Once upon a time, a desirable, fun office culture was simply something on people’s “nice to have” list, as far as what they were looking for in a workplace. Now that millennials are the generation with the largest representation in the modern workforce, however, it’s quickly becoming a “must have”.
Today’s young, talented professionals grew up in a different world from that inhabited by previous generations, and they have different priorities as a result. Hence the increasing focus on creating, cultivating and maintaining an office culture everyone—young people included—can feel proud to be a part of!
Even so, it’s important to understand that office culture isn’t just about creating a physical working environment team members can look forward to entering every day. With working flexibility become more and more important to employees and employers alike, how you manage your remote office culture is also critical to your long-term success. Here we’ll go over some can’t-miss tips for making sure it is everything you’d like it to be.
It’s not where you work; it’s how you work.
If you’re the head of a company where working remotely is a big part of how people get things done, in-office amenities are only going to go so far when it comes to keeping overall morale high and all team members engaged. No one’s saying you shouldn’t install that ping-pong table in the break room at your primary headquarters. What we are saying is that the work your team is doing has to feel worthwhile in and of itself so that everyone can feel they’re part of what makes your company great.
Make sure the meaning behind what your company does is the heartbeat of your office culture, both remote and otherwise. Start by considering the following:
- Think about how team members communicate with clients and customers. While speed should be a priority, interaction quality should be a bigger one.
- How do team members communicate with one another? What roles do emails or chat communications play in day-to-day operations, as compared to phone conversations?
- Keep in mind whether or not a good work-life balance is being maintained. When employees work remotely, it can become tougher to separate work life from personal life, making this particular concern extra important.
Decisions you make in regards to principles like these will go a long way toward shaping your remote office culture, so choose wisely.
Make access to information simple and consistent.
Take a moment to consider why the people in your physical office work so well together. At least part of the equation is sure to be the fact that everyone has the same access to the same information as needed. Your remote employees should be treated the exact same way in this regard.
Start by leveraging modern technology in your favor. With options like shared calendars, integrated software, smartphone technology and so much more at your disposal, it’s never been easier to get multiple people on the same page no matter where in the world they happen to be. Make sure everyone on your team is using the same resources, has full access to essential documents and knows where to find answers to any questions they may have at any time.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re fully including your remote team when it comes to any and all company communications. Ultimately, you want them to feel as invested and informed in regards to the company’s wins and losses as anyone else will.
Get everyone on the same page when it comes to office equipment.
If your brick and mortar office is like many, the chances are pretty good that there’s a common standard for equipment like computers, copy machines and the like. Make sure remote employees are made aware of this standard so that they can plan their home office accordingly. Having everyone use the same operating system, word processing programs, image editing software, multi-purpose printers and other applications cuts down drastically on possible glitches, miscommunications or incompatibilities between machines and programs.
Make sure your company is also covering the same expenses for remote employees that it is for on-site workers. Are all of your employees entitled to a free copy of Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop? Make sure your remote employees get theirs, in addition to regular updates.
Do you have an expense account to cover essential office supplies like printer ink, staplers, filing systems and so forth? Make sure remote employees get to take advantage of that, too.
Use communication technologies strategically.
There’s a reason the office water cooler is a well-known staple when it comes to general office mythos. Everyone needs a drink of water sooner or later, so it makes sense for the cooler to become a spot people gather to shoot the breeze, catch up and get to know one another. It’s the place to do everything from sharing thoughts on the latest changes around the office to discussing the big plot twist on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.
If used smartly, chat applications easily and naturally double as virtual water coolers, so it’s a good idea to encourage your entire team to use them that way. Remote employees and on-site employees can all get to know one another and build a rapport. It’s a convenient and simple way to maintain both professional and casual conversations over the course of the work day, as well.
Include remote employees in conferences.
Although email and chat programs are definite godsends when it comes to keeping people in the loop, occasional face-to-face interaction is still really important. Consider using applications like Skype and Google Hangouts to schedule and execute regular video conferences. It’s a great way to not only keep everyone on the same page, but make sure your office culture—both remote and otherwise—stays strong.
Don’t just include your remote employees when it’s time to get down to business, though. Consider organizing a team video call to share good news so that everyone can partake in the excitement and energy. It’s also a great idea to spend a few minutes at both the start and end of each professional conference call to simply catch up and shoot the breeze the way all people that know and like one another are apt to do.
