Building Company Culture in a Remote Work Environment

Man on laptop

What is company culture?

Broadly speaking, culture is a set of customs and social institutions that include the values, beliefs, outlooks, and goals of a particular group of people. Culture is made up of the collective practices and mutual understandings that can make a group of people feel connected to each other. It’s what helps each individual feel as though they are a valuable part of a larger whole. 

A company’s culture manifests in how employees work together toward common goals. It is based on actions and behavior patterns, as well as connections. Establishing this collaborative culture is key to creating a sense of inclusion and ownership.

Shared values and practices. 

The first step to building a company culture in a remote work setting is creating shared values and practices. The more involvement employees have in creating these values, the more easily they will incorporate those values. 

This strategy not only gives employees a sense of ownership, but also requires them to go through the process of understanding their own personal values and how those connect to everyone around them. 

It may help to establish a clear list of company values and post them somewhere that everyone will regularly see them, such as website login pages or in email signatures. Possible values include:

  • Accountability

  • Trustworthiness

  • Professionalism

  • Caring

  • Perseverance

  • Creativity

  • Confidence

  • Collaboration

Creating rituals and standard systems of management, including how communication is handled, how customers are treated, and how work is managed, also contributes to shared values and practices.

Clear common goals.

People tend to unite when they share a common goal. However, if a company has multiple teams of remote workers, it can be easy for an individual to lose sight of the overall purpose of their daily tasks. 

Stating a clear common goal can help employees see how their work relates to those around them. A company-wide goal connects individuals’ daily tasks to an overarching, big picture objective.  This approach promotes collaboration by giving employees a sense of how their work product impacts their coworkers, as well as how everyone’s work collectively contributes to achieving one common company goal. 

Managers should make shared goals clear and restate them when possible. Team meetings are a good time to do this, especially at the start of a new project. Clearly visualize progress toward a particular goal with online workflow and collaboration tools

Communication, engagement, and collaboration.

The tools used for workflow and collaboration with a remote workforce contribute powerfully to a team’s success. You need tools that make communication easy and effective and allow for connection and collaboration—among distributed individuals. 

Consider different communication methods and their purpose. Video chats work well for team meetings while asynchronous communication––such as email, messaging, and commenting––allow people to work without interruption. Most likely, you’ll need a balance of many different communication methods. 

Document sharing, common virtual workspaces, and shared dashboards can help everyone understand project status and who is working on which parts. The better the work management system you have in place, the smoother the collaboration feels. 

Virtual office water cooler. 

In an office environment, employees share common areas like the break room, where workers chat about their personal lives and interests.. Company culture forms in large part due to these relationship-building interactions that help people feel more connected to each other. With a remote workforce, it can be easier to engage only with the business side of things, which can cause feeling of isolation and disconnection—threats to company culture.

A virtual “water cooler” provides a place where employees can share pictures of their kids and pets, discuss hobbies and interests, and get to know everyone’s personalities. You can choose from a variety of platforms to create such an environment, which can be a subsection of a collaboration tool your employees already use or hosted elsewhere. 

Remote team building.

The idea behind team building is to join people with a common goal and allow employees to get to know each other better as individuals. There are many benefits to team building, including:

  • Increased motivation and morale

  • More effective collaboration

  • Creative problem-solving

  • Improved communication

  • More trust and bonding

  • Elevated leadership skills

  • Higher levels of confidence

  • Stronger culture

There are many ways to build a team, even when teams work remotely. Consider virtual scavenger hunts or quizzes in which everyone has to answer questions to see how much they know about their coworkers. You can design team building activities so that everyone participates at the same time, or they can be asynchronous to allow for greater flexibility. 

Consider encouraging participation in these events by offering rewards or prizes. A little healthy competition can be a great motivator.

Openness.

A good company culture promotes openness. When employees feel encouraged to provide feedback and suggestions––and you’ve put systems in place to allow that to happen constructively––it encourages growth. Openness also allows room for the company culture to evolve and continually improve.

Openness means being open to ideas and problems without the employee worrying about the potential consequences. It also means transparently communicating with employees so they always know what’s going on and what’s coming down the pipeline. 

In an open work environment, people won’t feel they have to whisper among each other in an attempt to figure out the details of rumors. They will either already have been told what is happening or feel perfectly safe asking.

A sense of value and trust.

Keep communication open and honest, and encourage employees to express their feelings directly. Simple actions like checking in with people regularly or giving periodic positive feedback can go a long way. 

Whenever possible, make positive feedback public, such as mentioning employees’ significant contributions in shared discussion pages. It’s also nice to acknowledge birthdays, work anniversaries, and multicultural holidays––these moments help everyone feel seen and recognized. 

Getting started.

While building company culture in a remote work environment has its challenges, companies have many ways of creating an inclusive, comfortable, and productive work environment for everyone.

The key to creating culture among remote workers lies in the virtual spaces they share. Workplace technology that is unintuitive, difficult, and frustrating will leave employees disconnected, unmotivated, and unproductive. The foundation of your company’s culture should be an effective collaborative work management platform that allows for the easy communication, collaboration, and flexibility that virtual workforces demand. 

See Workfront in action

In this interactive tour, you will get hands-on experience using Workfront. You will learn how Workfront enables the enterprise to:

  • Connect strategy to delivery
  • Iteratively plan and prioritize work
  • Collaborate across teams and divisions to get work done
  • Streamline and optimize processes
  • Measure and report on progress
  • Deliver against your strategy