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Work-from-home Culture

How to build a strong culture with a remote team

Five months ago, a typical routine may have been to connect with your team in person, maybe over a cup of joe. Today, you may be seeing them on your computer screen, and that daily cup of coffee is more likely shared with a four-pawed furry friend. As living out your company culture flipped from in-office to a work-from-home culture, you may be left wondering how to keep team relationships and your company values strong.

You are certainly not alone. Before the pandemic, just 8% of us worked at home at least once a week. Today, virtual work is the norm for more than 60% of us. And then there’s this pre-pandemic stat—less than a quarter of employees say they apply company values to their daily work. That means the challenge to maintain company culture is difficult, even in the best of times.

If you’re wondering how to build a strong culture with a remote team, check out these tips from our own experience as well as from research of how other companies are rising to the challenge.

Overcommunicate, overcommunicate, overcommunicate

Days fly by with a flurry of team instant messages, texts and emails. It makes it difficult to remember certain team members may be missing out on information that is shared through osmosis, simply by working side-by-side in the office. Without realizing it, your team may feel left out or underinformed. Unless you tell them otherwise, they may also be worried about the company and how is it holding up (good or bad) during the pandemic.

Communicate. Early and often. And when doing so, look for signs of distress and encourage conversation.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • At the communication app company, Front, sales and marketing teams received what was called a “Daily Weather Report.” This report, which includes information on new customers, leads and more, now goes to the entire company. The company also changed their quarterly employee happiness survey to focus on whether remote team members feel they have what they need to be productive.
  • At Blue Door Consulting, we survey the team’s “mojo”—we essentially take a weekly pulse of the team. On Fridays, each team member completes a survey of how they personally felt during the week, how relationships with clients went during the week and what they believe their mojo will be for the following week. Answers are on a red-yellow-green scale—we discuss “red” answers to see how we can help the team member get through a difficult time.

Keep your traditions, create new ones

Just because we call this the “new normal” doesn’t mean you can’t bring some of your “old normal” to the virtual space. If your company has a tradition, find a way to keep it.

  • While in the office, we set aside certain Friday lunches to celebrate that month’s birthdays and work anniversaries. Although we can no longer be together, we have a Microsoft Teams® channel just for celebrating. Birthdays and anniversaries are now celebrated by giving a shout-out, usually accompanied by a gif, to the person of honor.
  • If your team is also used to sharing meals, think of creative ways to carry on the tradition. One idea: share simple recipes that team members can make and eat together during lunch. If your team was used to going out for happy hour after work, bring the happy hour to your online meeting platform.
  • Encourage employees to get together around a common interest. At Blue Door Consulting, we used GoToMeeting® for 5 p.m. workouts led by a team member. We’ve also had staff get together for online game nights and share gardening tips on Teams.

Keep in mind that the road to maintain company culture is through the day-to-day conversations, impromptu huddles and sharing the latest kid or pet photos. If you find ways to keep sharing, you and your team will reap rewards.

Bring the team closer together

With coincidental and ironic timing, MIT researchers released a study at the start of COVID-19 in March that showed our need for human connection is as fundamental as our need for food. So, while your team marches on, making the best of the work-from-home culture, they may also be suffering from a touch of loneliness. How can you help combat this?

Give kudos for living your values

Employees seek recognition, and that’s even more true during turmoil. In fact, the need for appreciation increases 30% during times like these. Yet, it’s also at these times when it may be difficult to remember to give kudos. Here are ideas that will help keep your culture strong.

When thinking about how to make the most of your new work-from-home culture, remember this: it’s not your physical office space that makes a culture. It’s the actions of you and your team—and the visibility to those actions—that defines your culture. Communicate often, find ways to have fun virtually and keep the praise coming—your team will reward you by living out company values no matter where they work.

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