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Company Culture – The Greatest Challenge For Remote Teamson 13 June 2016Posted by Andreas Dahlgren
Hard to explain, soft value and not something you can add to a spreadsheet: company culture, this all-encompassing “feeling” of a workplace or organisation. It can be how to behave, how things are done, customer care, and a myriad of other factors and definitions.
For the purposes of this article, though, we’ll define company culture as the shared traits, behaviour and values within a company – such as how people communicate, boss-employee interactions, and how staff treat customers. Normally, company culture is not built into your actual work, but into everything going on around you – chats with co-workers at the water cooler, shared lunches, informal meetings with bosses. Culture is built from the top down: what management do will be mimicked by employees. Note the choice word “do” and not “say”; actions speak louder than words.
The challenge with remote workers
There are two types of remote workers: those that work 100% remotely, and those who telecommute a few days a week. For the latter portion company culture is usually not an issue, as they spend a substantial time in the office already, but the first group is where some problems can arise.
It’s easy to feel distant from the habits and behaviours of the office when not sharing any physical space with your co-workers. Body language, for example, plays an essential role in human interaction and that is something that will be limited when communicating through a screen. There is really only one solution to this problem: meet up in person, but where this is not possible, there are ways we can make this less of an issue.
Clear definitions and rules
Managers of remote teams need to establish a clear framework on how to do things. It’s important to have everyone working in synch regardless of where you are located. Starting at the same time (working in different time zones is discussed below), understanding and adhering to company policies, and working the same number of hours are typical cornerstones of a cohesive team.
Right tools for the job
Relying solely on email for communication is a terrible way of promoting company culture. Email interactions exclude team members from the conversation and bury information in long chains of exchanges. The best collaboration software, though, is something else entirely, offers various advantages, and allows team members to quickly chat or video call each other. Contacting a team member should be as easy and quick as it would be if you were in the office together – this allows for issues to be quickly resolved and for relationships to better develop. Ideally, then, everyone should stay logged in and be visibly available as a matter of habit.
There is no substitute for physical interaction, and if possible there should be some even if you work remotely. Where feasible have remote workers come to the office for a week, or organise company-wide conferences where everyone can mingle and establish connections. The social aspect of working in an office is a large part of company culture, and having get-togethers is a step towards solidifying values. This is an investment in developing trust within teams.
Is distance keeping your teams from connecting on a deeper level? Check out these fun team-building activities for remote teams.
Create a link
Working remotely, information can slip by because you weren’t there – just as a day off work can cause someone normally in the office to miss out on something important. Often this will be specifically to do with a project, but it may also be related to policy, practices or procedures. So designate one person to be extra vigilant for missable information and have them responsible for getting it across to remote staff. Also make this person the go-to for queries about how things should be done and the remote team will be just as keyed into company ways as any other member of staff.
If the time difference is significant, you have to be strict about utilising tandem working hours. Schedule any meetings where all members are available, and avoid having the remote workers getting up in the middle of the night to attend an event. Collaboration software keeps exchanges trackable and manageable – essential for keeping everyone in the loop.
While developing company culture with remote workers is far from impossible, it presents a challenge. A tight team with the same values will definitely outperform others, so using collaboration software and applying a few simple principles will pay dividends.
Glasscubes is user-friendly collaboration software for businesses. Connect everyone that you work with in an online workspace which improves the way you share files, manage projects and communicate with each other. For more information please contact us by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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