Many people wonder whether it is possible to work sufficiently in a remote team. Although the benefits of hiring a remote team are multiple, there are still many that doubt that it sometimes works better than having in-house employees.
One of the biggest problems seems to be building a culture – this is by far one of the most important aspects of the effective team. Is it possible to build it when you work remotely? Who is responsible for that? How to involve employees in this process? What does it take to keep all team members attached even though they are in different time zones? We are going to find answers to all these questions and will teach you how to build culture in a remote team.
If you have decided that remote team will be the best decision for your business, you need to start developing strategies on how to manage it successfully right now. The thing is that if you have never managed a team remotely, you may have only a slight understanding of how you should behave yourself. Even though you will get a plenty of recommendations and tips in this article, you will still need to work on this process on your own. Perhaps, your team will require some particular approach, and you will need to develop it.
In this article, we are going to discuss all aspects of building culture in a remote team and will try to find the solutions for many of the problems you may face in “creating a corporate culture”!
What is a corporate culture?
First, let’s define what a corporate culture is. According to Wikipedia, this is “values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization”. Of course, it’s only a brief explanation, but it gives an understanding of how you should treat corporate culture.
If we dig deeper, we will find out that company culture lays in the basis of any successful organization. It’s more about creating a proper atmosphere for work and developing good relations between the employees rather than just thinking about the values of the business — although both are important in developing a strong company.
The importance of corporate culture
If you have a great company culture, there are thousands of benefits. Along with the healthy atmosphere is the foundation of great teamwork – you will enjoy better productivity, higher quality of work, and reaching settled goals.
The culture itself is not the only things that is necessary for company success, however, it is one of the basic things you could use to help you build an effective team.
When we are talking about remote, or as they can also be called, distributed teams, the company culture has even bigger importance than for in-house full-time employees. Working remotely, everyone relies on task managers, voice messengers, and online chats. If you are able to build a proper culture between your employees, these restrictions won’t be a challenge for you, and moreover, your team may feel bound and responsible despite the physical distance between one another.
Approaches to understanding the culture
Before you start to build culture, first you need to understand it’s structure and how exactly it affects the life of your company. For our research, we’ve decided to take the results of Edgar Schein’s investigation. According to his statement, company culture is a certain pattern that consists of values that have been developed by a group of people who work together. The main mission of these values is to lead to success, and this point is determined by every single company case by case.
Schein insists that culture can be depicted as a pyramid having three basic divisions. The upper one is responsible for “artifacts and practices”. It includes everything that’s going on within the team. Many think that this is a culture, but in fact, that’s only one of the basic levels and it can be sufficient only interacting with the mid-division, enacted and espoused values, and the lower division, basic underlying assumption. Enacted and espoused values include shared statements about what is good and what’s bad, means-end, and cause-effect relations. The basic underlying assumption is habits of perception, thoughts, and feelings, along with explicitly defined assumptions about the way things are.
Now that we know the structure of culture, we may go further with understanding how to build it in a remote team.
Remote team and culture: are there any peculiarities you should know?
It goes without saying that remote teamwork differs from the in-house team work. First and foremost, if your employees are from the different time zones, the interaction will definitely happen with a certain level of delay. Although it may not affect the results of your business, it can be one of the negatives sides of building communication within the team. You need to remember about that when you look for the new candidates.
Additionally, you should clearly establish the level of responsibility for every single employee. Each member should carry some responsibility and be aware of that. In this way, you prevent the situations when something goes wrong, but no one can understand when that happened.
The third and important thing to remember is that you team members should know who is responsible for what. In big corporations, oftentimes problems are solved on the membership level. However, this is impossible within a small team. So make sure that you know that every single member of your team understands the field of responsibility of their teammates and what kind of work they perform.
Hiring a remote team: what you should know
If you are able to find the right people, your business will move into the right direction. You must be sure that every single member of your team takes a proper position and can cope with all tasks. You need to be sure that each employee is good with time management and self-control – sometimes working remotely can cause people to lose concentration and miss all possible deadlines without even noticing that.
If you want to build a proper culture, you should always remember that a remote team is just like an in-house team – the major difference is that employees do not come to your office. Thus, this team also needs a project manager who will control the quality of all tasks and will make a decision on the further development of company projects. A team leader is also key – someone who will be responsible for setting deadlines and holding people responsible for meeting them. If you have HR department on your team, it will be nice if they hold some training for the remote employees to breed the feeling of the corporate culture.
If your candidate shows remote work experience on a resume it may suggest that this person understands both the benefits and the difficulties of working with a remote team.
Onboarding process for remote teams
If you want to enjoy better business results, you should be ready to teach and train your team members. Here, we are talking in regards to both company culture training sessions and workshops to share skill and knowledge amongst all team members.
Company culture training sessions are important for sharing more about the company mission and values, plans and strategies of development, and even tell employees about some success stories and the latest accomplishments by individuals on your team or progress for your company as a whole. It works perfectly to motivate your employees and show them that the work of each single worker is precious and that it affects the general result of the company.
It is always best to hold such events from time to time as workflow processes are always changing and it is important to stay in touch with your team and make them aware of all changes that affect them within the company.
