The new normal has pushed more teams towards work from home arrangements. And while flexible work setups can provide many benefits, it comes with a unique set of challenges. Two common challenges are maintaining a positive team culture in a virtual setup, and the lack of face-to-face interaction resulting in lower levels employee recognition.
Positive company cultures contribute to better employee engagement and retention, leading to lesser costs and even more business results. Studies show that 88% of employees agree that strong company culture is key to overall company success. There’s no denying how important culture is to maintaining strong dynamics in a team. So here’s how to build a strong culture with a remote team.
1. Be vulnerable
Trust is a foundational company culture remote employees must foster. Nothing builds trust better than remaining vulnerable. As the organization and team expert Patrick Lencioni of The Table Group shares, “A leader must set the stage for that trust by being genuinely vulnerable with his or her team members.”
When leaders remain vulnerable, they permit team members to be vulnerable and create a robust vulnerability-based trust that breaks down office politics and brings virtual teams closer no matter the distance.
With more vulnerability comes more trust, and with more trust comes a strong bedrock for a more positive company culture that has everyone looking out for the team’s greater good.
2. Be deliberate in showing gratitude
Maintaining company culture while working remotely also requires that teams maintain an attitude of gratitude.
According to a 2018 study, people who practice gratitude tend to have more optimistic outlooks in life, which then leads to better relationships and even better physiological health. Now imagine that across a virtual team-the atmosphere such an attitude would bring.
If we’re sincere, though, not many humans find gratitude to be second nature. That’s why we have to be deliberate about it. Teams can set moments in weekly meetings or even daily catch-ups to have team members share three things they are thankful for.
Another great practice is to have teams personally message other staff members to share one thing that they appreciate and are grateful for in their co-workers.
Bucketlist’s employee rewards and recognition program makes it easy to demonstrate gratitude to fellow employees, especially as it integrates with software you use daily such as Microsoft Outlook and Teams, Gmail, and Slack.
“Seeing managers recognize not only their staff, but staff in other departments is super refreshing. You don’t always get to hear recognition from a manager so directly, but having it in real time, ‘Thank you for what you did, great job, and keep up the good work’ has been amazing for morale all around the company.” Julianne Silletti, First Bank Human Resources Assistant
3. Celebrate each other’s strengths
Every team member brings a unique strength that can make the team better. Sometimes, you can easily overlook these strengths. As a result, online team members might feel less engaged at work.
A Gallup analysis shows that companies experience a 19% increase in sales and 72% decrease in turnover when leaders allow team members to work according to their strengths. Everyone has a set of strengths embedded into their nature, and allowing people to operate on those strengths can help boost morale and overall results.
And one of the virtual employee recognition ideas that bring out these strengths is to create systems and processes that celebrate other people’s strengths.
Have your team take a self-assessment test to discover what they’re naturally talented at and have the team come together to discuss those strengths. It also helps to hardwire this culture into daily operations by ensuring that a person’s tasks and responsibilities line up with his or her strengths.
4. Cultivate a culture of honor
Employee recognition remains one of the most underrated company practices today, most especially with virtual teams. Most online teams don’t have any facilities, tools, or programs to foster a culture of honor through employee recognition. But recognition goes a long way for team members and the team as a whole.
When teams focus on a culture of honor, there are lesser factions and “corridor discussions.” There are more healthy discourses and more room for accountability and openness to one another. Employee recognition also empowers individuals by making them feel appreciated and noticed, filling them up with the affirmation that will motivate them to work harder.
You can use a software like Bucketlist Rewards to optimize employee recognition and rewards through peer-and-manager recognition, customizable reward boards and automated milestones and rewards, among others.
5. Clarify company core values
A company’s core values are employees’ guidelines on how they are to behave and act at work. It helps clarify what characteristics and beliefs will set them up for success in the team. Every company must create a list of core values that will serve as a barometer for team unity and synergy.
Core values help teams understand what is important and what is not. This illumination, in turn, allows members of a team to work towards how a team should behave.
Should team members be open-minded, honest, professional, innovative, adventurous, caring, compassionate, or family-oriented? There are literally thousands of values, and while most of them are positive and helpful, your company must be transparent on the ones that really matter most.
Don’t be too vague or inclusive when creating your list. The more values you have, the less valuable those core values will be.
To learn how to create core values, check out our article Creating the Right Company Culture through Values.
As people traversed through the pressures and anxieties that COVID-19 brought about, many people who worked from home experienced greater mental stress. Some employees had to balance work and home-homeschooling the kids, taking care of the elderly, managing the household, and taking on a full-time home-based job.
The rate of workplace burnout increased heavily due to the pandemic. And while there is only so much that leaders can do for their staff, sometimes the small practices bring the biggest impact.
One simple way that has helped alleviate the stress and pressure for most is a listening ear. When leaders are quick to listen and slow to respond, they can provide the necessary emotional support to help turn the company’s environment into a lighter and more supportive one.
Take time regularly to have your team members air out concerns, even non-work-related ones, in a safe virtual space absent of any prejudgment or need to achieve any business metrics.
7. Make people understand how they impact others
Learning how to maintain company culture remotely involves learning how to motivate staff. And one effective way to increase morale is to make people feel that their work actually matters.
Sharing testimonials from clients and customers whose staff had direct work with can help make team members understand their impact on the team and the people they serve.
Within everyone is an innate desire to participate and pitch-in. By reminding virtual employees how they help others, we make them see how crucial their role is to customer and business success.
Share stories from clients who appreciated a staff member’s customer service or reported positive results that a team member’s innovative idea produced.
8. Automate with online tools
As teams transform into virtual ones, the world of human resources and people development also starts to look a little more digital. Many tools and software solutions can help teams manage, automate, and run employee recognition and reward programs online.
There is an HR software list from FinancesOnline that leaders and management in human resources can look into. Using these tools, leaders can save time and energy having to manage online teams and activities that will help build positive virtual team culture.
Strong Virtual Teams Make Strong Virtual Companies
Learning how to build strong remote teams entails building strong company culture even in online settings. While some might find it hard to maintain that culture without a physical presence, it is not impossible. With the right practices and tools and a whole lot of deliberate effort, leaders can build up virtual teams for success by fostering a positive culture and employee recognition online. As teams learn to develop this culture, virtual companies will benefit greatly from it.