Online work has become more and more popular these days, with many employees preferring to work from the comfort of their homes rather than commute to an office. This is due to a multiplicity of factors, but one thing that is difficult to replicate in a remote setting is company culture. In an office setting, companies will often go out of their way to encourage water cooler banter, company lunches, and occasional gatherings such as happy hours or holiday parties. However, when a team is dispersed and does not have the opportunity to meet, it is harder for a company to promote company culture.
However, there are some solid ways for companies to make sure that their virtual teams have the best possible company culture. A great way to do this is through the use of culture-building moments. When a team is co-located, this is a lot easier, because the members of the virtual team will share similar values. Whether these are humor-based, regional, or political, it doesn’t necessarily matter as long as team members can find common ground. However, this is more difficult to do when having a fully remote team that does not meet in person and solely exists virtually.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to build culture virtually. One thing is to use off-topic Slack channels and Zoom meetings to allow everyone to get to know each other. Virtual happy hours of fun icebreaker games are a good way to get virtual team members to loosen up and enjoy each other’s company more. Even if there is no expectation of getting together in-person, these methods can be used to bridge that gap and put faces to names over email or Slack. Building these relationships is essential to making sure that virtual team members have created some sort of bond and are willing to work together as a cohesive team to achieve common goals.
It is a particularly good time to build remote company culture when you are hiring and onboarding a new employee. You can use this as a chance to culturally initiate your new hire. You can have older employees get to know the new employee through an introductory Zoom meet and use this to emphasize company values. If you truly have a happy virtual team, you’ll be able to determine that quite quickly in how they interact with the new hire. If there are issues, even if they are caused by management inefficiencies, you’ll be able to know quite quickly by checking in with the new hire and see how they are getting on with the job.
Building company culture in a remote company is not the easiest of tasks. Without the face-to-face interaction that the office provides, many people feel adrift from their team when working remotely and simply focus on the task at hand. Instead, companies need to be proactive at encouraging employees to interact with each other by using the virtual tools they have at their disposal. While these are not a substitute for in-person meetups, they do force employers to get creative and work hard to focus their company culture around their values and what employees are looking for out of their positions.