When you work in an office, opportunities to connect with coworkers happen naturally. They can happen on your way into the office, when you’re using the office kitchen, or when you stop by a coworker’s space to ask a question. When you work on a remote team, it can seem that you don’t have those same types of opportunities. However, you can build a remote work culture — it just takes more intentional planning than you would need if the whole team worked in the same physical space.
The key to creating a culture in which your team feels connected is to establish company-wide expectations and processes that support those connections. When your team understands the importance of connecting, both personally and professionally, they are more likely to initiate those connections on their own.
How to Build a Remote Work Culture
Communication, as always, is king. Have clear expectations of the channels, content, frequency of company communication. Trust only happens when everyone feels like they are in the loop, and trust is critical to a constructive work culture.
Include some fun
All work and no play will make any job seem like a chore — even if it’s remote work. Make time and space for some non-work related bonding.
- Schedule virtual meetups. Use whatever virtual meeting platform you use (e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom) to schedule meetups where you can get to know one another. These types of meetups work best with a small-ish number of participants — try getting groups of about 10 people to connect. You can do this within departments and/or across departments.
- Have an off-topic thread in whatever communication channel you use. If you use Slack, create a channel where employees can add random thoughts and can bond about non-work related topics.
Facilitate Intra- and Inter-departmental Connections
One way to do this is to schedule those virtual meetups (see above). Another way you can encourage people within and across teams to connect is to assign pair buddies. Pair buddies consist of two employees from the same or different teams who regularly meet to catch up. Pair buddies can be constant or can change at regular intervals.
Plan or Facilitate In-Person Meetups
Meeting in person, even if it happens rarely, can be a powerful way to get your team to connect with one another. A company-wide meetup or retreat may be an option for your company. If you do plan a company-wide retreat, plan to be able to include anyone who won’t be able to attend in person. And if you can’t swing a retreat, facilitate smaller satellite retreats or meetups in locations where you have multiple team members.
It might take some time to establish the remote work culture building techniques that work for your organization. Once you do, put a plan in place that clearly outlines your company culture approach. When you bring on new team members, make sure they’re aware of your culture-building practices. And of course, be open to feedback from your employees on how you can continue to establish clear communication and build your remote work culture.