How To Establish Strong Remote Work Culture

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Now that a huge segment of the working world has gone remote, everyone is trying to figure out what this means for company culture.

For years, organizations made culture a core focus, only to be confronted with the challenges of remote work all at once – what’s the strategy now? Some companies have been forced to start from scratch, while others have already strong foundations that withstood the winds of change.

To get some answers, we asked current business leaders how they’ve worked to establish strong remote work cultures in these uncertain times.

Re-Establish Key Values

The events of 2020 threw a wrench in the gears for so many brands, and this required executives to go back to the drawing board for company culture. A big part of the interactive experience had gone missing, and this left many gaps that needed filling.

Other companies prided themselves on culture long before 2020 arrived, and they were far more prepared for those challenges. They saw the remote work era as a chance to shine and capitalize on their unique abilities. So far, it’s proven effective.

“At Topicals we really value empathy, transparency, and having a bias to action because it allows for more open communication and productive workflows,” said Olamide Olowe, CEO of Topicals. “We value self-starters, critical thinkers, and people who know how to work collaboratively and independently. Our culture is laid back, fun, and positive. We encourage a four-day workweek and we want to minimize stress in daily work life by equipping our teams with technology that helps automate time-consuming tasks. Topicals is a place to learn, ask questions, and challenge the status quo.”

It’s these young and agile companies that have a definitive edge in terms of culture, drawing on passion and community to make a resilient work environment.

Culture of Communication

Some analysts think of culture as the surface-level “extras” that make a company a unique place to work, but it’s so much more than just bean bags and free snacks.

Culture is about how people treat each other and interact throughout the day. This has a massive impact on the frequency and quality of communication that takes place.

Companies lacking in culture saw their communication collapse following the remote work revolution while revealing their weaknesses in other unexpected ways. On the other hand, strong company culture came out on top with big wins.

“Having a great company culture has really been about tending to the needs of our employees and keeping an open line of communication available for them at all times,” said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. “It’s all been a collaborative effort towards making sure our business keeps moving along during a difficult year. The key to understanding productivity is catching an issue before it arises, or as it is arising, and as we’ve done that, we’ve been able to nip any issues in the bud. There is a direct correlation between company culture and productivity.”

Positive and Professional

The workplace should be upbeat and action-oriented, but many companies have struggled to translate this positive energy to a remote work environment.

Executives that recognized this were able to get ahead of the problem and reiterate the importance of positivity and professionalism in the workplace, even when the physical office is on hiatus.

Good attitudes and interactions go a very long way in the current business climate.

“Businesses absolutely have a social responsibility when collaborating with clientele and employees,” said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. “Within your company, you have to create a culture that is welcoming, supportive, and energized. That will, in turn, translate into how your team collaborates with your consumers. Being aware of the social aspect of business can create better and more personalized relationships with clients.”

Find the Balance

It’s great to have a company culture that inspires people to stay in the office after hours and keep pushing forward to make their dreams a reality.

Things get a bit murkier when everyone is stuck at home and it’s not quite clear where work ends and begins.

This is where business leaders need to step up to the plate and remind workers about the importance of balance. Remote work isn’t meant to be all-consuming, and taking breaks is key to keeping a healthy, happy state of mind.

“Working from home makes it much harder to delineate work time from personal time,” said Dan Springer, CEO ofDocuSign. “I encourage all of our employees to have a disciplined schedule for when you will work, and when you will not, and to stick to that schedule.”

Address Worker and Client Needs

At the core of all great company cultures is transparency. Being in a live, dynamic workplace is much more conducive to sharing information, developing hybrid skill sets, and building bonds.

Only the best company cultures are able to maintain this level of transparency in a remote work setting, and even then, it takes a concerted effort and action on the part of leadership.

“Keeping everyone satisfied in a hybrid setting is a tough task,” said Kamron Kunce, Senior Marketing Manager at4Patriots. “There are needs of those in-person and those at home. Juggling between the two can be a challenge, but if you offer transparency to both sides of your team then the issue should be minimal. Keep work evenly distributed between all employees and make sure that all work given is doable from the location in which they are working. To prevent any feeling among your employees that there is favoritism, create a meeting system where everyone meets and updates each other on the projects they are working on.”

When in doubt, team leaders should be more open and honest with employees and peers about projects and objectives. This will keep the gears greased and wheels turning.

From the Top Down

Executives often view themselves as being “above” the company culture, but the reality is that they’re the ones responsible for it in the first place!

The top brass at every company needs to step into new roles to make the biggest impact in the remote work era, even if this means getting more involved in the nitty-gritty of operations and daily tasks.

Asking for more feedback, opening up for questions and answer sessions, or holding more frequent department conferences – these small things add up in a positive way over time.

