Cultivating a healthy remote work culture is a continuous process that requires a lot of attention from both the company management and the employees. The idea is to build a community where everyone in the company feels empowered, and trusted so that they can work their best.
For scaling companies in remote team culture environments, here are some actionable ways to build a healthy remote work culture:
Define your remote work policies
When you are working in flexible remote work environments, chances are- your employees could perceive “work policies” differently especially if it's not written and explained to them during onboarding. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important to be as specific and explicit as possible so that your employees are working towards your organization’s expectations. Here are some important questions to ask yourself when crafting your remote work culture policies:
- How would you define your remote work model? Example: If it's Hybrid, would you require a specific number of days to work on-site in a week?
- Do you require your employees to be online for a certain number of hours every day?
- Do you require your employees to be available in a certain time zone despite where they are located?
- Will you let your employees create their own remote work schedule?
- Do they need to work onsite every once in a while?
Structured Employee Onboarding
Without a clear onboarding process, new hires can end up feeling lost in front of their laptops, unsure what to do. Thus, employee onboarding is essential to assist new hires in becoming productive members of the company in the shortest time possible, ensuring a higher rate of employee performance, engagement, and retention. So do you ensure that you can give the best remote employee boarding possible? Here is a checklist to help you structure your remote employee onboarding:
- Schedule a team or 1-1 online orientation to welcome new joiners and give them a walk through of the onboarding materials. (If necessary, make sure to personalize your employee onboarding based on role.)
Make sure to discuss the outline of schedule for the first week with clear expectations and also share all the online materials with links to team documents, relevant contact information, access to tools, and anything else your team uses on a daily basis including all your means of communication such as Whatsapp group and Slack channels.
- Create an automated onboarding email sequence
- Set up a virtual welcome lunch with their team
According to a Sampling study, employees who say they had exceptional onboarding experiences are 2.6 times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace. In fact, 70 percent of those with exceptional onboarding experiences say they have "the best possible job."
Transparent communication builds trust
According to a recent study by Instant Offices, 1 in 5 companies are now using employee surveillance. The study revealed that about 78 percent are using employee monitoring to track worker performance and online activity. And about 94% of employers track emails.
Being fully transparent about what’s being monitored, why it’s being monitored, and how the data will be used is paramount to a positive monitoring experience. This transparency provides employees with a clear understanding of their employer’s true intentions and mitigates the chance that they will assume the worst.
Transparency is how you earn trust. Practicing open communication and leaving little room for misinterpretation will encourage your employees to share their ideas.
One way to be transparent is by sharing your work across your team.
Feeling “in the know” naturally makes remote workers feel included, not only with their managers, but the rest of their team too. If you have information that is inaccessible to the majority of your team, ask yourself “Why?” If the knowledge isn’t sensitive, you may benefit from sharing it.
Define how you collaborate
According to a CBTS study, employees today spend 12 hours per week preparing and attending online team meetings. There are between 36 and 56 million meetings in the United States every day, and the lost productivity that comes from ineffective meetings costs businesses anywhere from $70-283 billion each year. So how can you ensure you collaborate effectively online?
Using asynchronous and synchronous communication
Occurs in real-time, where all parties are online at the same time and they’re expected to respond immediately.
Communicating asynchronously means the opposite; it doesn't require an immediate response.
Using asynchronous and synchronous communication can increase remote work productivity. But when do you use asynchronous and synchronous communication?
- Hiring and onboarding
- Brainstorming sessions
- Project discussions
- Client sales meetings
- Performance reviews
- Team building
- Gathering detailed information across teams
- Getting feedback
- Status updates that don’t require action
- Quick project updates
- Task management
Use the right tools
According to a CBTS study, companies in the US and UK waste about 21 minutes (figuring out their setup, and dealing with interruptions) during a 38 minute call. And the actual minutes they use for the meeting is only 17 minutes. The same study suggests that the long term success of remote work depends on whether you’re using the right tools to manage work.
Virtual workplace as a solution to effective online collaboration
Virtual workspace is a workspace where users are digitally connected regardless of their physical location. Virtual workspace like the Wurkr enables distributed teams to collaborate, communicate, accomplish work and help building team culture remotely and cultivate company culture within a single virtual workspace.
With all your communications tools easily accessible from your workspace, you can get things done easily—plus, you’ll save money because there’s no need to subscribe to lots of different apps. The use of a unified platform like a digital workplace can also help bring in a positive culture among remote workers and help them have a happier and more positive work experience by bringing teams together and making communication transparent.
Host feedback/1-1 sessions regularly
A Google research code named “Project Oxygen” shows that successful managers were more likely to have frequent 1-1 meetings with their team members.
“The impact of a one on one meeting is magnified in a remote work environment. The remote one-on-one meeting becomes perhaps the only face-to-face interaction that a direct report has with their manager, albeit via video. This rare exchange makes it all the more meaningful – and so getting it right is crucial.”
So how do you give and get 1-1 feedback? Create space for genuine and honest feedback that is 2-way. Employees often have unique perspectives on managers’ actions and how they affect teams. Use the 1:1 as a learning space where all participants can walk away with actionable and useful feedback.
Make it a weekly structured 1-1s:
Determine the agenda items of the remote meeting:
- Check-in and catch-up questions: “What can I help you with?” and “What have you been up to?”
- Roadblocks or issues
- Goal updates
- Administrative topics (e.g., upcoming vacations, expense reports)
- Next steps to confirm actions and agreements
- Career development and coaching
Meet for the 1-1:
- Be on time.
- Stick to the agenda, whenever possible.
- Give the meeting your full attention.
- Ask for feedback: “Is there anything I should be doing for you that I am not doing?” or “Anything I should be doing better or more often?"
- Review action items and things to discuss in the next 1:1.
- Ask "What else?" (It's surprising to see what can come up as an afterthought!)
Giving Feedback Using the Johari Window:
So what does the Johari Window have to do with feedback?
To use Johari Window when giving feedback, the idea is simple: everyone is encouraged to open up and regularly share their experiences and feelings. Ideally, you want to expand your “Arena” into the “Unknown” area as much as possible.
Receiving Feedback Using the Feedback Stairs:
The typical reaction towards feedback is to take it as a personal attack- so naturally we go in defense mode and ignore the truth of the matter. With use of the “Feedback Staircase” (as shown in the image above), we can be more aware of how to receive feedback in a positive manner which can lead to a stronger work relationship and personal development. Based on the “Feedback Staircase”, here are the five levels of receiving feedback:
- Discard the feedback: Always assume good intent. But if you think the feedback has nothing to do with you. You can always discard it!
- Defend yourself when you have to: If you think you are misunderstood, you can always set things straight
- Explain your actions: Share your reasoning behind your actions, I did that because…
- Understand the feedback, and accept it: Listen to the feedback
- Change, reinforce, or remain: Make your own conscious choice what you do with the feedback
Recognize your team in public
“Simply taking a few minutes to tell your employee specifically what you value about their contributions can have a tremendous impact”. - Harvard Business Review: The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated.
According to the same journal, “If managers could make a far broader group of employees feel appreciated, the benefits would be considerable.” Studies from Adam Grant and Francesca Gino have also found that when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive.
So how do you recognize the work of your employees remotely? The easiest way to do this is to ensure that during online team meetings you make time giving public recognition to at least one team member as part of the agenda.
In the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott (former Google and Apple exec) highlighted the importance of building trust in teams and encouraging employees to share their experiences through the “Whoops The Monkey and The Killer Whale” during all hands meeting. The idea is to
The concept of Whale: “The idea was to get people from the team to talk about some extraordinary work they’d seen somebody else do and own up to their mistakes . The winner of the whale the previous week decided who deserved the whale this week.”
The concept of Whoops the Monkey: “The idea was people nominated themselves for the stuffed daisy, who we named “Whoops.” If anyone screwed up that week, s/he could stand up, tell the story, get automatic forgiveness, and help prevent somebody else from making the same mistake.”