How to Build Company Culture on a Remote Team

Over the last decade, the shift towards remote work has significantly altered the dynamics of how companies operate and maintain their cultures.This shift was intensified further by the pandemic, when virtually every company on earth went, well, virtual. Now, with an increased number of teams working remotely, the need to establish a strong, cohesive company culture despite physical boundaries has never been more crucial.

Defining Company Culture in a Remote Context

Company culture in a remote team is defined not just by shared goals and values, but also by the communication and collaboration frameworks and habits that support these values. Key components include trust, open communication, shared goals, and mutual respect—all adapted to a setting where face-to-face interaction is not the default.

Challenges of Building Culture in Remote Teams

Newly remote teams often struggle with creating a sense of community and shared purpose due to lack of physical presence, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. Additionally, maintaining consistent communication across different time zones presents significant challenges. You can't just yell across a cubicle or catch up around the water cooler anymore.

Strategies for Building a Strong Remote Team Culture

  • Regular Virtual Team-Building Activities: Engage team members with regular virtual meet-ups, not just for work but also for informal hangouts.
  • Consistent and Open Communication Channels: Utilize tools like Slack, Zoom, and yes, even email, to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Trust and Transparency: Foster an environment where transparency about workflows and decisions is normal.
  • Recognition and Celebration: Make it a point to celebrate both team and individual achievements to build a sense of belonging and achievement (this is what we built Teamsake for).
  • Ensuring Inclusivity and Equal Participation: Encourage participation from all team members and ensure everyone's voice can be heard, regardless of their location.

Tools and Technologies to Support Remote Culture Building

Leverage tools such as Slack or Teams for realtime chat messaging, Zoom for video calls, and Trello or Asana for project management to ensure smooth communication and collaboration among remote teams. There are others, but these will cover most if not all of your team’s basic needs. It doesn’t need to be complicated!

Successful Remote Team Cultures

  • GitLab: As a fully remote company, GitLab uses an extensive set of practices documented in their publicly available guides that promote transparency and inclusivity.
  • Buffer: Known for its focus on employee happiness, Buffer practices open communication and regular feedback loops among remote team members. You can read about how they do it here.
  • Basecamp: Basecamp, a pioneer in remote work, emphasizes asynchronous communication and access to a larger talent pool as fundamental benefits of building a remote company. Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, explains, "Remote working is not just working locally far away, it’s actually a fundamentally different approach to work, it’s a more trustworthy way of working, it’s more about asynchronous communication than realtime, especially as you go across time zones… Remote working just gives you another option. You get to hire people all over the world, and you’re not limited yourself to hiring people just within 30 mi of your zip code or home office. You can hire incredibly great people all over the place."

Wrapping up

Building a strong company culture in a remote team requires deliberate efforts in communication, inclusivity, and recognition. By adopting these strategies, companies can foster a vibrant and productive work culture that supports their remote workforce.

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