Fostering Company Culture in a Remote Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic propelled many changes in the workplace, and one of them is the spread of remote work. Teams at Maxima Consulting work across the globe, so we know how hard fostering a company culture can be. But we managed to do it and believe that this is something many companies will have to face soon – if they’re not dealing with this problem already.
There’s no denying that the traditional office landscape is changing fast, and new working models come with new challenges. How can leaders foster a strong culture when the entire team is working remotely? Or even distributed across the globe?
In this article, we delve into the topic to show you our insights and tricks that helped us build a strong culture across our remote teams.
Why is company culture important for employees?
In the modern work environment, the company culture is one of the most important elements a company can offer. A survey from Glassdoor revealed that more than half of employees find a good work culture more important than salary.
The company culture is like the heart of an organization that combines its values, mission, vision, and goals. Naturally, building company culture overnight is impossible. It’s more a participatory effort from your leadership, HR, and employees.
But what happens when employees work remotely? Building a company culture instantly becomes much more challenging. That’s why HR departments should focus on cultivating an environment of belonging and build a connection between team members, even if they’re scattered around the world.
Company culture is more than collaboration. It also defines for both you and others how your organization does business, how it interacts with other companies, and how your team interacts with the external world - for example, customers, partners, suppliers, and media.
Your culture is the DNA that offers boundaries, guidelines, and expectations for your team and customers. It’s your greatest asset for attracting, recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best talent for your company. Skilled employees want to be in business with the best organizations that have a culture that aligns with their own values and expectations.
That’s why your culture works as a strong differentiator not only in terms of recruitment but also sales. Your clients will see you like not only your products or services but also the way you do business - your mission, vision, and goals as an enterprise.
Benefits of a strong company culture
Companies with strong cultures usually have higher performance and deliver better results than businesses with weaker cultures. That’s because your culture is what motivates employees and high-performing managers. Research shows that strong culture leads to greater involvement and participation by your employees and can even predict your future financial performance. Culture is an integral part of the ongoing change process, and that certain traits can be used as predictors for predicting performance.
Open and honest communication helps employees to collaborate better and reach the key company goals. Having a shared vision and mission across the entire organization directs employees to work towards common goals. A strong corporate culture based on respect among employees boosts mutual trust too. More efficient decision-making processes, fewer disagreements, or internal politics are eliminated by a common vision aligned across the leadership.
Strong culture also means less complexity which leads to faster execution. That’s because you can rely on an informal control mechanism that ensures the easier achievement of business goals. A strong culture also builds a stronger sense of identification across the organization and enhances a shared understanding. It helps reduce employee turnover, which in itself brings significant financial and operational advantages.
4 ways to foster a company culture
1. Share your values
Your company culture is based on your values. For remote employees, your company values translate into the understanding of how your business operates and how you create a positive work environment.
Here are a few ways to share and uphold your values with remote employees:
- Add your values to the company website and ask value-centered questions during the recruitment
- Create an internal email newsletter for employees where you share company values and show that you work on them
- Develop a digital peer-to-peer recognition program where employees can nominate coworkers they feel are great embodiments of company values
2. Develop support of policies
Executives and HR leaders can have a huge impact on the development of the company culture. By crafting policies that reflect the remote work environment, you will be supporting remote teams on a new level. Traditional policies often lack flexibility or imagination. Naturally, remote employees have different priorities, needs, and expectations than other employees.
How to build that connection and create remote-friendly policies? Try this:
- Flexible scheduling
- Goal-based performance vs. prescriptive time-based performance
- Equipment bonuses for home and office setups
Naturally, you need to stay adaptive, flexible, and responsive to the needs of your employees. This will make them feel more appreciated, respected, and ultimately also connected to your organization.
3. Improve your communication practices
One of the greatest obstacles to remote culture lies in communication. Since everyone works from different locations, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. That’s why you need to establish clear communication norms around response times, email etiquette, and chat best practices. Setting the standards will help people to avoid getting plenty of messages and reduce interruptions.
Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Create a company-wide newsletter where you share all the happenings, goals, and achievements across different departments
- Ask for feedback by sending a survey. This will give employees the opportunity to share what works and what doesn’t
- Take advantage of the right technologies. Make sure that your employees have the right hardware and project management and real-time chat applications to facilitate communication
- Avoid employee isolation and build camaraderie. One of the core elements of traditional company cultures is the working environment. Office space usually has open floor plans, foosball tables, water coolers, and sometimes even a boulder wall. Consider that remote employees usually work from a home office, kitchen table, or couch. There’s no water cooler or kitchen where employees can catch up and chat. That’s why preserving the sense of camaraderie is really hard. Here are a few strategies to help you deal with that:
- Create fun chat channels where employees can bond over mutual interests like pets or movies
- Have virtual social events like a video chat happy hour, game night, or even a virtual cooking class
- Create lunch break wellness activities. Encourage your employees to try different activities like meditation or sports like pilates or yoga classes
4. Prioritize face-to-face meetings
Seeing colleagues face-to-face is much better than just hearing their voices. People can interpret body language and take on subtle cues from facial expressions. Ultimately, this translates to a better connection between employees.
That’s why you should promote face-to-face meetings. Make sure to designate time for managers to meet individually with employees via video to build a connection, establish trust, and celebrate accomplishments together.
We hope that these tips will help you build a strong company culture regardless of whether your employees work in-house or are located all over the world. These practices certainly helped us build our company culture at Maxima Consulting!