100% remote working. Some companies have been doing this successfully for years with headcounts in the hundreds (Zapier comes to mind) but for the majority, it was thrust upon them earlier this year because of global lockdown measures.
Still, as businesses start to look at the way back from lockdown to the workplace, they might want to consider whether a traditional office is still a necessary base.
If you’re contemplating a future where remote working plays a large part in your business, you’ll need to ensure your company culture is watertight in the following areas if you’re going to succeed.
Values and Mission
Your company values and mission are core to your culture. If they aren’t embodied and followed by your all people, you’re going to have problems. Therefore, it’s important that not only the leaders reflect your values in their actions and communication, but that you hire with your company values and mission at the top of the agenda. You can always train skills, but you can’t train attitude.
Company culture is not static, it’s constantly evolving as a result of the actions and beliefs of the people in a business. It’s good practice to regularly seek your team’s feedback on what they think and feel about your culture to see how it aligns with the values of the business. You might be surprised by the findings. Above all, you want to be cultivating a healthy culture in which everyone contributes positively and feels good about their roles and the work they do.
If you’re a startup that’s just setting out on defining your values, my advice is to keep it simple. Having 3 or 4 well-defined values will be more impactful on your team than a long list no one’s going to call to mind easily.
When you’re hiring for a remote-based team, make sure you’re hiring people who are self-starters, embody your company values and engaged with your mission. This way you won’t need to worry about people’s commitment or whether they’re working hard.
Onboarding materials should be easily accessible in a knowledge bank and you should also provide a means of feedback and questions that come up during the early days and weeks of joining your company so any issues can be addressed quickly. Also, remember that people will need to learn about your company culture from your onboarding materials. They won’t be able to observe behaviours in the office which they most likely have been used to in the past.
Communication is key with a remote team. Not just the logistics of it but also how people communicate with each other.
Firstly, you need a good system for communication in place. Collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams and G-Suite work well for messaging in real-time, storing shared documents, and collaborating on documents at the same time. Video calls across Zoom, Teams, or Google Hangout are ideal for daily catchups and communicating information to all members of a team at the same time. By including everyone in a video call when relaying company-wide information, you’re showing your team that they are vital to the business and encouraging a company culture of inclusion.
As well as virtual team meetings, one-to-one face time is important to encourage team bonding. When you’re onboarding new hires, be sure to have everyone in the team schedule a call with them to introduce themselves and the role they play in the business.
How people communicate is equally important. A workplace without office banter or informal chat is not a place most people would want to work but you need to have the infrastructure for this so discussion about the latest Netflix binge watch don’t bog down work conversations.
The most successful way to do this is to have two channels: one for work-related communication and one for informal chat. It is important to bear in mind conduct and behaviours and make sure what is and isn’t acceptable forms part of your training program. Humour can go a miss when there are no facial expressions for people to read, so jokes and the use of emojis and gifs always need to be respectful.
Community & Team Spirit
A sense of community and shared responsibility is imperative if you’re going to have a successful remote business and a healthy culture. Luckily, there are many easy ways to achieve this.
- Designated Experts – if each person is responsible for their area of the business, they’ll become the “go-to” person and a culture of mutual respect will be encouraged. You want to be cultivating a team mindset, where everyone works together to achieve the company’s mission, regardless of their location. Encourage your team members to own their role and be accountable and introduce team-based incentives to get everyone to pull together.
- Share remote working experiences – Beyond the usual team calls, have regular group sharing sessions where people can discuss new ideas or work practices that are working for them. If someone’s working remotely with kids around, how do their teammates cope? Encourage your team to share remote working tips so people don’t feel they’re alone in any challenges that they come up against.
- Rituals – just as you might have Friday drinks in the office, you can start developing your own remote rituals or traditions such as virtual get-togethers, quizzes, or drinks. If budgets and distance allow, don’t forget to have physical get-togethers too (global pandemics permitting).
- Celebrate Success – everything you do in the office to celebrate success can and should still be done remotely. Whether that’s company awards ceremonies or a bottle of wine to recognise someone’s efforts. Get a company Amazon account.
Ways of Working
The open-door policy or open floor plan still translates to remote working. Your team should be free to have one-to-one calls with colleagues or managers when they need to discuss something or catch up, and not just when it’s in the diary. Encourage your team to share any new tech or ways of working they come across that they think will benefit the business. Every business needs new ideas to survive, especially in times like these, and who better to provide those ideas than the people who know your business best.
If you’re regularly seeking your team’s feedback on your company’s culture and ways of working, make sure you allow for anonymous feedback. Online questionnaires which don’t ask for log-in details are an option for this if everyone is remote.
Lights out. Some employers who are sceptical about remote working worry that their team won’t be putting in the hours they would if they were office based when in fact, the opposite is often the case. Without a commute home and the work computer sitting in the house, switched on, a lot of remote workers report working much longer hours than their office-based counterparts and have difficultly switching off. This is obviously not healthy for anyone and in the long-term may lead to burn out so make sure your team are switching off and avoid developing a culture of over working.