“To establish a better work culture, you need to start from the top of your company,” said Ryan Solomon, CEO ofKissmetrics. “Everyone on the executive team should embody a positive and fun working environment. This means, push for positive feedback, show respect to everyone and make sure that everyone understands that you are all working for the same team.”

Brainstorm Overdrive

Nothing does more for company culture than allowing employees to pitch their ideas and get involved with the broader mission of the company.

They might not have the next great idea waiting in the wings, but simply giving them a platform to brainstorm and collaborate in an open forum is so powerful.

“Creativity isn’t just reserved for artists or culinary geniuses, it can and should be used by management and leadership teams to help strengthen culture, develop new campaigns, or help communities in need,” said Scott Taylor, CEO of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux. “Once our team settled into the new norm of weekly Zoom calls, social-distanced meetings, and bouncing marketing ideas off of our families and neighbors, productivity and creative levels shot through the roof.”

Setting the Right Tone

Moving to a remote work environment should be about breaking down barriers between teams both horizontally and vertically – not creating more rules and gatekeepers.

Everyone is trying to figure out how to make remote work more feasible and sustainable, so team leaders need to keep a very open mind when fielding new ideas and approaches to everyday challenges.

“Crafting a proper work environment starts with how everyone interacts with one another,” said Melissa South, SVPof SwingTie. “Setting the tone of a workplace is extremely important. How will your employees engage with one another and you? There should be an understanding that respect is key, but a laid-back feeling is encouraged. No one wants to work in an environment that is tense and uptight all day. Have fun at work and enjoy what you do to make sure that everyone is happy coming into work rather than feeling dragged down because the atmosphere is exhausting.”

Employees that feel heard and acknowledged are always more likely to be engaged, which will work wonders for retention and loyalty.

Emphasize Employee Wellbeing

A healthy workforce is a productive one – we’ve all learned this truth the hard way. Employees that regularly call out sick or struggle with health problems are more of a liability than an asset, and companies are thankfully taking a more active approach to encouraging wellbeing.

The issue now is holding this high standard when everyone works from home. Health goals might take a backseat when work piles up, and there are fewer opportunities to take breaks, eat well, and get exercise.

“In an online work environment there needs to be an emphasis on employee wellbeing,” said Jack Klauber, Founder and CEO of Everyday Dose. “This means let everyone know that they can be transparent about things that are dragging them down at home. If you can create a proper stream of communication across your team you will find that the culture of the company will improve. Morale is important to keep everyone happy and productivity moving. If everyone feels as if their voices are heard and they have importance in decision making, then people will be more inclined to speak up and have their voice heard.”

As so many companies have discovered, allowing more flexibility for employees to take care of themselves is a far better long-term strategy.

Try Different Workflows

It’s tempting for executives to issue a top-down solution to remote work – that’s just how they’ve done things throughout their whole career.

Remote work is a different beast, however, and it takes some organic effort on the part of individuals and teams to figure out a sustainable solution.

This goes for everything from establishing workflows and protocols to implementing new software and communication methods.

“There’s no blanket right or wrong answer to remote working,” said Jeff Goodwin, Sr. Director of Marketing & Ecommerce at Orgain. “One size most certainly does not fit all for every organization or even department within one company. Many people, teams and functions prefer the flexibility of remote work and are often just as efficient (if not more so) when working off-site. The challenge managers face is to make sure to understand the different work styles and reactions to the virtual workspace while also ensuring everyone stays connected and motivated so the organizational culture and human connections within the business continue to thrive.”

Managers should absolutely set forth their strategies for success, but also learn to go with the flow as teams discover their own best practices.

Cultivate Healthy Connections

Things were very touch-and-go for much of 2020, especially when the world was first learning about the impact of the pandemic.

Many people dove headfirst into work as a way to deal with the stress and uncertainty but sacrificed a healthy life balance in doing so. Now, companies need to re-emphasize the importance of good habits and lifestyles as the remote work era advances.

“Business leaders must acknowledge the extreme culture shift of the workplace and allow your team to develop a healthy work style that is just as productive as in-office yet flexible enough that your team has time and energy for their home life,” said Rishi Kulkarni, Co-founder & CEO of Revv. “We encourage our team members to use the extra time saved from commuting to take up crafts and hobbies that fulfill their personal passions. We find allowing ample time for refreshing has helped our efficiency and productivity increase.”

While short-term productivity might take a hit, long-term success is always preferred.

Revamp Tech Investments

New tech has been the star of the show as remote work becomes a reality for companies everywhere, and some companies are handling it better than others, to put it lightly.

Very few businesses have been able to find the “sweet spot” in terms of tech for remote work, meaning that a lot of budgets are going to be overloaded this time next year. Mistakes were made, but life goes on and things improve.

