HOW TO BUILD A STRONG CULTURE IN REMOTE TEAMS

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Thanks to present-day innovation and technology, the definition of ‘workplace’ have changed drastically. Having remote teams spread across the globe is the new trend.  

Remote working is bringing people from different walks of life together. You could be working from anywhere from home, out of a private cabin, or even from co-working spaces. However, the hardest part is, building a strong team culture especially when your team members are distributed across time and zones.

In today’s work environment, work culture is not just about team outings, team meals, it is driven by building a long-term business relationship that goes beyond transactional engagement. It takes effort from both employees and the manager to develop a relationship beyond borders. For the distributed teams, these remote work strategies and best practices will drive high performance, encourage diversity, and inclusiveness. There are umpteen resources including remote working podcasts and videos to help navigate the new model of working, however, we have drawn up this interesting list below to further add value to the hottest topic of the season.

 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 Why is building team culture important?
 6 ways to build a strong culture in remote teams
i) Keep your team engaged
ii) Give feedback and recognize efforts
iii) Use the right digital language
iv) Avoid micromanagement
v) Encourage cultural tolerance
vi) Practice active listening  
What to expect from the blog

The COVID-19 has been the greatest example of our lifetimes. There has been a huge change in our lifestyle as well as the way we work. Our new ways of doing business are going to be vastly different from how we were. Leaders and employees must evolve to a newer set of skills – Digital as well as Psychological skills. The leaders must foster communication and gain trust as mentors who can nurture collaborations. Empowering the team and strengthening the team bond brings long-term benefits.

Here are some 6 simple ways to do it.

But why is building a team culture so important?

Having a positive company culture is important because:

  • affects your team performance
  • ensures that all your employees are working towards the same set of goals
  • cultivates an environment of productivity and inclusivity
  • creates a sense of accountability
  • develops an open environment

KEEP YOUR TEAM ENGAGED

Often, the lack of physical proximity makes you feel detached and isolated from the rest of the team.

Cultivate a culture where you celebrate all your highs and lows together. Make it a habit to have virtual meetings even for non-work reasons too.

Talking to the teams

Make onboarding activities such as hiring a new member memorable and fun. Host regular feedback sessions, organize team-building activities, have lunches together on video calls, or even organize virtual happy hours.

Just like regular workplaces, casual communication is a cornerstone. Use channels like Slack and other remote work tools for informal conversations. This ensures your workforce stays connected and has a sense of belonging.

GIVE FEEDBACK AND RECOGNIZE EFFORTS

Since interactions are limited and virtual, giving feedback in a positive manner becomes challenging.

Each employee’s feedback preferences differ from one another. Some may prefer a simple video call for the exchange of feedback whereas some may appreciate a detailed email. On the other hand, employers too may have different behaviors when it comes to sharing feedback. One may give less feedback or too much; may give fewer details or too many; may give feedback just once a week or too frequently.

Therefore, use the right language when sharing feedback in the format that works best for everyone.

Here are 3 ways to exchange effective feedback

  • Be specific: Frame the conversation in terms of objectives, role expectations and also have multiple examples of the employee’s work.
  • Be understanding: Understand that everyone’s feedback preferences are different. Some may prefer a simple video call for the exchange of feedback whereas some may appreciate a detailed email.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate: Employees often feel neglected or that their inputs aren’t being considered. Managers must engage in one-on-one conversations to make the employees feel appreciated and acknowledged.

USE THE RIGHT DIGITAL LANGUAGE

The majority of your communication will be through emails, text messages, and video calls. Written communication can often be misunderstood as the tone and the intention behind the message could be interpreted in various ways. This could lead to ambiguity and passive-aggressive arguments. Or sometimes vice-versa.

Even body language plays a crucial role. To communicate effectively in virtual meetings, body language matters. Eye contact, tone of your voice, nonverbal cues, and appropriate gestures, all increase your ability to connect with your colleagues, build trust, and communicate most effectively. 

Conducting yourself properly over video calls could reduce the possibility of a conflict. It’s important to establish a standard digital language from the get-go.

AVOID MICROMANAGEMENT

Since managers in remote teams cannot physically go to the employees’ desk and check, they tend to unknowingly overcompensate. The need for constant status updates, frequent communication gaps, and lack of trust in the team often leads to micromanagement.

Here’s how you can supervise your team without micromanaging:

  • Have faith in your team and their capabilities
  • Individualize and understand that each member’s work method differs
  • Believe in your team’s talent
  • Give hard deadlines but communicate your expectations clearly
  • Give sufficient time and personal space
  • Encourage two-way communication to avoid passive arguments

ENCOURAGE CULTURAL TOLERANCE

Remote teams offer a unique opportunity of getting to know people from various cultures with different attitudes and opinions.  However, cultural differences can make working a bit more difficult or challenging.

There 3 keyways you can inculcate:

  • In some cultures, swearing is a part of their language. However, it is never accepted or encouraged in a formal set-up. Even if we feel remote work is an informal set-up, swearing can never be tolerable.
  • Food discussions are often termed as ice breakers. But we must keep in mind that especially in the current scenario with families around the employees, talking about foods can be a dicey subject.  
  • Prayer breaks, in some cultures multiple prayers are observed. In the remote working or work-from-home scenario, people might be taking better advantage of the opportunity. So, fix up the schedules after discussing with the colleagues and accommodating their limitations particularly during the festive, observance months.

The need of the hour is to inculcate empathy into our core company values. One should learn to be tolerant and respectful to everyone. Avoid conflicts by encouraging team members to be more culturally intelligent and open to learning

PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING

How often does this happen to you?

You are on a phone call or video call and someone tends to reply without completely listening to your point or jumps to conclusions without comprehending what is being said. Frustrating, isn’t it?

Listening is an important life skill. It fosters healthy relationships and also demonstrates attentiveness and respect. But listening is not just hearing.

One should engage in constantly when working remotely.

Active listening is when you concentrate on listening to what is being said, with a purpose to understand not just to reply.

How is active listening helpful?

  • helps you avoid missing critical information
  • prevents miscommunication by recognizing other’s perspectives and feelings
  • helps you to understand your team needs and interests

Developing a strong remote culture, where employees feel empowered and trusted is a continuous process. It requires time, patience, and hard work. But once you get a hang of things, your organization can keep moving the business forward successfully.

We really hope that these tips help you foster a healthy and optimistic remote work culture.