Yes, remote work is hardly a 100% new thing—it existed long before the pandemic. According to a global CIO survey, 15% of companies already had their workers on remote when it hit.

But now, it’s more widespread than ever. The same survey showed 70% of companies switched to work-from-home (as of March 2021), and 31% expect to continue working remotely permanently.

If you’ve spent at least a month working from home yourself, you know: feeling isolated and detached from your colleagues isn’t a joke. It’s a real risk that, according to Capgemini Research Institute, 56% of remote workers around the globe have encountered. And apart from its effect on your mental well-being, it also impedes productivity.

This is where promoting corporate culture comes in. Don’t be too quick to say, “It’s impossible to do that online—people need to see one another in person!” It is possible—you just need to make a continuous effort to foster it. 

4 Reasons Why It’s Crucial for Any Remote Team

When done right, cultivating a shared culture among your team members brings positive changes all across the board:

  1. Feeling like a part of the team boosts engagement and overall performance;
  2. A great shared culture is one of the main reasons people stay (high retention rates mean lower turnover-related opportunity and financial costs);
  3. It makes your team members happy, and happy workers are more productive;
  4. It transforms them into brand advocates, thus attracting more talent.

What’s more, these perks aren’t reserved only for the business world. If you are a part of any remote team whatsoever, you can reap the benefits, even if you’re:

  • Students working on a group project;
  • Volunteers of a non-profit operating nationwide;
  • Members of a book club that had to move online.

But keep in mind: promoting a shared culture is a time-consuming and energy-demanding project. So, if you want to get in on it, make sure you have what it takes. That can mean offloading your assignments to services like EssayPro if you’re a student or saying no to other projects you’re handling. And a positive attitude is a must, too!

1. Make Sure You Don’t Under-Communicate

Of course, sharing “too much information” is always a real risk. But don’t let this make you opt for less communication. If you do, people won’t know how they fit into the grand scheme of things and why their input matters—and they’ll feel disengaged from it.

The best way to avoid under-communication is to be transparent. Share the company news and project updates, be explicit about your expectations and work policies, give shout-outs. Talk openly about the challenges the company faces. And, welcome the same kind of transparency in return.

As for the mechanics of it, that depends on your team. Some prefer to have short daily standup calls, others are more comfortable communicating in chats and having calls once a week. So, talk it through with your teammates to settle on the frequency and means of communication.

2. Introduce Weekly One-on-One Checkups

Surprisingly, only 8% of companies with remote workforce offered weekly one-on-one meetings to support their employees in 2020 according to Statista. So, if you still haven’t done this, there’s no better time than now to make weekly one-on-one calls your new tradition.

But what are those, exactly? Think of such calls (yes, they should be video calls, not messages) as a checkup on the well-being of your team members. Remember it makes up the overall “health” of your team.

These checkups will help you:

  • Reveal and address concerns and challenges a particular person has;
  • Recognize burnouts and other mental health challenges and take steps to help combat them;
  • Get feedback on the workplace environment and get ideas on how to improve it.

3. Ask For Feedback—And Act On It

Weekly one-on-ones isn’t the only way you can get feedback. In fact, it shouldn’t be the only one—not everyone might feel comfortable enough to say it out loud, especially when it comes to sensitive topics.

The solution is simple—create an anonymous feedback form and share it with the team. Make sure it remains easy to find. You can pin the message or add it to all the other useful links you keep in Trello or Google Docs.

As for the “act on it” part, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to implement every suggestion. But be transparent about your decision-making: explain why you’ve decided for or against making a change.

4. Keep Showing Your Trust

Unfortunately, some leaders have turned into micromanagers. They try to control every aspect of their fellow employees’ progress with screen captors, time trackers, and other invasive apps. And it’s a pandemic in and of itself: a staggering 48% of employees worldwide felt micromanaged while working from home in 2020, according to a report from Capgemini.

But it has the opposite effect: micromanagement doesn’t bring up the quality of work or productivity, it only hinders them.

The thing is, trust equals respect. Yes, working from home allows for more flexibility on the employee’s end. But who said it’s a bad thing? It usually only boosts the team’s productivity—all because its members can work when they’re at their best.

So, if you still haven’t put “meaningful work is above all” on your list of values, do it now. Focus on task completion instead of the hours. And make sure your team members know that it matters the most, too.

5. Treat Your Messenger App Like It’s Your Virtual Office

What was the best part of going to an office? Like it or not, the answer isn’t likely to be “working in the same room”—it’s “talking about and doing non-work-related things together”.

Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index proves this: 67% of survey respondents cited social interaction as their key reason to work in the office.

You can recreate that online—and it’s not as complicated as you might think. Make an off-topic chat in Slack or wherever you communicate; it’ll already go a long way. Then, encourage your colleagues to share their favorite GIFs or memes about working from home—lead by example.

You can also reintroduce watercooler chats with Donut, a free Slack extension. Here’s how it works:

  • You pick a channel dedicated to this type of conversation;
  • You choose from a variety of topics available in Donut (or make your own);
  • The Donut bot posts a prompt to the channel to spark a conversation.

6. Find Ways to Move Your Existing Traditions Online

Watercooler chats probably weren’t the only ritual you had going in your office in the pre-remote days. Maybe, you used to have lunch together. Maybe, you had pizza Fridays. Maybe, you organized a book club or a yoga class.

The good news is, you can reinvent almost any activity online. Yes, it might be awkward to do yoga on Zoom at first, but people will get used to it—and will start enjoying it, too.

And don’t forget about celebrating birthdays and anniversaries! Having a couple of drinks over a video call is going to be a better social glue than any team building game out there.

7. Create New Traditions & Rituals

What if your team has always been remote-only? What if it’s a new team that hasn’t collaborated before? What if there are no existing traditions, to begin with?

The solution is simple—create your own traditions! Here are several ideas to kick off your brainstorming:

  • Host watch parties or game nights;
  • Run ask-me-anything sessions with senior staff members;
  • Have lunch together over a video call.

In Conclusion: Never Stop Working on It

All of this probably seems challenging to you, at best. But what’s the alternative? Just keep on keeping on? Well, if you don’t acknowledge that things have changed and adapt to the new reality, you can’t expect your team to work as hard as they would in the office.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand you can wave to make everyone feel they’re on the same team in the blink of an eye. Fostering a corporate culture is akin to planting an apple tree and tending it. That is, you have to invest your time and energy into tending it for a long while before you can harvest your first apple.

Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash