Thanks to COVID-19 and ongoing workforce trends, experts confirm that remote work is here to stay. That said, choosing to go remote with your work teams will affect the workplace dynamic considerably. As you build your remote work teams, you should use this transition to improve your company culture rather than anticipate fallout.
Losing collaboration is one of the most common concerns employers have when deciding whether to send employees to work from home permanently. However, in-office employees have long complained that traditional office environments, such as long work meetings, seriously hamper motivation and productivity - both critical components of company culture.
Remote employment trims the fat of the stereotypical work environment. Employees working from home feel more at ease and can accomplish more in a day than they would have surrounded by cubicles or chatty co-workers.
But for companies going remote for the first time, the transition will be challenging. And since company culture is a frequently-ignored concept by first-world employers, allowing employees to work from home forces executives to take their company culture more seriously.
How to Improve Your Company Culture by Hiring Remote Workers
Any major transition is a good time to implement new, healthy practices. If you’re not sure how to improve your company culture among remote employees, these ten suggestions are for you.
Train every employee to communicate in the same way
The most significant collaboration breakdowns among remote work teams occur when employees interact differently. This situation is most common if you have a batch of employees working in the office while the rest work from home.
The fact is that most productivity applications are built with remote work teams in mind. Even in-office workers should become proficient with these tools to streamline communication.
Also, companies that successfully incorporate remote work teams set precise communication methods and strategies. They recommend scripting and preach “over-communication.” Each employee has a clear set of objectives and a mandate to manage communication diligently on the proper channels.
Embrace digital transformation
Before you can go remote, your organization needs an infrastructure that is 100% digital and cloud-based. Without a complete digital transformation, your remote employees won’t have what they need to get the job done.
When managers arrange for and train their teams to work together through digital processes, that team’s engagement, collaboration, and productivity increase dramatically.
“As an employer, it’s critical to maintain a community for all workers despite their physical location, and require manager training specific to remote workers as well as provide the latest technological advancements in digital collaboration tools across the organization.” - Frank Weishaupt, Owl Labs’ CEO and manager of remote work teams
Increase employee diversity
One of the greatest benefits of building a remote workforce is your ability to recruit in other geographical locations. Including workers from other states, countries, and continents will increase your company’s ability to access more perspectives and solutions.
While combining various religions and cultures can present initial growing pains, the end result is that your company becomes a more profitable firm.
The digital empowerment of remote work teams often makes employees more culturally-agnostic. Additionally, diversity contributes toward a meritocracy where managers value talent over other factors like race and gender.
Seek collaboration over conformity
Some employers fear losing control of their employees by allowing them to work remotely. However, today’s largest workforce - made up of Millennials and Gen-Zers - performs optimally as independent thinkers that collaborate over digital channels.
Instead of trying to make your remote employees “fall in line,” introduce communication styles that encourage everyone to contribute, listen, validate, and offer respectful pushback.
With practice and mutual respect, your remote workers will feel more engaged. Increased engagement assures employees that their contribution to your brand is significant and meaningful.
Leverage the benefits of delayed responses
Real-time feedback can be a real advantage when troubleshooting a problem. As such, one challenge of remote teams is that some workers may be working in different time zones.
However, working in environments where responses might be delayed also has some benefits.
First, employees needing to ask their colleague questions (but can’t get an immediate reply) frequently figure out how to solve the problem on their own. That’s why proactivity among remote workers is extraordinarily high.
Also, conflict between team members often arises when individuals speak too quickly and harshly. In delayed, written communication, people have more time to think carefully about their response and deescalate conflict before it gets out of hand.
Sponsor work-related social tools for after-hours recreation
Employees - both remote and in-office - maintain notable social lives through their social media accounts. Employers that successfully manage remote work teams have learned how to encourage non-work-related social engagement among team members.
If it makes sense for your organization, consider creating “after-hours” company Slack channels. Encourage employees that live near each other to meet in person for drinks or meals. You can also create company hashtags for employees to share on social media and enter a chance to win a company-sponsored challenge.
Focus on a thorough, onboarding process
Introducing new remote employees into a remote workplace requires careful onboarding. Simply adding them to your digital channels, sharing a few Google Docs with them, and having them e-sign the employee handbook does not count as employee onboarding.
Ensure that managers spend extra time with new employees as they collect their “sign-ins” and become familiar with company processes. As your human resources department grows more comfortable with the remote onboarding process, you’ll find ways to help new employees integrate faster with their team.
Create a mentorship program
Whether remote or onsite, company culture also benefits from mentorship programs. Mentors pick up where company onboarding leaves off and help employees fall in love with professional growth.
Expert organizations like Inc.com and Harvard Business Review credit mentorship programs for decreasing employee turnover and increasing engagement. Mentors may be more critical in a remote workforce than ever if you want to improve your company culture.
Use the money you’re saving on operating costs to enhance employee relationships
Employers using remote workers save significantly in their operating costs. For example, most remote employees pay for their own Internet and utilities. Additionally, companies that complete their digital transformation to empower their remote workforce also save money by moving to the cloud and decreasing human work hours.
With that extra money, your business will have more in its budget to invest in employee relationships. These ideas could include company events or sending teams on work trips/conferences to increase their skills and networking opportunities.
Talk about your company culture - a lot!
Of course, your remote workers will know that company culture matters if you address it regularly. When directing your managers or leading company video conferences, you must remind your workforce of the company’s mission, vision, and values.
Addressing conflict, communication breakdowns, and more will convince your remote teams that your company culture matters. Setting an example on problem-solving and collaboration will inspire your remote workers to embody company culture in their individual roles.
Just like any change, learning curves are uncomfortable and challenging. If you commit to providing your employees with what they need to be successful, you will raise employee engagement and nurture a healthy culture of remote work teams.
As increasingly more employees long to work from home full-time, you can give them their flexibility and guide them toward improving the company culture at the same time.