Does your company value and encourage remote work? As a response to the coronavirus, this issue is at the forefront of many leaders’ minds right now. Is it just a fad that will disappear when things get “back to normal?”
Not in my opinion. As the founder of a fully remote digital PR subscription service, I believe it is likely that certain companies will continue to use a distributed workforce in the future. It’s crucial to foster a positive remote company culture that results in happy employees, whether your staff will work remotely temporarily or permanently.
But you can’t make other people happy for you. Leaders can establish expectations for how workers should behave and interact, but they cannot dictate how those workers perform or behave. Culture instead dictates this role.
It’s not simple to establish a remarkable culture of remote work.
My own company, which has always been a remote-first model, has had to step up its game in light of the current climate to make its remote workers feel safe and valued. I can only imagine how much more challenging this is if you are making a fresh start. You may worry that your new startup’s culture is built on unstable ground if no solid groundwork has been laid first.
However, it is possible to construct a rapid and robust base. What I’ve learned over the years of leading distributed teams is this:
There is no such thing as a remote company culture fluke.
Creating a productive culture for remote workers requires some planning. Share your thoughts and values about remote work with your colleagues. Let them know how you would like them to interact with one another.
Find and hire people who already exhibit these qualities. Once those parameters are established, it will be much simpler to provide your team the freedom and support it needs to reach its full potential.
Then contemplate what else you might do to foster an optimistic atmosphere. In my own workplace, for instance, we have a salaried position called “Chief of Cheer,” whose job is to maintain and cultivate a positive business culture.
Get your ego out of the way first.
To quote the famous fifth habit of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best listener when I have something to say. But doing so prevents you from listening attentively and so from learning anything from the person standing before you.
Concentrate on hearing the other person out. To get more information out of them, you should ask clarifying questions. Don’t discount their emotions just because you find them difficult to hear or because you disagree with them. Think of the other person as a potential source of information, and take an interest in them. In this context, consider Socrates’ famous paradox: “I know that I know nothing.” Adopting a humble demeanor involves admitting one has shortcomings and can always improve.
Be a role model.
Members of your team will do what they are told. When leaders set high standards for their teams but fail to meet them themselves, they undermine morale and productivity. This is the consensus opinion of all the remote specialists I’ve consulted. For instance, I picked up the idea that a leader’s beliefs can affect a company’s culture, whether or not your staff is physically present in an office, from Help Scout’s Director of Talent Acquisition Leah Knobler.
Because of this, it’s crucial to serve as a role model for your staff. My organization places a premium on work-life balance and employee trust by granting flexible work hours. We utilize a chat program for speedy contact, but we made it clear from the start that nobody was expected to respond immediately. We have made it abundantly apparent that we are not keeping tabs on their Internet use. For instance, I try not to respond to my instant messages right away if I’m not online or if I’m in the middle of something else, even if I really want to.
Similarly, generosity is one of our most important principles. I try to be considerate no matter what’s going on, and I make it clear to the rest of the executive team that they should as well.
Make time for enjoyment.
Having a good time together at work is a key component of a successful team. Some people have the misconception that people who work from home are slacking off in their jammies and unsupervised.
Remote workers often don’t have clear boundaries between their professional and personal lives, in contrast to those in more conventional workplaces. They spend their time at home working. And it’s not always easy to relax a highly motivated person.
Incorporate some lightheartedness, then. Make it a point to celebrate your successes and start some new customs with the team. Invent unique ways to honor special occasions. You can’t make someone join in, but you can clarify that everyone on your team is free to relax and enjoy themselves.
Permit your group to make an impact.
People wish to have a positive impact and contribute to society. Insisting on a robotic approach to work while telling your colleagues to “think outside the box” is a contradiction. Predetermined expectations, in my opinion, might make people feel that their actions are meaningless. Make them feel like they have the freedom to try something new. Raise them above their daily routine.
In a free setting, great cultures can flourish. Only when individuals feel safe with one another and have faith that their opinions and ideas will be taken seriously can there be an open atmosphere.
See what a thriving remote company culture looks like.
Could you distinguish between a culture that gets the job done but is sick and one that thrives? Recognizing a positive (or negative) cultural trend is crucial for influencing positive change. A CEO who has built a culture that people want to participate in is essential to a company’s success, as I learned from Buffer’s Hailley Griffis (the company produces an annual report on remote work).
Consider the reaction of your own remote staff to get a sense of the company’s remote culture. Do they express gratitude to you and each other? Is there an overflow of good vibes into personal lines of contact? Do you feel like you’re beginning to understand who they are? Do you and they openly support one another? These are characteristics of a team that is starting to gel.
Great cultures tend to reproduce themselves.
An effective remote work culture serves as an unconscious call to unity. It’s the result of individual actions and the beliefs of those who take part in those actions. It results when people recognize their role in the whole. And it spreads to the rest of the team.
If the atmosphere at your remote office is positive and supportive, it will continue to thrive despite the inevitable transitions that occur when a team expands. Great company culture benefits the business and its clients — but it takes work to maintain.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!