Over the years, technology opened several avenues for pleasure and convenience that changed the way we live today. Some of the most notable innovations are the Internet, smartphones, and social networking sites. In the realm of the business sector, technology allowed businesses to enjoy the ability to store documents via the cloud, share documents online, and manage teams much better with the help of project management tools, among many others. The developments paved the way for turning working from home into a reality.
As we grapple with the unfortunate effects of Covid-19, remote working has become a recommended work setup to ensure safety. Statistics show that Americans working from home are now close to a quarter of the country's entire population. Nevertheless, even before the pandemic, the growing popularity of working from home or telecommuting is undeniable. According to a report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote working grew by 91% over the last ten years in the United States. The 2019 State of Remote Work that Buffer releases annually concluded that remote working is here to stay, with 99% of the respondents expressing that they want to work at least a few times remotely throughout their career, and 95% recommend working from home to the people they know.
The Lovely Side of Remote Working
In a Ted Talk video entitled “The Remote Working Revolution Has Arrived”, the speaker talked about how working from home breaks the Iron Triangle of Employment. The corners of the triangle are the place you live, your employer, and the job you want to do. In the absence of remote working, you can only pick two among the three choices. For example, if you’re going to do the job you want and stay where you live, then you will most likely only choose from a limited number of employers. On the other hand, if you decide to pursue the job you want and get in touch with as many employers as possible, then you will most likely need to leave home and transfer to an area close to work. In remote working, you can pick all three because the location is no longer a problem. You can do the job you want, work for the employer you wish to, and stay in your local area at the same time.
Other advantages of working from home are as follows:
- No commute
- Reduce work distractions and interruptions
- Be more productive
- Have time to pursue your passions or curiosities
The benefits of remote working for employees are relevant to employers as well. In an article from Monster, the author revealed that a Stanford Professor found out that remote workers accomplish more, work more, take fewer breaks, and use sick leaves less. As a result, employers get to save a lot of money.
Other employer benefits of working from home are a huge talent pool, more candidates to choose from, and reduced overhead expenses.
The Ugly Side of Remote Working
As you know, there are two sides to every coin. While various references are talking about the beauty of working from home, there are downsides to remote working as well. In the 2020 State of Remote Work, which Buffer made before the pandemic, it revealed that the main challenges of telecommuting were communication and collaboration as well as loneliness. Both garnered 20% of votes among the study’s 3,500 respondents when asked about the struggles of working from home. In addition to this finding, according to an article from the Harvard Business Review, remote workers wish to leave the company after extended periods of isolation.
Other challenges of remote workers mentioned in the report are as follows:
- Distractions at home
- Teammates are in a different timezone
- Staying motivated
- Taking vacation time
- Finding a stable Internet connection
Implications of Remote Working to Company Culture
Culture is something intangible and tacit. You just pick up the culture of a company based on interactions with co-workers. Instantly, you can sense which behaviors are accepted, rejected, and glorified in the company.
In an episode of Harvard Business Review's podcast called FOMO Sapiens, Author Dan Schawbel said that the best company culture is the one that feels like family. Marketing Expert Neil Patel, on the other hand, finds culture the most important thing in a business because it makes people stay, not free food. It also drives the company to greater heights. In remote work, however, it's challenging to establish a culture, more so a culture that feels like family, primarily because of two things: lack of moments for interaction and absence of in-person communication.
Relationships, such as friendships, take work. In the famous video of renowned leadership expert Simon Sinek, he explained that it's the accumulation of little yet significant moments with someone that you create a relationship with that person. In remote working, however, workers don't see each other. More often than not, they also don’t work at the same time. These conditions make it challenging to create those moments among virtual co-workers.
Additionally, it's undeniable that physical interaction is vital to forming relationships. Schawbel, in the same podcast, shared that in a study between the University of Chicago and the Harvard Business Review, clients see salespeople who shake hands with them as more trustworthy than those who don't. Imagine, someone can already harbor feelings of trust just by shaking the hand of another person.
8 Essential Tips to Establishing a Good Remote Work Culture
You’re now probably wondering: "So, how do I address the challenges of establishing a solid company culture with my virtual team?" After all, a good leader focuses on finding and creating solutions instead of dwelling on the problem. Additionally, it means that you recognize the benefits of working from home not only for you but also for your employees. So, if you are looking to start your virtual team or wanting to manage your existing company culture much better, below are some useful tips you can use to create a positive company culture:
1. Define Your Company Culture
The first thing you should do is ask yourself: "what kind of culture do I want to establish for my company?" To help you determine that, check out this helpful Harvard Business Review article entitled The Culture Factor.
In the article, you will learn that two things define culture: the way workers interact and how the organization responds to change. The way people interact can either prioritize independence or interdependence. The former emphasizes autonomy, whereas the latter emphasizes collaboration. On the other hand, organizations can either respond to change by favoring stability or flexibility. From this, the authors of the study came up with eight cultural styles, namely: Caring, Learning, Purpose, Enjoyment, Results, Authority, Safety, and Order. Some styles, when combined with another style, can work hand-in-hand. Simultaneously, some styles, when combined with another style, may confuse others.
