Building a Company Culture Remotely: Is it Possible?

When hiring a team for his new business, Menachem Eisen intentionally sought employees living in lower-wage locales, knowing that this was an effective way to save considerable money. However, he’d heard from other business owners about the challenges of using a remote team, in particular the lack of cohesiveness among staff members. When there are no shared work experiences and no office watercooler to schmooze around, it’s hard to create a company culture and sense of shared mission.

Is there any way for him to achieve this remotely?

Setting Up Your Remote Company Team for Success

The answer is yes—with a bit of creative thinking. Just like you need to put the right technical tools in place—such as Zoom, monitoring software, and shared drives—in order to make your remote team work, you need to set up the right frameworks and processes that will create an environment of cohesiveness, even remotely. Here are some ways to do that.

Build a Culture of Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication—when the two parties are not present and communicating at the same moment—happens all the time in a work environment through emails, WhatsApp messages, Slack postings, and the like. But often it’s seen as a supplementary tool to in-person meetings. By creating a culture where asynchronous communication is the primary means of communication, remote team members can feel confident that they’re up on things and in the know rather than feeling left out because they weren’t at a meeting.

There are other benefits to this as well. Many would agree that cutting back on meeting times makes everyone more productive and protects an employee’s hours of focused work, since they can respond to messages on their own time. In addition, writing out one’s communication has the advantage of forcing the person to articulate their ideas clearly.

“No Meeting” Days

Choose one or two days each week when no meetings will take place. This way, the entire team knows that they’re not on call and can use the time for deep, focused work in their home office, increasing everyone’s productivity. Getting rid of distractions can do wonders for a business.

Mandatory Staff-Wide Vacation Days

Everyone loves a vacation day, but no one looks forward to coming back to work and dealing with the mountain of unread emails. If you want to make your team really happy, give the entire staff a day off every now and then. Everyone comes back refreshed, and there’s no pile of Slack messages waiting for them from coworkers. To foster a sense of shared experience, you can ask each person to share pictures or stories of what they did on their day off.

Monday Morning Weekend Recap

“So, how was your weekend?” can be part of the Monday-morning return-to-work routine even if your staff works remotely. Simply setting up an auto post to Slack asking people to share a photo or anecdote from their weekend can go a long way toward creating personal connection between coworkers. Team members will learn about their colleagues’ families, hobbies, and lives.

Of course, when you have a team of men and women, you will need to figure out how to navigate tznius issues. This vital caveat is relevant to virtually this entire article, by the way.

Automated Orientation for New Members

New employee joining your team? Initiate them into the company culture right from the start with an automated email sequence that gives them all the important information they need to hit the ground running. This can include both technical details (“You’ll find what you need for XYZ in the following Slack channels”) as well as fun facts about team members, inside jokes explained, and more. Within a few weeks, they’ll already feel like an insider.

Meet Your Team on Your Company’s Private Podcast/Channel

We all know the awkwardness of those meet-your-new-coworker conversations, where you nod along as they rattle off their name, address, and previous work experience, all the while knowing there’s no way you’ll remember any of it and it will only get more awkward the next time you meet.

Instead, try creating an internal company podcast or channel on which every member of the team records a short interview of themselves. It’s a great way to feel connected to one’s coworkers from the start even when one only sees them on Zoom. That way, new employees can skip over the awkward getting-to-know-you chitchat and jump straight into, “So, you like mountain biking, huh? What kind of bike do you ride?”

Schedule Meetings Between Randomly Selected Team Members

Once every week or two, schedule a half-hour time slot for private meetings between randomly selected coworkers. This is not just a great way for team members to get to know each other, it’s also a valuable opportunity for business growth as your employees learn about the issues that coworkers in other divisions face. It’s amazing what creative new ideas may emerge when you look at the company through someone else’s perspective.

Treat Them to Retreats

Company retreats are a fabulous way to fast-track your team’s coalescence. The shared experience of a weekend away creates relationships and memories that will significantly impact team relations for a long time. For a company that works remotely, having such in-person meetups are even more vital. Many company owners are investing some of the money they save on not needing to maintain an office space into more frequent and higher-end retreats.

When planning your retreat, make sure you don’t fall into the pitfall of allotting too much time to work. Ideally, there should be an even three-way split between work and strategy meetings, activities to foster personal connection between staff members, and downtime for fun. Remember, you’ll gain much more out of the improved personal relations than you would from the extra time focused on work meetings.

To maximize this even further, ask everyone to record their retreat experience through photos, videos, or stories and upload it to a shared vlog. This way, the team can reexperience their shared memories for a long time to come.

Meaningful Group Project

There’s nothing that helps a group of people come together like being part of a shared mission, especially when it’s not work related. Have your workers select a cause that speaks to them, whether it’s raising money for a certain organization or undertaking a joint chessed project, and encourage them to take it on as a team project. Of course, you should do your part to galvanize them by providing them with significant funds to get it started.

The Wave of the Future

These are just some ideas of ways to create a cohesive team even in a remote company. Obviously, each business owner needs to figure out which methods would work best for their team setup; they likely can come up with many more ideas. Yes, building a company culture is more of a challenge when your employees don’t work in the same office. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or even very difficult, to create. People today are very comfortable with the concept of digital socializing and distance friendships. And, considering that remote working will become increasingly popular in the coming years, it’s worthwhile to think about the issue now and come up with viable solutions.

Want to dig deeper?

Try these related articles

Office Offshoring: Slicing Payroll by Hiring Overseas Employment

The New World of Work: Preparing for the Realities of “Location Anywhere”

Working from Home: Making It Work

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