Two years ago, many business and organizational leaders might have confidently asserted that they would never adopt remote work arrangements. However, the events of the last year and a half have seen many do just that. And broadly speaking, the experiment has worked out very well. Leaders have noted steady or even improved productivity, while workers report enjoying the flexibility and time savings of being able to work from home.
While there are several benefits to allowing employees to continue to work remotely, leaders also face concerns, including how to maintain a strong company culture when team members are rarely all together in the same space. Fortunately, there are creative, effective ways to continue to build and sustain a great culture in a remote work environment. Here, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their best tips for keeping employees engaged with the company culture, no matter where they are or how often they’re in the office.
1. Include employees in developing the culture.
Employee participation in shaping company culture is required. There are tenets of our culture that have remained through transitions and other changes. The most important aspect has been inclusion and presence with the team. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
2. Exemplify the culture as the leader.
Implementation and reinforcement of company culture are critical for teamwork. Unfortunately, some organizations do little to define culture. If you play for the New York Yankees, you can’t grow a beard — it’s part of their culture. As the leader, you exemplify the culture. That will permeate the whole team, whether they’re online or in the office. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats policy for breakfast.” – Scott Morreale, Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School
3. Open up a regular dialogue.
Check in with your employees often. Ask them what they need to be successful, what barriers you can remove for them and what additional support they may need. When leaders take the time to create opportunities for open dialogue, they not only deepen the team bond but also cultivate a culture of collaboration that can be felt beyond the office walls. – Lauren Winans, Next Level Benefits
4. Ensure remote employees are included in communications.
Make sure you’re utilizing internal communication platforms to the best of your ability. Whether it’s video calling or team channels, make sure that remote employees are included as much as possible through those channels. – Jamie Anderson, Emergent Software
5. Watch for and reward actions that support company culture.
Our behaviors are driven by our beliefs. Company culture is a set of shared beliefs that drive employee behavior. Explicitly stating and agreeing upon these beliefs is essential for building company culture. Managers need to be vigilant in looking for and rewarding the demonstration of these beliefs through action or helping employees modify their actions if needed. This is harder when working remotely, but doable. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates
6. Create cross-functional teams.
Bring teams together in person in some capacity once or twice a year. In between, it’s important to create cross-functional teams to support different business initiatives. This will give employees exposure to those outside their direct teams while also keeping them connected to the larger purpose of the organization. – Eric Wiebers, Interior Environments
7. Share wins and project updates every week.
We have a weekly Zoom call with the whole staff. We play tag on the call, so each person tags the next person to share. We all share one win and what we are working on. We have a lot of fun on the call, and this really helps keep us connected. We actually find that we know more about what is going on than we did before. – David Wescott, Transblue
8. Develop ‘extracurricular programming.’
Run your company like a college community. Have a good mix of virtual and office activities and “extracurricular programming” that your teams can participate in. – Todd Marks, Mindgrub
9. Blend virtual activities with in-person gatherings.
Virtual work environments must be complemented with a variety of virtual activities, gatherings and games as well as routine in-person opportunities for people to gather and reconnect. Continue to brainstorm as a group and see what employees want to be engaged in, as needs are changing continuously in the current environment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising