Remote work is the future; it’s anticipated that by 2020, over 50% of employees will be working remotely. To remain competitive as an employer, it’s important to be prepared for this new workforce. You’ll quickly find that one of the biggest challenges with this transition is keeping your company culture healthy and consistent across all the various teams and time zones. Here are five ideas that can help you maintain your company culture – even with the addition of remote workers.

Design a thoughtful employee experience

You can’t copy and paste your existing employee experience for a remote workforce. There are many aspects of the standard employee journey that are challenging for remote hires. For instance, a remote employee can’t go out to a welcome lunch with their new team. They also don’t have the opportunity to turn to their deskmate with a question or have a casual water cooler conversation with a company leader.

That’s why there needs to be an employee experience that’s specifically designed for your remote workers, while still being true to your company culture. To help you visualize what this might look like: consider the remote worker’s onboarding experience, which can have a significant impact on an employee’s tenure. You can schedule video calls with the team, send the new hire a fun welcome gift, or have the CEO record a personalized welcome message. These thoughtful gestures can have a positive impact on the remote employee’s employee experience.

Take advantage of technology

There are a growing number of tools that make scaling a company culture across a remote workforce more manageable. Everything from communication platforms like Slack to video conferencing services like Zoom are integral to staying connected with people who aren’t physically in the office every day. There are even technologies like Donut, which regularly pairs up team members who don’t know each other well for virtual or real “coffee dates.” We use all three tools at HealthJoy to make sure all our employees feel connected.

Just make sure to take the time to train the rest of your team on how to use these tools as well, if they aren’t already familiar. You don’t want to encourage your remote employee to use one of these platforms, only to discover that his or her teammates are unfamiliar with how to utilize them – which can put everyone in an uncomfortable situation and block your remote worker from being successful in their roles.

Be considerate

Having remote workers requires the rest of your team to be extra considerate of their colleagues. There are small but significant things everyone at the organization can do to make sure remote employees feel included in the culture. If your organization values idea sharing, for example, you may want to think about how you can promote this on video calls. It can be awkward for a remote employee to chime in during a brainstorm if multiple people are talking at the same time or are having conversations on the side. So create a space for those who aren’t in the office to contribute to the discussion.

Or, if your company is big on being respectful of each other’s time, be especially thoughtful when scheduling time on your remote colleague’s calendar. Be mindful of any time zone changes, include a video link in your invitations, and make sure your meetings are necessary. Being considerate in these minor ways add up to making a big difference, and your remote colleagues will appreciate you all the more for it.

Celebrate your remote workers

Company cultures become stronger in times of celebration. Unfortunately, it’s easy for remote workers to feel left out of the fun. There are many creative ways to address this. For example, you can rotate the times that an all-hands meeting is hosted so everyone has a chance to join regularly. Or you can fly your employee out for a big company announcement so they can celebrate significant milestones with the rest of their teammates.

Also, don’t forget that your remote employees need to be recognized for their contributions, too. Whether it’s a shoutout on Slack or a personalized email, remember to thank them for their hard work regularly. And, if applicable, make sure they’re included in any recognition programs by nominating them for awards or putting the spotlight on their recent projects. All of these actions will help your remote workforce feel deeply rooted in the company culture.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is key to maintaining a cohesive company culture. But the need to over-communicate becomes even more pronounced when collaborating with remote workers. You may find it helpful to create a document that codifies communication guidelines for your employees. These guidelines can cover everything from Slack etiquette to best practices for providing project updates. Having a single source of truth for communication with remote employees will ensure everyone is consistent in upholding these best practices.

Also, if you’re managing a remote employee, be sure to check in with them frequently. You don’t have as many opportunities to chat with your remote employee over lunch or see them around the office. So you need to be intentional about reaching out to see how they’re doing and providing relevant updates – even beyond your one-on-one meetings.

There are so many benefits to welcoming remote employees to your company: you gain access to a much larger talent pool, you’re likely to have happier employees due to the flexible work environment, and you’ll attract a greater diversity of people to your organization. It takes time to build out the processes, structure, and culture needed to accommodate remote workers, but making these preparations in advance will set your company up for success when remote work becomes dominant.

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