To better understand what companies were doing to improve remote workplace culture, we decided to take a glance at companies within our coworking network, as well as some examples of thought leaders in the industry. Our findings were split between two separate pillars of improving remote workplace culture, which fell into helping with either productivity or workplace morale. Here are a few key strategies that stood out:
1. Establish Your Values Early
For a remote company to be successful, they need to have a core set of values that respects autonomy, accountability, and privacy. For both employers and employees to be happy, there has to be a foundation that prioritizes these values, and clearly conveys of what the company stands for in general.
Even in a remote environment, culture is important. Remote companies can fall victim to the same pitfalls that plague traditional work environments, like contentious office politics, bad management, and other red flags (more on this later). Avoiding these pitfalls boils down to how you establish your values and as make them clear to all of your team members.
2. Provide Everything The Office Should
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your team is set up to perform the best that they can. It’s often said in sports that “teams win, but coaches lose”. The same could be said in business; it’s your job to prepare your employees not only to have what they need to be functional...but thriving.
From an employee standpoint, there are a few must-haves you should consider offering for a remote worker. Here are some of what we’ve found to be the most popular:
- A Computer - Providing a computer not only helps keep sensitive data within the company, but also ensures your employees are to date with the most important remote work tool there is. The last thing you want is someone’s old laptop kicking the dust the day before a big presentation!
- A Place To Work Other Than Home - A coworking membership is a great way to encourage your employees to work somewhere other than home. One of the biggest drawbacks of remote work is feeling trapped in the place you live and work, so providing the opportunity to get out of the house on the company’s dime shows you care about your employee’s mental health.
- A Gym Membership - Depending on where your employees work, this can be a pretty low-cost, high-reward item for remote teams. While not everyone uses services like this, it’s a good way to encourage your people to get out of the house, and offset the sedentary nature of remote office work.
- Healthcare and 401k Benefits - These are still a desire from remote employees, and rightfully so. People need to know they’re being taken care of with you for the long-haul, which means investing in them early with the right benefits packages.
- A Competitive Salary - Just because you’re offering remote work doesn’t mean you can cut pay to the lowest national average. You should focus on paying a salary that keeps (if not improves) their quality of life in the place they already are, while also investing in someone that fits into your business’s plans for the long-haul.
- Vacation Time - Everyone needs a vacation. Even though remote workers have the opportunity to ‘work wherever’, that’s different than a true break. Although you might not be able to afford ‘unlimited vacation’ (and often, those policies sound nicer than the actual experience), the ability to take time off guilt-free is something every remote employee needs.
From an employer standpoint, there are a few items that are absolute musts from the office we’ve found as well. Here are a few highlights:
- Accountability/Productivity Tools - This includes items like project management software (Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and Monday are some solid choices) and hour tracking software (like Harvest). While the point of these is to keep people on task, be mindful not to be overbearing with your tech requirements, as being digitally suffocating to a remote employee can drive morale down quickly.
- Open Communication Channels - A catalyst to the rise of remote work culture has been the cloud-based chat platform Slack, which has completely opened up communications in ways services like email couldn’t compete with. Additionally, using a video calling service like Skype or Zoom can help with face-to-face communications and meetings from afar. Although you won’t be in the same room, you’d be surprised at how available you’ll feel with a few of these communication tools in your belt.
- Cloud Business Services - You’re most likely already using cloud business services like Google Cloud to handle documents, calendars, emails, and spreadsheets. Having shared materials on the cloud everyone can access will save you the headache of sending documents back and forth via messaging or email.
- HR/Payroll Tools - These are essential to any business, but especially for remote teams. Some examples include payroll services like Gusto or ADP, as well as tax accounting. Just make sure whatever it is that you pick can accommodate easy onboarding for remote teams.