Remote management and productivity
The high technological era has made it possible to work remotely. However, to make remote work effective, you need to make sure that you provide your team members with all technologies that are important for both their tasks and to enable frequent communication amongst co-workers. These technologies will also be great to manage the team and increase their productivity.
- If you hold conferences and group calls all the time, pay attention to this technology. Zoom will be both great for team meetings and meetings with clients. This app has everything you need for succeeding collaboration, including interactive tools such as the option of sharing tools. This is probably one of the most popular messengers that allow both chats and video conferences. Besides, here you can share files and check the history of messages.
- It is vitally important to control how each of your team members works and how the results of their work influence the business development. Asana is one of the best task managers that will help you easily check the assignments and follow the accomplishments of the tasks. This is another tool for project management that will help you to organize the tasks of each single team member, and additionally to share files, chat, create events in calendars, and track time spent on every task.
- Google Docs. This is probably the best tool that you can use for creating files and sharing them among your team members.
All these tools will help organize your team and keep them well-informed about the tasks they need to accomplish.
But who is responsible for setting all the tasks, updating the event calendar and moving tasks from one department to another? We have already mentioned that your team needs a team leader, and this is the point where you SHOULD understand why exactly you may need one. This person will be responsible for managing the team’s work.
Communication with remote team
Understanding of your mission and values is not enough to keep the understanding of company culture on a sustainable level. Communication is what you need to pay precise attention to. When team members listen to each other workflow becomes more fluid and integrated.
Problems with communication can destroy your team. If you work in-house, it doesn’t actually mean that you can avoid all communication barriers. And if you work remotely, it does not necessarily mean that your team will definitely have communication barriers. However, even though the level of interpersonal communication is rather high in your company, never stop developing and improving communication within your team.
If you have noticed that your team has some problems communicating, you should try these suggestions:
Do you want to have a motivated team where everyone is aspired with the opportunities and is waiting for the best results? Never miss a chance to hold team meetings. They create an opportunity to share your latest insights, to tell about the best accomplishments of the team members, and to express gratitude for the work your teammates do.
With a huge number of technological opportunities, you may always hold these meetings in a virtual room, inviting each team member to join you. A good practice is to hold such meetings once a week to maintain communication without being too overbearing.
If you want your team to communicate using task managers only, you will fail. Encourage your team members to talk to each other while working by using messengers and calls. A team member who communicate to each other and try to solve the problems together, generally reach better results. Sometimes working on a task on your own is more productive but be sure that you get other’s opinions and advice when needed.
Frequently, one task is accomplished not by one person but by a group of people. In this case, you need to create group chats in the messengers that you use for work. A good practice is to create several groups where different issues are discussed. Also, there should always be a general chat for all team members where they can discuss the work issues. If you want to promote friendly relations, also create a chat where team members will be able to discuss issues that may not be related to work at all.
Good communication results in happier workers and contributes to the productivity of the company.
Professional development issues in remote teams
One of the biggest challenges involved in building a culture for remote teams is to make people confident in their career development. That’s why you should encourage professional growth and tell your employees to contribute when they can – suggesting new projects and offer their opinions on company decisions.
Ensure you can provide your employees with everything they need, including sustainable professional growth and a space for personal development.
Importance of recognition
Another thing that your remote employees need is the recognition for their achievements. If they work for you for a long time but get no feedback, the result is quite obvious – they may feel unappreciated. As a responsible employer, you probably do not want to lose employees to other companies. Therefore, you need to find the way how to encourage your team and recognize their achievements in such a way that make your employees feel like they are important to your business.
One of the best things to do that is to pay money rewards or all significant achievements. If you have no finances for such kind of encouragement, you may just highlight the accomplishments of some team members during the meeting and group calls.
Problems of burnout in remote team
While building a company culture in a remote team, you should always remember a problem of burnout. In fact, this problem is more frequently met than an inability to explain to your team members the value and mission of the team or searches of the best specialists.
When working remotely, no one actually can control how much time an employee spends on work and how many hours per week they spend working. In some cases, such employees get burnt-out in a couple of months.
The dangers of remote working are multiple and it’s almost impossible to define all of them in one post. That’s why you must talk to your team members whenever you can to make sure that they are still interested in their job, that they are satisfied with the payment rate, and that they get payment or recognition – or both – for every single hour they spend. Take care of your employees, and you will see that the benefits will influence your business to grow significantly.
We have created this article for everyone who has decided to give hiring a remote team a try and wants to preserve a company culture among the employees who don’t have one central office to come to every day. We hope that our recommendations will come in handy and you will follow them when starting to work on a remote team. Just do remember that every single person, as well as every single team, requires personal approach – so just be creative, talk to your team often, appreciate each employee, and always ask your team what they expect to get from you.
About the Author:
Charles Ebert is a career mentor, motivational speaker & human resources consultant with over 10 years of experience in HR sector. Apart from career mentoring, he loves photography and football. Find him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook & Google+.
Amara writes for TimeDoctor.com, a software designed for tracking hours and optimizing productivity for remote workers and remote teams.