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7 Ways to Maintain Strong Company Culture within a Remote Team

How important is company culture? Is it just a matter of boosting employee morale so they can perform their work better? Is it setting up the workplace in such a way as to make it conducive to...

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How important is company culture? Is it just a matter of boosting employee morale so they can perform their work better? Is it setting up the workplace in such a way as to make it conducive to productivity and ideas generation? Or, is it instilling a set of values that make employees respect, trust, and empathize with co-workers? If it is, is company culture simply a means to an end?

The truth of the matter is that great company culture translates well beyond camaraderie that extends outside office hours. Publicly-traded companies with excellent work cultures often outperformed the US stock market. Employer review site Glassdoor conducted a ten-year study (beginning in 2009) where they monitored the stock performance of companies that made it to their annual Best Places To Work (BPLTW) list.

Between 2009 and 2019, a $1,000 investment made in the S&P 500 index generated a return of 258%, resulting in $3,580. However, the same investment made exclusively in Glassdoor’s BPTW winners generated 553%! That means that the Best Places To Work winners generated nearly twice the return—a noteworthy $6,529. That’s right, they beat out the stock market, and it wasn’t even close.

What is Company Culture?

Company culture definition is the shared values, attributes, and characteristics of an organization. For obvious reasons, sharing attributes such as values is easier to do when everybody is together. Workers and teams find it easier to overcome challenges in the workplace when they band together under a common objective. Often, companies use social activities such as team-building sessions or town hall meetings to foster connection and alignment.

However, the past two years turned the typical office structure inside out. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many workers to switch to remote work for health and safety reasons. Instead of having hundreds or thousands of employees working together in a single building, everybody conducted their own business at home. Video conferencing became the standard for meetings and reporting.

Did Remote Work Affect Company Culture?

Recent studies confirm that working from home proved a viable alternative to working at the office. The reduced commute time and an absence of a dress code, which are considered the greatest advantages of remote work, were universally appreciated by workers. Meanwhile, companies were happy to cut cash expenditures through reduced office expenses.

However, a notable casualty of WFM (work from home) was the lack of opportunities for promoting company culture. Bonding moments with co-workers were reduced to post-Zoom meeting chats or short phone calls to discuss project details.

However, the reality is that remote work is here to stay. Many companies—like Meta, Twitter, HubSpot, and 3M—have already declared that their workers can permanently choose to work from home. For the majority, a hybrid setup is the most likely outcome, where they will continue remote work but still need to make office appearances once or twice a week.

Whatever the setup, prioritizing company culture in the digital realm is imperative to fostering an unbreakable workplace. Here are seven ways to get the ball rolling.

1. Articulate the Company Vision

Whether back at the office or home, getting everybody to revisit the company’s roots is a good place to start. It’s a great way to refresh everybody on why the company started in the first place, and what values it adopted along the way. Articulating the company vision can help reconnect everybody to a common goal. It can also help re-establish the company’s culture.

A brand manifesto contains a concise but all-encompassing statement that calls for action. It reminds workers and customers alike of what your company is, where it stands, and where it wants to go in the future. Sharing these ideals helps your audience relate to you more. The more they can relate to you, the more they support your objectives.

Establishing a company’s identity requires communicating not just the company’s ideals, but also establishing a voice to get these messages across. A strong sense of identity can give employees a better grasp of what it’s like if the company could speak for itself. What persona will your company assume? Will it be a tough-talking problem solver, or will it be an even-tempered voice who prefers to analyze first? While most companies with mission statements don’t have to redo everything, it would be a good idea to check if updates are necessary.

Once you’ve reaffirmed the ideals, goals, and persona, share them with your employees. Make the manifesto part of certain regular meetings until everybody has a full understanding of the company.

2. Focus on Building a Safe Space

While remote work removed some daily stress inducers, like hours-long commutes and burnout from being cooped in an office, it also comes with its own set of stresses. For many, the isolation of working alone can be mentally taxing. Even workers who don’t miss chatty co-coworkers will eventually notice the eerie silence of remote work. For others, there is the challenge of trying to work amid the distractions of everyday life at home. Screaming kids begging for attention, the duty of household chores, or noisy neighbors all hinder separating work from personal affairs.

All of these distractions can get on an employee’s nerves. Instead of working productively, these annoyances can trigger anxiety or stress, especially when faced with deadlines. In addition, working from home still subjects workers to stress generated by their work routines and deliverables. Even Zoom meetings can cause unnecessary fatigue, especially when they run long. However, remote employees don’t have access to the usual coping mechanisms, like the office HR counselor. Not to mention, taking a personal day off takes on a new meaning when it really just means unplugging while staying in the same place.

Help Remote Workers Maintain Their Mental Health

Please, please, please don’t wait until your employees suffer a mental breakdown before offering help. Instead of trying to read signs of possible mental health issues among your workers through a screen, implement proactive measures. They can include the following:

Thank Co-Workers, And Ask Them How They Are

This is a very simple but effective way to connect with co-workers and check up on how they’re holding up. Take the time to converse with workers and thank them for their contributions or ask them how they are. If nothing else, it’s a good opening for employees to share their thoughts with someone outside of their household.

