When you build a remote team, it can be difficult to create a strong culture. With no physical office to come together in and collaborate, it can be tough to feel like a team. But, by being intentional and following these tips, you can create a thriving remote team culture.
#1. Live and breathe your values. They are more than lip-service!
We all know the feeling of sitting through an onboarding and training session and hearing the company values. You wonder, “Are these just words? Or do people really care about these things?”
Remote teams need to know that your values are more than lip-service.
Values are a code of arms that define:
- How you make decisions and…
- What you expect from your team.
Your values should permeate your team’s attitudes, communication style and relationships. They inform how your team will treat customers and each other.
Even in a remote environment, you can still celebrate when your team lives-out a core value!
Share public praise for team members who do something that demonstrates being growth-minded. Give special recognition to a team member who handled a situation with integrity. Your positive feedback will reinforce your values in your team’s performance.
Another way to reinforce your values is to use them as guideposts for development.
If one of your values is to be relationship-based, and a member of your team doesn’t respond to a customer service request at the level you expect, gently call them out on it. Reference the value and realign expectations.
Values are massively important in a remote culture because you can’t physically see your team working.
But, if you hire and build a team that is aligned with your values, you are more likely to trust their performance and work output.
#2. Encourage collaboration and give your team permission to ask for help
The autonomy of telecommuting is bittersweet. On the one hand, working remotely inspires self-reliance. It’s less convenient for your team to pop into your office to ask a question they can probably solve on their own with 15 minutes of research.
On the other hand, not being able to see you or your coworkers may discourage your team from asking for help and collaborating. Team chat platforms can get loud and cluttered. In an effort to not contribute to more distractions, your team may stay silent even if they really need help.
It’s your job as a Leader to give your team permission to ask for help.
There are many ways to inspire collaboration with a remote team:
- Host a weekly all-team meeting
- Send a weekly wrap-up survey
- Assign each team member a mentor
- Create leader office hours
- Schedule 1:1 pulse checks
All-team meetings are ideal for solving group issues, brainstorming ideas and reviewing quarterly goals. Be sure you have an agenda, a timekeeper and a list of issues to solve so the group stays on track.
Weekly wrap-up surveys help you get consistent feedback from your team. We send a weekly wrap-up survey every Friday that is required. We ask team members to rate their level of stress, workload and to share any outstanding questions and wins.
Assigning a mentor gives your team a primary point of contact other than you. We know you have too many meetings as it is. You want to be available, but that’s not always possible with travel, speaking commitments and sales calls. Mentors can support your teams even when you are unavailable.
Office hour events are an efficient way to check in with multiple team members and systematize how you give feedback. Decide a consistent day/time per week for office hours when you are in an energetic headspace to engage and collaborate. You don’t want this event to take place when you are drained and tired from other meetings!
1:1 pulse checks can be necessary for training and development of new team members. This standing appointment provides a safe place for your team to ask for help and grow in their role.
Work with your Executive Assistant to make sure meetings and pulse are scheduled at convenient times. Ideally, they would be batched on similar days to prevent context switching!
As for ad-hoc questions or requests — set a boundary with your team. Simply say, “I am always open for questions, but please only come to me after you’ve researched how to solve a problem for 15 minutes, checked our handbook and our SOPs and still can’t find the answer.”
Your time is valuable. You have to strike a balance between being available and having boundaries. This leads us to our third tip for building a strong remote culture….
#3. Set work-from-home boundaries for yourself & the team
Research shows that people are actually more productive at home. They take fewer sick days and work harder to prove that they are pulling their weight. This makes sense because you can’t see your team. So, intrinsically-motivated employees work harder to show you they are not slacking off.
Unfortunately, this can lead to bad boundaries.
Your job as a Leader is to communicate when your team should be online and when they should log-off.
Remote work is not synonymous with flex-time (although many people think it is). What are your desired office hours? Do you allow overtime?
Make these expectations clear and then live them out yourself. If you tell your team they are not allowed to work past 6 p.m., but you are still firing off emails well into the night, that sends a mixed signal.
If you do not have a strong preference about working hours, you have to make it clear that you do not expect your team to be “always on.” That is a sure-fire recipe for burnout.
Don’t leave your team in a cloud of assumptions. Have clear policies that you review regularly. And, don’t be afraid to call people out for working too long or at ad-hoc times.
Here are other ways to encourage strong boundaries….
Encourage your team to set up a designated workspace.
Working from your bed, couch, or kitchen table is OK, but it doesn’t help your team disengage when they want to be done. Encourage your team to have a specific desk area so they can leave work “at work” in a way. (Tip: Some companies give workers a small stipend to create or decorate their home office to make it feel more personalized and special.)
Let sick days be sick days.
Do you know that remote workers are far less likely to really unplug for a sick day? They still fire up their laptop and try to get something done. No. Tell your team: if you’re sick, be sick.
Teach your team to make themselves “replaceable.”
This sounds counterintuitive. Doesn’t everyone want to be irreplaceable? Yes and no. When teams document their processes, it allows their work to be replicated. This is hugely important for boundaries.
Let’s say your director of operations wants to go on a 5-day vacation. Someone needs to replace them and replicate their work during their time off. SOPs (standard operating procedures) make that possible.
Documenting SOPs ensures that your team can unplug during vacations and time off.
With the right approach, you can foster a remote team culture that is thriving and productive. By living and breathing your values, encouraging collaboration and asking for help, and setting boundaries, you can create a team that feels supported and strong — even while working from home.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start when it comes to building a remote team, we are here to help.
Schedule a free strategy call with us today so we can get you the help you deserve.