It’s hard enough to create what most would consider a healthy or robust company culture when your workforce is onsite. Remote work involves much more deliberate effort to achieve a similar result.
Today, companies are exploring all sorts of ways to create welcoming, inclusive, and fun remote work environments—from customized badges that recognize a job well done, to hosting synchronous happy hours and some wacky holiday celebrations, such as a virtual Halloween pumpkin carving contest.
Here are a few quotes that explain how to build a healthy remote company culture:
1. Building a healthy culture in a remote team—especially for those that are globally distributed—starts with thoughtful onboarding.
“We have an incredible Director of Culture and Development who is focused on developing a strong culture in a remote work environment. All new hires are assigned a Sherpa, someone that spends some time with that new hire over the course of their first month on the team. The Sherpa is not the new hire’s manager and is intended to be a friend or act as a guide for the new hire as they are just starting out in their new role. This program helps new hires feel connected to and that they are a part of and belong at ICUC.”
—Nicole van Zanten, Director, Marketing and Communications, ICUC
2. Just because you’re not working with colleagues in person doesn’t mean you can’t communicate often, or enjoy perks like workplace clubs.
“Our CEO holds an all-company meeting via conference call every two weeks. Many of our teams have short production or “stand-up” meetings each morning. We have a virtual walking club and a virtual book club. And of course, every day at Fire Engine RED is ‘bring your pet to work’ day!”
—Chuck Vadun, Communications Director, Fire Engine Red
3. Enabling employees to spend time off dedicated to handling personal matters is also a priority.
“We also hold events like our ‘REDuce Your Bills Day.’ Our CEO put together a tip sheet with practical ways to lower our bills, and then gave our team the entire day ‘off’ to call our cable providers, cell phone companies, insurance agents, and others to get better deals. (Our team’s annual savings totaled $25,000.)”
4. Many companies believe that incorporating face time is extremely helpful in building a remote team’s culture.
“At Toptal, we do a mixture of onsite and virtual events. Online, the company is like a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game). We always get a lot done, but it’s informal at the same time. There are constantly emoticons and even memes flying around in any chat. We’ll also do things like have a virtual company Christmas party with everyone on a massive Google Hangout (some dressed up in Santa costumes) in many dozens of places all over the world.”
“Onsite, we have lots of meetups going on around the world all the time, and we periodically have large core team events in exotic locations. We’ve done things like rent a villa in Thailand and a house in Africa for team members to come together for extended periods of time. We’ve organized a Toptal house for a big music festival in Hungary. Everything is optional, but many of us always go. There are also plenty of Toptal dinners and other events going on every week around the globe.”
—Breanden Beneschott, Co-founder/COO, Toptal
5. Group chatting services have revolutionized the ability to form bonds among teammates at a distance.
“We created Slack channels around interests, whether they’re work related (like WordPress), or non-work related (like our Dogs and Babies channel). People connect and form relationships on the channels, and these connections often continue privately. We also try and get everyone together physically at least once a year, and the regional groups meet more often to work together, grab a beer, whatever.”
—Cris Hazzard, Partner, Sanborn Media Factory
Yet, naysayers exist. There are those who believe that professionals can never experience a truly rich, robust company culture as long as they work remotely—and that the serendipitous interactions that come with onsite work cannot be replicated.
Remote work enthusiasts and veterans alike disagree.
“This is a common critique I’ve heard—that a remote company can’t possibly have the same deep level of culture that a physical company has. What I find shocking though about X-Team is that the culture we have is exponentially more powerful and healthy than what I’ve found at any physical company I’ve worked for.”
—Ryan Chartrand, CEO, X-Team
6. More powerful? Healthier? How can this be possible?
“Culture as it turns out has very little to do with physical presence. You can’t even count the number of communities that have formed online (entirely remotely) with incredibly strong culture. Building a business remotely with a strong culture is ultimately not much different.”
7. In remote companies, inspiration strikes just as often, and can immediately be shared one-to-one or in groups. In fact, this practice is actively encouraged by remote company leaders.
“We’ve been able to rally our team around ideas like ‘unleash your potential’, and have found ways via chat rooms to constantly inspire people to want to learn and grow by showing them ways that each person in the company is doing just that. We also have chat rooms for fitness where the team challenges each other to grow with their health. We also have a culture of high-fives, which means we’re always looking for ways to give each other positive feedback. All throughout the day, you’ll see people giving and receiving a “/five” (high-five) to someone on Slack for achieving something or helping them out or perhaps they just spoke at a conference. It’s such an awesome environment to be in when there’s so much positivity and warm, welcoming attitudes like this.”
Interested in building your remote team and creating a healthy company culture? Post a remote job.