Inform Employees of Available Mental Health Resources

If your company has various mental health programs available, remind employees they can freely make use of these services, no questions asked! Perhaps they didn’t know about the company’s telehealth option for remote mental health counseling. Your employees perform better at work when they feel better as people at home. So, inform them of opportunities to feel better! In addition, leaders should encourage workers to take their vacation days to recharge their batteries every now and then.

Suggest Physical Activities

Video conference meetings shouldn’t have to require attendees to sit the entire time. Meeting facilitators can encourage employees to perform physical activities during the icebreaker section or allot breaks for everybody to stand up and stretch their legs. Or, ask them to go outside for a few minutes to soak up some sunshine.

3. Create an Awesome Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is the process where the company welcomes new employees and gives them their first glimpse into their new workplace. This is not just a welcome party. When executed properly, Glass Door reports that onboarding can help retain new hires by 80%. It can also improve productivity by more than 70%. A separate study found that a staggering 88% of employees said their company doesn’t have a good onboarding program. Don’t be one of them!

But, how do you make sure your new hires experience a great onboarding process? The most important thing to remember is to keep the onboarding process highly professional. Don’t neglect the little things; people notice. For example, start the meetings on time. This sends the message that you and the company value their precious time as much as they do.

In addition, the onboarding facilitator should welcome newcomers heartily and cement that as part of the team from the start. Attendees should automatically get a copy of the company guidelines or employee handbook. Keep the meeting engaging and encourage questions and clarifications, so they won’t leave the meeting confused or ambivalent.

Finally, don’t go over the allotted time and end as scheduled. This signals that the company is committed to efficiency and professionalism. This then sets the expectations for the attendees to commit to the same ideals.

4. Set Communications Standards

Company culture is also determined by how the organization communicates with its members. How do employees address each other, and how do they address superiors or inferiors? Does the company employ a formal or informal feedback system? What channels are available for team members when they want to share ideas? These are some of the questions that can help shape communication.

When applied to remote work settings, a clear policy and well-identified roles and assignments can help avoid many miscommunication problems. Companies that welcome feedback by providing a mechanism to do so actually help employees take a proactive stance in addressing issues and solving problems. Declaring availability to discuss concerns also encourages them to communicate clearly and directly.

As a result, companies that have high-quality communication channels also maintain a collaborative approach when problems arise. Instead of spending time and resources tracing the problem to its source and assigning blame, companies that encourage open communication help each other identify the solution.

Especially in a remote work setting, clear communication can mean the difference between nipping problems in the bud or allowing molehills to turn into mountains.

5. Show Appreciation

An element of great company culture is appreciation. Workers that solve a problem or develop a better solution deserve all the recognition they can get. Their accomplishments may have prevented a serious issue down the line.

Of course, leaders shouldn’t limit showing their appreciation to just problem solvers. Team members who completed their tasks on time and within budget will also appreciate some love. Leaders who find something to be grateful for shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to their team members. A 2018 TinyPulse survey showed that recognized employees show better engagement and increased interest to reapply for their job—32% more than unrecognized workers. Additionally, taking the time to choose perfect employee gifts during holidays or milestone celebrations can further demonstrate appreciation and strengthen morale within the team.

6. Schedule Regular Team-Building Activities

Some remote workers, especially those living alone, might benefit from some virtual team-building activities to promote camaraderie. The office HR can help organize these activities. Suggested activities include simulating a virtual campfire where participants huddle and swap stories while eating or drinking.

For the more competitive co-workers, an office-hosted game show can get the adrenaline pumping in a fun, appropriate manner. The meeting facilitator can play the host, while connected employees can volunteer as contestants. The program can be as simple as a trivia contest involving guessing which worker lives where. The first one to raise their hand gets to answer first. Other fun activities can also consist of random chance games, such as online bingo, or even a virtual scavenger hunt involving common items found around the house.

Depending on the circumstances, consider making these activities optional. Imposing mandatory fun might rub some employees the wrong way. Some might want to spend their off-hours disconnected from work entirely—which is more than fair! This also helps avoid employees disrupting activities because they feel forced to participate.

7. Keep Track of Employee Satisfaction

As managers, maintaining company culture involves staying in touch with your employees’ sentiments. Encouraging them to leave feedback or engaging them via private one-on-one remote sessions can help clear any uncertainty. For workers, this gives them a chance to get issues off of their chests. For management, this can be a great way to identify concerns and gather suggestions to resolve issues.

It often pays to keep track of how happy employees are with their current situation. Worker sentiment affects productivity, and a failure to address any issues early can lead staff to look for employment elsewhere.

Internal surveys can help coax employees to share their sentiments anonymously—again, more than fair. Of course, reaching out to individuals and checking up on them regularly can also help build trust and loyalty. However, this trust will require something in return. If workers make the effort to voice their concerns, their expectation is for the company to provide feedback about how they plan to solve the problem.

Find the Right Support for Your Team

Giving the support your employees deserve doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Many companies offer back-office support that can handle everything from onboarding to training to support services. Helpware is a leading human task services company that provides these services at the highest quality. Together, we can develop specialized teams that provide the support your employees need.

Learn more about how Helpware can support your efforts to create a stronger company culture. We can work together to create a custom solution that fits your company’s unique needs.

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