the biggest adaptation for most companies is the switch to remote work. 

Remote work, or telework, has been a growing trend in the workforce for a number of years now, but the incredible explosion of remote work in 2020 was wholly unplanned and has left many employers and employees struggling to figure out how to adapt effectively to this new work style. Some love it, but nearly just as many hate it. 

One of the biggest difficulties for many managers and team leaders is maintaining or even building a remote company culture. Evidence far and wide indicates that strong company culture is highly correlated with overall employee happiness, overall retention, and workplace productivity. With all that on the line, how does a company work towards building a stronger remote company culture? 

Make it Feasible

One of the biggest and perhaps most straightforward aspects of building a remote company culture is making sure all of your employees have the tools they need to participate remotely. Not everyone is set up with the correct technology in their homes to do their jobs, which can make remote work a challenge. If employees are struggling with the tools they need to do their jobs under the circumstances, their performance and company culture will suffer. 

The big thing is making a plan for equipment. Will employees be allowed to bring home their work computers? How about potentially sensitive documents? Does your online server allow them to remote in and access information they will need? Does the company plan to cover some of their internet expenses? Details like these might seem small at first, but are imperative when considering the big picture of business growth in 2020, especially if you intend on remaining remote for the foreseeable future and potentially even hiring new employees into a fully-remote workplace.

Numerous free meeting applications and video-conferencing tools have cropped up over the years, many of which are making online meetings more accessible to all employees. Some of them even offer unique benefits that can improve company culture. For instance, video-conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts can allow employees to meet “face to face” rather than just over chats. 

Keep Communication Easy

These types of chat and video-conferencing tools are designed to make team communication easy. But that is really just the first step. In order to make company culture thrive, leadership really needs to take steps to make sure communication on these platforms is actually engaging and worth listening to and that employees are able to get information from each other as needed just as easily as they might in an office setting. 

Another thing leaders should do regularly is check in on employees. There will be some that will thrive in a remote environment, but there will be plenty that won’t. Mental health and loneliness are very real concerns going into a winter of required remote work. Reaching out and talking with employees can give them an important lifeline to a more social world. It can also help them to adapt to remote work and start to build stronger relationships with employees that may be going through similar struggles. 

Especially this year, the stress of the social climate can weigh heavily on employees, especially if they feel as though their jobs are at stake or that the company is stagnating. Clear communication is essential to reassuring employees and building/retaining trust in the company during difficult times. In the end, this trust will come to be an important company culture factor.  

Celebrate

Many employees and successful employers recognize that company culture isn’t necessarily all about good communication and having the tools to be successful. Rather, it is about building a community of employees that have strong working relationships and may even be happy to spend time with each other outside of a work setting. A key component to this is taking small amounts of work time to focus just on individual employees’ lives, including weekend plans and small bits of personal information they want to share — it builds a sense of community.

This can be small, but it generally takes place in the form of a celebration. Celebrating personal achievements, birthdays, company wins, holidays, or even just the end of a long month, can be a profound way to bring employees together. Remotely, this can take form in a video conference where everyone brings a snack for themselves. 

These non-work-related get-togethers are valuable for those struggling with telework. Likewise, it can help newer employees feel like they are getting to know more established employees and building networks. Coming together around an achievement or notable experience can also help build pride in the company which has multiple business benefits such as customer loyalty and employee retention.  

Building or maintaining a strong company culture with everyone working remotely is a real challenge that many businesses are currently facing. Culture is a key facet of a happy and productive workplace and its loss is a real tragedy. Making sure everyone has the technology to participate, keeping lines of communication open, and taking time to celebrate remotely are good ways to establish and build your remote culture.

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