You may want to consider flying a remote employee in every so often so that they can participate in day-to-day business functions in person, as well. This shows them they really are a valuable member of the team and that you’re grateful for everything they do for the company and for you. It also fosters a stronger sense of connectedness to the very real organization they’re working for.
Establish and cultivate workplace traditions.
Of course, making sure remote employees are included when it’s time to get down to business is a must when it comes to cultivating a healthy office culture. Nothing builds and nurtures office culture like ongoing traditions and personal occasions, though. Good examples include culture-loaded celebrations, like team member birthdays or holiday gatherings.
What better way to forge strong bonds with remote employees than to include them? The next time your team wants to plan a surprise birthday party for someone special on staff, get your remote workers involved. Let them help you brainstorm in regards to the details—everything from what flavor ice cream to get to what joint gift to purchase.
You can even use video conference technology to allow remote participants to partake in the celebration. In other words, special occasions provide perfect excuses to organize something meaningful as a team. Don’t let those opportunities pass you by!
Host a few friendly competitions.
While it’s important not to let special occasions pass unacknowledged or uncelebrated, you don’t necessarily want to wait to get your entire team connected, either. Regular good-natured competitions and office contests are great ways to get everyone chatting, bantering and interacting the rest of the time.
It’s completely up to you how you approach your company’s competitions. Just be sure to choose something that’s in line with your existing office culture, as well as the personalities of the people on your team.
For instance, maybe you’re a group full of film buffs. Try challenging everyone to come up with a little-known cinematic gym or a hilariously bad B-movie for everyone to check out each week or month. The person with the best suggestion is the winner!
Maybe you’re not so hot on movies, but all dig the same really awesome console game. Why not host a multi-round company tournament?
Just make sure that whatever you choose includes all the employees, including the remote ones. Also make sure things stay friendly. A cutthroat, overly serious competition is the last thing you want to encourage.
Consider establishing shared duties.
It’s not just the sharing of special occasions and good natured fun that encourages closeness and personal connection between team members. Finding ways for remote employees to share in various company duties can do the same thing. Again, how you decide to approach this is up to you, but ideally it will be something long-distance workers can participate in to an equal degree.
For instance, you can have each employee take a turn handing customer support responsibilities. This is a perfect way to get everyone collaborating on a professional basis, as well as encourage all employees to get up close and personal with your product. Plus, differing time zones—something that would normally be an obstacle when it comes to productivity—can be turned into an advantage instead.
Offer ongoing training and development.
Keep in mind that your on-site employees are presented with frequent opportunities to build additional skills or become even better than they already are at their jobs. They can attend in-house workshops or take advantage of chances to get additional training. If your remote employees aren’t presented with these same opportunities, they may wind up feeling “less than”, not to mention isolated.
Nurture your remote office culture by making sure all of your employees have access to the same development opportunities whether that’s a full-on education opportunity or a quick training session on how to troubleshoot printers your company sells. Thankfully, technology makes it super simple and easy!
Consider livestreaming on-site training sessions so that remote workers can sit in virtually. Virtual workshops and webinars are good options, as well.
Don’t forget team members for whom drastic time zone differences might be an issue. Consider setting up an interface where faraway correspondents can log on any time and watch the presentations on demand.
Make feedback an ongoing priority.
Office cultures aren’t “set it and forget it” deals by any stretch of the imagination. This is just as much the case when dealing with remote employees and virtual workplaces as it is with your on-site environment. Feedback is critical when it comes to assessing what’s really working and what isn’t.
Keep in mind that feedback is something that occurs organically in most on-site working environments. If you’ve done a good job of establishing your office culture, people from all authority levels feel comfortable shooting the breeze now and then. Quick or impromptu meetings can easily occur over coffee or even in passing in the hallway. With remote employees, establishing this same dynamic takes work.
Consider scheduling regular check-in sessions with your remote employees. Discuss their work with them on a one-to-one basis. Answer any questions they might have for you, as well as invite them to share any concerns they might have. Then listen to what they have to say and incorporate it into your vision for your company culture going forward.
At the end of the day, people want and need to feel heard by those they work for, even if they work remotely. They want to feel like their input matters and they need to be able to see where their speaking up made a difference in the way things are done. Plus, establishing a remote work experience that’s consistent with your company’s values and long-term vision is critical to everyone’s success. Explore the possibilities today!