Whatever styles you go for, make sure that it's for the entire company. If you go for Enjoyment and Learning, then it's Enjoyment and Learning for all and not just for your virtual team while your non-virtual team is leaning towards Authority and Order. In short, one company, one culture.
2. Create a Company Culture Deck
Once you've identified the culture you want to establish for your company, the next thing to do is to create a presentation about it. You can make a company culture deck and share it with your virtual employees, non-virtual employees (if you have any), and new hires during the on-boarding process alongside company strategy and policies.
Another thing you can do to reinforce your company culture is to make your deck available for the public to check out. Some of the companies that do this are HubSpot, LinkedIn, and Grammarly. You can also make your culture deck available for download on your website. This way, remote workers who are looking into applying to your company would already form an idea about you. Right there and then, they can decide whether they are a good fit for your company or whether they like your company culture at all, allowing you to save time assessing candidates.
3. Hire Appropriate People to Join Your Team
The key to hiring good people that fits your culture is a robust hiring process. Your Human Resource Team should know the culture you want to establish like the back of their hand, as they are the ones assessing candidates and bringing in new employees. Therefore, you must work with them and ensure that they truly understand the goals and vision you want for your business.
One right candidate that remote teams should consider hiring is a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are not only flexible to the needs of clients but also skilled in various kinds of remote work. Hiring one is like hiring two or more because of the many hats he or she can wear. Virtual assistants are especially a good hire for startups. With their skill and experience, they can help startup owners set up the processes to improve business operations.
Instead of getting a virtual assistant on their own, several business owners hire virtual assistants from credible Virtual Assistant Providers such as OkayRelax. As a result, they can skip the hassles of recruitment, as the VA Provider is responsible for providing them with the most suitable virtual assistant for their needs. The VA Provider can also provide a replacement quickly if the client is not satisfied with the services of the initial virtual assistant.
4. Create a Functional On-Boarding Process
Being a new employee is tough whether the work setup is remote or in a physical office. The on-boarding process provides an opportunity for you to make new hires feel included. To do that, you need to have a reliable onboarding process.
Make sure that the tasks new hires need to accomplish are clear to them. It would be much easier for them if you provide a list of things they need to do on their first day or even the entire week. Additionally, give them a copy of your culture deck and company policies.
One thing you can also do to make new hires feel included is to create a document where they can see everyone on the team. The report shall consist of pictures of every worker and descriptions about them, such as their hobbies and the best way to reach them.
Another thing you can do is to introduce the new hires to the entire team in your company’s messaging platform.
5. Run Meetings via Video
Every month, you can set up a video meeting that everyone needs to attend. During the session, you can talk about plans moving forward, introduce new hires, and open the floor for any questions or concerns. For a small virtual team, you can also spearhead weekly meetings to discuss every member’s accomplishments the past week, next tasks to do, and any concerns about their current responsibilities. This routine encourages accountability to be present and the completion of last week's assignments.
Before the start of the meeting, encourage a bit of social interaction by asking questions like how their weekend was. Virtual managers can also have one on one sessions with each subordinate for a much more in-depth interaction.
6. Provide Opportunities for Social Interaction
In a video entitled “How to Build a Strong Culture with Remote Employees”, Trello’s Vice President Elizabeth Hall shared one thing they do so their employees can know more about each other. Every other week, the company pairs four employees to go to a video meeting where they talk about anything except work. They can talk about family or even play a game. Through this, their employees can share personal stuff and start forming friendships.
Another thing that Trello does is to create various channels unrelated to work on Slack. For example, it has a music channel where employees can share recently-discovered songs or a playlist of their favorite songs. Hall also mentioned that they encourage everyone to greet everyone good morning on Slack when they check-in.
As a virtual manager, you might also want to have an open-door session via video or audio conferencing apps. It provides your subordinates an opportunity to talk to you about anything under the sun. You can make a habit of doing this every week.
7. Gather At Least Once a Year
Nothing still beats in-person interaction when forming relationships. That said, you should spearhead a physical company event where everyone in your team can finally meet. While it sounds like an investment, it’s worth it because it’s crucial to establishing a positive remote work culture for your company. It also improves everyone’s sense of belonging to the company.
If you have several members in your organization, you can also spearhead outing events for each team, so members of each group can strengthen the bond with the main people they work with.
8. Ask for Genuine Feedback
Finally, ask for feedback! Quarterly, send out a document to your team that aims to learn more about their feelings about the company in general. Emphasize that everything they share is confidential and that you won’t take anything they say against them.
The popularity of working from home is undeniable. Various research shows its benefits among employees and employers alike. However, remote working also has its downsides. One of which is the challenge of establishing a company culture among a virtual team. Good thing, there are always solutions to adversities. To address the challenges of creating a positive remote work culture, below are some of the things you can do:
- Define your culture
- Create a company culture deck
- Hire appropriate people to join your team
- Create a functional onboarding process
- Run meetings via video
- Provide opportunities for social interaction
- Gather at least once a year
- Ask for honest feedback.
Good luck! We see you turning the culture you want to establish for your remote team into a reality.