Choosing efficient desktop computers that let users accomplish daily tasks quickly, with a not-that-steep learning curve that often comes with new tech, is a constant business goal.

“Being able to adapt to the technological innovations has been a key component in staying grounded in a healthy workflow while staying at home,” said Roy Ferman, Founder & CEO of Seek Capital. “Going remote meant we had to roll with all the punches that arose with virtual communication and had to invest in helping the team be equipped with the best tools to keep operations running smoothly. Investing in the best communication software like Slack or Zoom is vital to fostering the best work from the home model.”

Indeed, the right tech has an enormous impact on culture, from communication avenues to collaboration methods. This should not be underestimated as companies review their remote work strategies moving forward.

Trust and Transparency

There’s so much talk about internal company culture, but we don’t often acknowledge how important culture is when running the customer-facing side of a business.

Think your culture is rock-solid and steadfast? Customers and clients are going to see right through the façade and tell you what you’re really made of – for better or worse.

“Having a strong remote work culture is important for strengthening team bonding,” said Michael Scott Cohen, CEOof Harper + Scott. “In order to build a strong remote work culture, it’s essential to communicate with your team that you are trusting them to do their work. It’s also important to acknowledge the team. Businesses that practice building a remote work culture will prevent future challenges from coming up. Through enforcing a strong remote work culture, the team is able to deepen relationships with each other, build trust and enhance communication.”

Transparency is key for clients and employees alike and needs extra attention in the remote work arena.

Open Up the Dialogue

Here’s a simple rule that companies should consider adopting: if it improves communication, make it happen.

This can apply to new technologies, new protocols, or just the way that projects and objectives are laid out for the company as a whole.

The problem is universal – people are getting a very narrow view of their role in the era of remote work, and communication is the way to fix that.

“Since we plan to continue with working from home, establishing a strong remote work culture is essential,” said Jay Shah, CEO of Auris, Inc. “Some ways to do this are to make sure everyone in the company communicates well. We use Zoom and Slack which are great ways to stay on top of communication when working from remote locations. Being flexible and easily adaptable is also key.”

Communication Goes Both Ways

In general, more communication is better, but this requires everyone to uphold their end of the bargain. Managers need to hold a high standard for team members, but also reflect those expectations back onto themselves. That’s the only way it’s going to work!

Furthermore, if managers can’t talk openly and honestly with their supervisors and superiors, that’s a whole other problem that needs to be addressed.

Once again, culture can’t be segmented and siloed to certain parts of an organization – it needs to be widespread and improve every area of a company.

“Poor communication from managers is a huge mistake,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “A company cannot function without satisfied employees. Create a healthy company culture where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and talking through any issues. Do this by being a warm and welcoming leader. Celebrate the successes and achievements of everyone, no matter how big or small they may seem.”

Focus on Employee Loyalty

Some companies are finding that remote work has been mostly upside, and that culture is actually improving in this new scheme of things.

It could be that workers have more schedule flexibility or they simply feel freer to experiment with problem-solving.

The lesson here is that if something is working and thriving, don’t interfere! If anything, take note of small successes and try to apply them to other aspects of the business to make improvements elsewhere.

“Remote work is here to stay,” said Jonathan Snow, COO and Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “There’s just so much efficiency and happiness with flexible work that we need to embrace those things and understand that our employees want a life. When they know you care, they care. So I say, give people space to be, and they’ll repay you with creativity and productivity.”

Leave Room for Fun

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a team of entry-level workers or longtime business veterans in your remote workspace – they all love some extra recognition now and then, and positivity is always appreciated.

“Staying connected even while apart is key to creating a positive, strong remote team culture,” said Dr. Tzur Gabi, Co-Founder of Caligenix. “Here at Caligenix, we like to have regular Zoom happy hours for remote team bonding, so our employees can create the same friendships from afar as they would in-office. We also like to order food and drinks for delivery to our employees’ homes so they feel appreciated by our management team and so that our Zoom happy hours are treated like the special occasions they are!

It’s important not to pressure people into partaking in team activities that they might prefer to avoid, but offering the option is always a good idea.

Hire for Remote Work Success

The hiring process is largely the same as it was before the events of 2020, but it’s harder to gauge how someone is going to fit into the company culture.

Hiring managers need to gather as much info as they can about a candidate’s work habits and how they will contribute to positive, collaborative team culture. That matters more than ever.

“Strong remote culture begins with the actual hiring process,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “From the beginning, clearly outline exactly how your company helps build remote productivity and efficiency. With clear Standard Operating Procedures in place and the right tools for success, remote team members can still feel like part of the ‘team,’ while working anywhere on the planet.”

It looks like remote work is the new standard for the professional world, so businesses need to shape up in terms of culture if they’re lagging behind. Employee satisfaction, retention, and overarching success are all on the line.