Building a strong remote culture is everyone’s number one OKR today. But, how would one define remote work? Remote work is the freedom to work from anywhere, and it doesn't mean only working from home. It is also highly dependent on the company's culture. Culture is an environment that is derived from a company's values, beliefs, and actions. And it doesn’t always mean board games, foosball table or engagement activities, it is the feeling that a new joiner experiences in his/her interactions with colleagues.
So, how does one get started with building a strong remote work culture -
Step 1 - Integrity and Trust as core values
Richard Branson rightly said about flexible or remote working: “To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision. It is the art of delegation, which has served Virgin and many other companies well over the years.
Following this great advice, in a remote set-up people need to fight the urge to assume the worst and trust their team and colleagues to get a job done. People can surprise you with amazing results if they feel the trust and belief their leaders have in them.
Step 2 - Work from anywhere
Working in uncomfortable positions like a sofa or bed, can cause back problems and affect the overall physical and emotional state of your people. A comfortable chair, stable internet connection or extra monitor, whatever companies can offer to get employees set up for a productive work setup should be done on priority. Alternatively, for employees in joint families or for the extroverts in us, companies can release a monthly allowance to rent a co-working space for them to work in an office-like setup.
Richard Branson also said, ‘in 30 years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.’ Hence, once companies have decided to go fully remote, they need to upgrade to the best collaboration and documentation tools and technology to ensure a smooth workflow. Organization and time management skills with documentation is a must.
Step 3 - Objective Setting and Recognition
Setting clear objectives right from the company level to the individual level goes a long way in building an agile organization. In remote setups, documenting objectives, combined with a weekly or monthly progress check keeps employees focused and driven. This also helps them plan their growth and career maps, resulting in a self-learning workforce.
A defined rewards and recognition program is a must. And companies today must introduce new awards to suit their remote setups.
Step 4 - Employee Engagement and Well-being
Who doesn’t miss the water-cooler chats that keeps us updated about the latest happenings in the company? Here are a few remote activities that I personally love and recommend that bring a similar engagement: virtual team lunch dates, dedicated fun chat rooms, virtual talent shows and playing trivia.
Group innovation projects where team members are randomly paired are great learning initiatives to open up communication and help people build new friendships within the company. These projects also give people a break from daily work activities and the time to work on passion projects.
Working long hours without any human interaction affects our overall emotional and physical health. Promoting daily meditation and workout reminders through fitness apps and talking about well-being within the company can go a long way in promoting wellness. Providing access to a well-being counsellor and coach ensures that people have help whenever they need it.
Step 5 - In-person meetups
An occasional in-person meet up helps people learn more about each other. Companies can encourage people to get together for group activities like trekking, cycling or CSR in cities where 5 or more people are located.
Sprints or workcations can be planned for a particular project, where the entire team comes together for a few days to finish a specific project. Annual awards and parties can be set up in person where people get to meet everyone in an informal setting.
Step 6 - Leaders lead the way
Any big change in an organization needs to start with the leaders. For new people, building a bond with team members in the current setting might seem impossible. Hiring leadership coaches to guide during the transition period certainly helps. Also a trained and experienced leadership team that is equally committed to creating a strong remote culture will immediately put your company ahead in the game. It's important that leaders set a good example by actively taking interest in team building and engagement activities.
Lastly, the journey to build a strong culture is challenging but all it requires is the right way. Focus on opening communications and building friendships; technology to collaborate and communicate for faster operations. And once your people build the discipline to work from anywhere, ensure that they maintain a balance between work and personal life.