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Creating and maintaining a strong remote team culture

One of the challenges that organisations embracing the ‘work from anywhere’ revolution face is remote team culture. Where do you even begin?

Workplace culture on its own is a big, daunting subject, but when you throw time-zones and wifi into the mix, things can spin out of control fast.

In this article, we’re going to lay out some practical steps you can take to create a remote team culture that your people love being a part of. Sound good? Have a scroll…

How to create and maintain a strong remote team culture

Roll out the welcome mat

When someone new joins your team, how do you welcome them? In a typical office environment, there’s usually ample opportunity for mingling with the new team member, getting to know them on a personal level, and quality time is spent introducing them to their new colleagues in a one-on-one setting.

How could you roll out the welcome mat for new remote team members joining your organisation?

Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Have an ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A in an online channel, like Slack
  • Ask the new team member to answer 5 fun questions at the beginning of their first team meeting
  • Book in Skype or Zoom calls with individual members to get to know each other

Prioritise personal connection

When managing remote teams, it’s more important than ever to put effort into an authentic personal connection. It’s also incredibly easy to avoid it completely.

When you don’t get to walk past someone in the hall and aren’t required to engage in day-to-day social graces, we can forget to take the time to build a personal connection.

Maybe you want to be more personable, but the pressure is on and time is tight, so you postpone your personal connection efforts for that ‘someday’ when you’ll have more time.

While that approach is tempting, I’d encourage you to stop putting off the personal stuff for a time when things are quieter. Things will crop up, and tasks will be added to your already never-ending list of to-do’s, so don’t put off having these relationship-building conversations any longer.

It’s important to focus on personal connection, especially in the early days of remote communication, as it builds a strong foundation of rapport which will serve you well in the future when you only have time for a brief transactional chat.

Create team rituals everyone can get involved in

A key element in forming a positive workplace culture, regardless of distance, is creating regular rituals that all staff take part in.

Although your remote team members may be scattered around the globe, it doesn’t mean that they can’t deeply immerse themselves in the collective spirit of ‘what we do around here’.

If you don’t make this effort to include remote-located staff in shared rituals, you will undoubtedly create a divide that will lead to some tough conversations down the track.

There are a plethora of apps that integrate with Slack that you could use to create a virtual team ritual that everyone can get involved with. HeyTaco! is a great option for creating a ritual around positive feedback and kindness.

Communicate clearly

One of the biggest challenges with remote communication is that with a greater absence of conversational cues such as body language, facial expressions, tone, projection and emphasis, we have a lot of blank space around what we say.

When you’re communicating with your remote team members (this goes for everyone in your team, not just the managers) err on the side of providing clarity.

Don’t assume that the message you’re typing is going to communicate your intent, desired outcomes and request easily. Go the extra mile and provide clarity during key conversations and encourage questions to be asked for further clarification.

And when you are planning a conversation with remote team members, opt for the most personal medium you can – video chat. If you happen to be a in a situation where you can’t do that, send a detailed email rather than a cryptic text message.

Create opportunities for team gatherings

We’ve noticed a similarity between our clients who have remote staff and high-functioning workplace cultures. Want to know what it is? They all invest heavily in creating awesome shared experiences for when their team get together face to face.

Sure, they may only come together as a team on very rare occasions, but when they do, they maximise the time and opportunity to connect deeply as human beings rather than just discussing job descriptions or delving into a strategy.

The legacy of these team days carries on long after the gathering and strengthens remote-team relationships like nothing else.

 

When you jump on a call, minimise distractions

Even when there’s an ocean between you and the person you’re speaking with, it doesn’t mean you should drop the important bits of a face-to-face conversation.

Undivided attention, respect, active listening, engagement: all of these are still crucial. In saying that, with remote communication there’s an increased opportunity for distractions.

To avoid them, you’ve got to do the little things we normally do that facilitate good face-to-face interactions.

  • Turn off your phone (or put it on silent mode).
  • Close your (many) open browser tabs.
  • Find a quiet space for your conversation.
  • Bring the earphones, earbuds or any other ear-thing so you can listen clearly.

Ready to put these tips into action? Now is the time to review the way you currently do things and set your company up for long-term remote working success.

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