Establish the Right Work Culture for Your Remote Team From the Start
If you’re new to managing a remote team, or if your company has only recently started letting employees work remotely, then you might feel a little daunted by the task ahead.
You need to ensure that your team work well together and that projects are finished on time. You want your team members to be happy – but also productive.
Getting the best from your team isn’t just about having a clear employment agreement (though that’s important, too) – you need to establish the right work culture as quickly as possible.
Why Does Work Culture Matter?
Different companies have very different work cultures, often because they have different business requirements.
Some establish a “results-only work environment” (ROWE) where employees are expected to achieve specific outputs, rather than being expected to work set hours. Others require employees to clock in at 9 am on the dot and clock out at 5 pm.
Some companies encourage personal socializing at work; others frown on this. Some are happy with salty language; others consider it unprofessional.
Work culture can make a huge difference in how happy employees are. It also matters because, to at least some degree, it can affect how productive your team is … and how well different team members work together.
How to Create and Develop the Right Remote Work Culture
Obviously, you want your remote work culture to be a good fit for the general office culture – especially if some members only work remotely part of the time, or if they might work remotely for a few months then move back to the office. That way, you ensure consistency, and you avoid any accusations of unfairness.
So, for instance, if on-site employees are required to work 9 am – 5 pm, it makes sense to require remote employees to be at their desks during those hours (unless there’s a good organizational reason why this might not apply – e.g. if on-site employees are customer-facing but remote employees aren’t).
It’s also important to hold remote employees to the same standards as in-house ones. If a rude joke wouldn’t be appropriate at the water cooler, it shouldn’t be appropriate in your remote team’s slack channel, either.
When developing your remote team’s culture, make sure that you:
#1: Lead by Example
If you want to encourage a friendly, can-do attitude, then make sure that’s reflected in your own communications with your team, both written and verbal.
Similarly, if you expect team members to be available during core office hours, make sure you are at your desk too – otherwise, it won’t look good when someone repeatedly tries to call you and you don’t answer because you’re at the gym.
#2: Explain What You Expect
Some of your team members may be new to remote work … or new to the workforce in general. You may need to spell out what you expect (without being patronizing). For instance, you could have an “onboarding” document that details things like working hours, key communication channels, what to do if you run into a problem, and so on.
#3: Address Issues Early On
If an employee appears to be getting very little work done, or if they keep coming into conflict with other team members, don’t assume that they’re just having a bad day. It’s important to address issues promptly before they become huge problems that affect the morale of your other employees.
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations (though equally, don’t feel you have to make a big deal out of a single mistake).
#4: Establish Routines and Traditions
If your team members rarely or never meet in person, it can be difficult for them to build the relationships that would come naturally in the office. You can take the lead in establishing daily or weekly routines, plus regular traditions.
For instance, you might make a point of asking everyone how their weekend went on a Monday morning, or you might establish a team meeting early in the week to check how everyone’s doing in terms of their workload.
Events like birthdays can be a great time to establish a new tradition: maybe you ship a cake to your employee’s home, for instance, or you arrange the opportunity for fellow team members to chip in a few dollars each for a gift.
Fostering the right work culture for your remote team can be a challenge … but it can also be very rewarding. You have the opportunity to help your team members enjoy work more, and to ensure that they get on well as a team.