3. Host Retreats
Depending on the size and revenue of your company, hosting a retreat can be an excellent way for your remote team to get together. Whether it’s bringing everyone into headquarters or going on a faraway adventure, putting forth the time and effort to bring your employees under the same roof shows that you value them as people. As remote work can often feel isolating, hosting a retreat can help quite a bit with showing them how much you truly value their presence. This can also be a great time to execute some collaborative projects and sprints you’ve been putting on the backburner.
4. Help Employees Find The Right Coworking Space
Coworking has been a growing trend in recent years, and it’s created a lot of different types of spaces for productivity. Some coworking spaces are mission-centric (for example, having a women’s only space), while others are based around certain industries (tech, research, science, etc), which has provided innovative opportunities for collaboration. Ultimately, the biggest thing that defines a coworking space is its culture, which is why it’s important to help your remote employees find what’s right for them.
The coworking space you and your employee agree upon will be their office away from the office, which is why you should aim to learn as much about the space’s culture as you can. Some good cursors include the types of photos of their space they choose, as well as what type of amenities they might offer; for example, if they use too many stock photos of generic office spaces, that’s probably a red flag. A smart place to check is their Instagram to see what type of events, people, and amenities they provide.
Coworking can be an excellent place for not only your employee to feel more of a part of their community, but your business as well. As an opportunity to network and make your presence known in more cities, finding the perfect space that’s a ‘home away from home’ is going to be a big help in establishing a healthy remote culture, as well as could be strategic to landing new business. Plus, it provides all the perks you’d expect out of an office too.
5. Get Active on Slack
Slack is going to be a staple of your remote culture. As the primary communication tool for your team, it’s going to be where you engage with them the most, which is why it’s important to start (and keep) the conversation going. However, it can be stale and annoying to start posting random questions about general interests, which is why you need to come up with a Slack strategy that encourages your team to engage with one another on their own.
A helpful way to think about Slack is from the perspective of community management. Throwing out some icebreakers that are relevant to their interests can be a good choice, and you can use those to start channels that are unique to a hobby, such as vinyl collecting, watching Game of Thrones, or even being a foodie. Furthermore, encouraging your team to start their own Slack channels for their interests (as long as it’s not hateful or rude), gives them the chance to get creative with the group conversations they’re interested in having. While you ultimately know your team best, a big part of remote culture is getting people feeling close to one another, which is why it’s ultimately your job to be the conversation starter.
6. Host A Daily Stand-Up
A simple way to ensure everyone’s engaged on being productive and talking to one another is hosting a daily standup. Whether it be via Slack or a conference call, having a daily stand-up can be helpful in keeping the team in-line while also getting them to communicate on where they are with their work. While everyone does stands up differently, the elementary three questions most teams start with are:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you doing today?
- Is anything blocking you from being successful?
Although there might be a hurdle if your remote team works across different time zones, conducting stand ups will help save everyone a ton of headaches later on.
7. Dedicate Company Time To Collaborative Projects
As we mentioned above, a common obstacle remote employees face is that they don’t feel like they’re truly collaborating with their team. To combat this, it’s smart to plan out more collaborative projects, as well as dedicate time on the clock for your employees to work together on them. This can extend into passion projects as well, giving your team the chance to sink their teeth into something fun and challenging together beyond the normal day-to-day.
8. Create An Encouraged Learning Policy
A growing perk amongst startups, an encouraged learning policy is when your company sends team members to conferences and retreats of their choice, or pays for classes to learn new skills. As an excellent learning and networking opportunity, this is well-worth the investment, because you’re ultimately getting an employee that can provide more value to your business in the long-run. Plus, taking what you’ve learned and relaying it to the rest of a remote team is a smart connection point to encourage healthy, productive conversation.
9. Have Culture Check-In’s
Finally, since fostering remote culture is a relatively new practice, it can be helpful to ask your team how you’re doing, as well as what can be improved upon. Host a culture check-in once per quarter, surveying your team on what’s good and bad about your remote culture. Although not everything suggested will become policy, you’ll learn quite a bit about how to improve your culture, as well as what the demands of your base is.