In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of employees are now working remotely. The decision has reopened a years-long dialogue around the advantages and drawbacks of a flexible work arrangement, with valid points on both sides.
As employers around the country learn to navigate this large-scale change, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Team culture remains more important now than ever before.
The Right Technology for Remote Work
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With so many changes thrown your way, how can your workforce continue to uphold your corporate values? Today, we’re diving into the answer. Read on to learn how to build a strong culture with a remote team.
Addressing the Challenges of Remote Work
While the benefits of remote work may include employee satisfaction, productivity and cost reduction, they aren’t the only factors at play when you allow remote work.
Before we dive into the ways to bolster your team from afar, let’s take a quick look at some of the roadblocks that might stand in your way.
Whether you’ve managed a long-distance team for years or are new to the setup, there are myriad challenges that can hinder performance and productivity. A few of the common issues include:
- Difficulty tracking work
- Internal communication breakdowns
- Scheduling issues
- Difficulty establishing trust
- Balancing work with kids’ homeschooling (a unique challenge for these times, which does not necessarily apply to remote work in the future)
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The main challenge of remote work comes down to this: Without one-on-one interactions, both employee performance and morale can wane. Still, it’s important to stay the course. Remote work is here to stay – even after the pandemic.
Knowing this, let’s explore how you can keep your corporate culture strong, no matter where your employees clock in.
5 Tips for Building a Strong Culture with a Remote Team
Even if you don’t share a physical office location, you can still establish and implement a culture of employee engagement and trust. This simply means creating an environment in which employees collaborate, communicate, share knowledge and support one another. You don’t have to be down the hall from one another to do any of those things.
Let’s take a look at a few tips and tricks that can help you empower your remote team:
1. Create or Refine Your Company Values
First, make sure your company values are aligned with your remote work arrangement. While your vision will define where your company is headed, the values are what will guide it there.
The exact values you choose will depend on your company, but there are few core values that should define any team:
Consider how you can incorporate these words into your company values, and which others might help define and shape your path forward.
2. Implement the Right Technology
Today, there are more tools than ever before designed to facilitate remote work. From group messaging platforms, like Slack, to the collaboration and productivity apps available on G Suite, the list is endless:
- Team management and task assignments: Asana
- Video calls and web conferences: Zoom
- Check-ins and performance management: 15Five
- Time and expense tracking: Harvest
- Customer support collaboration: Groove
- Timezone tracking: World Time Buddy
Especially if you’re at the helm of a professional services firm, these tools can keep your employees diligent and dedicated to both internal communication and customer-facing efforts.
3. Encourage Frequent Collaboration
Does your distributed team rely on a particular set of tools for communicating and collaborating? For instance, you might use Dropbox for file-sharing or Trello for task management.
If you already have a system in place, make sure to use it. Otherwise, take advantage of the technology at your disposal and find ways to get everyone on board.
In addition to equipping employees with the right tools, a few of the ways you can encourage collaboration among team members include:
- Establishing set schedules
- Switching up teams to encourage cross-work and avoid silos
- Accommodating timezone adjustments
- Keeping instructions straightforward
It might take some time to establish a workflow that fits, so it’s important to allow your employees to weigh in on what’s working and what isn’t.
4. Communicate Clearly and Often
You can’t waltz down the hall to check in on your employees, but you can pick up the phone. You can also hop online or fire up the webcam and connect in seconds.
While it’s tempting to use all these communication platforms to get in touch with your team, be sure to match the medium with the message. While clear, ongoing communication is critical to building a strong culture, you don’t have to deliver the same information via text, email and chat.
Also, don’t forget to throw some fun into the mix and hold virtual happy hours or coffee chats to break up the work routine and improve morale. Or maybe do some “Conference Call Bingo” (Hi, can you hear me?, I’m sorry – I was on mute, etc.)
Early on, establish which tools you’ll use to communicate and set clear expectations around their use. With certain platforms, like Slack, you can create sub-channels to divide and organize conversations. For instance, you might have one channel for maintenance issues, another for task-related questions and one for general water cooler chatter.
5. Ask for Feedback
Organizational changes, like transitioning to remote work, require effective organizational change management. This involves not only communication but regularly evaluating what’s working and what’s not.
Consider sending monthly employee surveys to help you understand pain points, technical issues and other frustrations they might be experiencing. Then, analyze this feedback to determine if any business process reengineering needs to take place.
Listening to feedback sends a message that you trust your employees, value their insights and are committed to making their virtual offices as efficient as possible.
Building Your Remote Team Culture
This movement to remote work is predictive of an even greater shift that’s set to occur within the workplace. It’s important to know the steps to take and the tools to use as you look to the future.
Building a strong culture with a remote team begins at the managerial level with effective communication and with the effective use of change leaders. In addition, you should have the right technology in place to create a culture of collaboration.
Our change management consultants and human capital management consultants have experience in both organizational change management and IT digital strategy. Request a free consultation below if you’re ready to take your remote team to the next level.