Guest Contribution by Tonille Miller
In addition to having the right technology and processes in place, you’ll need to focus on these remote culture elements to ensure remote work success.
People often think culture is having everyone in the same office every day. But what is culture? First, let’s discuss what it is not. It’s not the words on the wall of the reception area or the foosball table in the lobby. It’s not your inability to concentrate on work due to the smell of your neighbor’s lunch or because you can hear every conversation in your open-plan office.
Culture is the collective, intangible, ethereal implicit and explicit beliefs, behaviors, and norms of members of the organization (how people treat each other, response rate, timeliness, collaboration, risk-taking, candor, transparency).
Culture doesn’t require being co-located. I would argue that you can actually build a stronger, more inclusive and effective remote culture for remote teams because you need to be deliberate about designing it, embedding it into core processes and systems, and grounding it in day to day behaviors instead of letting it develop organically based on the lowest common denominator.
The key is to over-index on the frequency and level of candor to ensure nothing is left unclear. Some practices I’ve found helpful include:
- Over-communicate organizational updates and hold Ask me Anything sessions frequently. Feedback mechanisms are always important, but when remote, it’s especially important to prioritize listening and collecting the employee voice, since body language can’t be observed as easily as when physically together.
- In addition to regular standing team meetings and 1:1s, daily stand up meetings and frequent touch bases throughout the day allow managers to keep a pulse on what is going on, surface issues, and help their teams solve problems effectively.
- Establish which channels are for which topics (video calls for longer discussions/meetings, email for detailed updates, chat for quick
- questions, Slack for socializing, etc.)
- To make meetings more effective, at the start ask what people hope to get out of the meeting, and to make it more inclusive, be sure to ask for input from anyone who hasn’t contributed.
- To Increase engagement on large video calls, use chat, polling, and make and hold up note cards (“you’re on mute”, “I love that idea”).
- Be especially diligent about keeping your calendar up to date and respect the calendars of others so that scheduling will be seamless.
- Be highly responsive via chat and Slack.
( Also Read: 18 Reasons to Consider Remote Employees in 2020 )
When moving from the “you’re only working if I can see your butt in a seat” model to a remote one, clarity, trust, and accountability are king. Here are some ways to do it.
- Understand remote doesn’t mean every team member joins every call for 12 hours a day, but rather, work will be done asynchronously, which can actually increase productivity with the right clarity and accountability around handoffs.
- Trust your people and resist micromanaging them by rewarding results, not the hours they are sitting at their desk, which is no indicator of productivity anyway (hello social media and online shopping in the office).
- Use OKRs to establish clear objectives tied to the broader business goals and break them down into smaller lead measures to ensure projects and teams are aligned with the business.
- connect the dots incessantly for your people to make sure each person understands handoffs, how’s doing what, and how their work/output impacts other teams, end-users, and the organization overall.
- Ask for and provide feedback often so that performance issues can be addressed asap.
- Shine a light on what good looks like and share stories about it. This clarity builder doubles as a recognition mechanism.
Creating a sense of connection, belonging, and psychological safety should always be foundational to your culture, but in a highly virtual world it’s paramount.
Today’s technology makes the ability to connect, promote inclusiveness, and create a sense of community in a void of physical interaction easier than ever. Here are a few tried and true:
- Ensure every person understands the organization’s vision, purpose (‘Why’), direction, and how they fit into it.
- Keep an open Zoom meeting going so that people can hop in and out of it during the day to connect and catch up like they would in the kitchen or hallway.
- Create Slack channels that allow for the sharing of photos, stories, questions, tips, problems people need help with, etc.
- Hold virtual socializing events like game night, dance parties with a crowd-sourced Spotify playlist, daily pre-lunch plank offs, happy hours
- Develop micro-communities around people’s interests like book clubs, Netflix ques, recipes, marathons, etc.
- Hold weekly or monthly virtual all hands with updates and introductions to new employees
- Use an app like Donut that randomly matches people across teams or functions to have a virtual coffee or lunch
- Emailing gift cards for local cafés to remote employees for virtual coffee meetups
- Hold quarterly “togetherness weeks” where remote teams work together from a central location
- Instead of rolling out changes to the organization, involve a cross-functional and cross-level sample of employees in the co-creation of solutions and programs.
- Ensure you have a peer recognition platform like 15Five so that people can share in the upward spiral of recognition and community.
As an organizational psychologist, Tonille Miller has spent the past 15 years as an executive, consultant, and researcher advising and partnering with leaders to drive the optimal performance of their people and organizations through culture, people strategy, change management, employee experience & engagement, leadership & organizational development and strategic communications. She’s passionate about improving the human experience at work by designing and implementing strategies that enable people to be the most productive, engaged, and flourishing version of themselves.