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Running a Remote Company? Don’t Forget About Culture

You can set the tone and create a great space to work virtually too.


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Marvin Marcano

3 years ago | 5 min read

In the last two decades, the idea of working remotely has grown tremendously from being regarded as an impossibility to becoming an everyday reality, especially given our current pandemic.

A few years ago, it was unacceptable to want to work from a location of your choice. You were deemed to be a lazy employee for even suggesting that.

Things are different now.

Working remotely from home has achieved full acceptance.

  • Flex Jobs reported a 22% increase in telecommuting just between 2017 and 2018.
  • According to the State of Telecommuting, remote work and telecommuting rose 115% in the last ten years.
  • Flex jobs and Global Workplace Analytics also report that the population that works remotely rose 140% since 2005.
  • Even Upwork estimates that by the year 2028, 73% of all the departments in organizations will have workers who will work remotely.

All these are based on the fact that the number of millennials in the working population is increasing day by day and is projected to contribute 58% of the global workforce by 2028 as opposed to the 38% at which it stands today.

Upwork’s numbers will all need to be re-adjusted, of course. In the space of 6 months, the world has completely changed the narrative.

What about culture?

But is it that we all start working from home and that’s it?

How do companies still achieve success with teams they can’t physically interact with?

What do business owners and leaders need to do so employees can still be happy and effective?

The answer to all these questions lies in one thing; having a great working culture.

Your working culture as a leader refers to the work atmosphere you create for your employees to operate under.

It entails the principles and values guiding your organization.

The working culture of any company or organization, particularly one that operates remotely, is key to achieving the organization’s laid down goals and objectives.

Successful companies like Baremetrics, Automattic, TreeHouse, Buffer, InVision, Zapier, BaseCamp, Groove and Help Scout all are close to or 100% remote.

Yet, most of these companies pride themselves in great work culture.

So what’s the secret?

Ingredients of Great Working Cultures

Hubspot in “The Company Culture Cookbook” recommended the following as the 5 ingredients that are required to define your organization’s working culture;

1. Your Values

Values cover the company’s core beliefs. This goes a long way in determining personal conduct and organizational success.

For example, an online shoe retail company, Zappos has 10 core values:

  1. “Deliver WOW through service”
  2. “Embrace and Drive Change”
  3. “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness”
  4. “Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded”
  5. “Pursue Growth and Learning”
  6. “Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication”
  7. “Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit”
  8. “Do More with Less”
  9. “Be Passionate and Determined”
  10. “Be Humble”

By defining their core values, Zappos established a benchmark of expectations for their team and customers.

2. Trust the People

Large organizations have smaller departments or sub-groups that vary in their functions and duty. But they still have to align with your core values. So in hiring people, you need to be particular about who you hire such that you only employ people who are able to achieve your goals and values.

3. “Company Policies”

Company policies entail everything from the responsibility of the employers and employees to the benefits and privileges they are entitled to. Company policies play a role in reducing job turnover and increase the efficiency of your workers.

4. “Perks, Benefits & Career Development”

In order to attract talented employees and retain them, an organization has to invest in perks and benefits that these employees stand to gain.

5. Your Workspace

Our physical environment has a lot to do with how we operate. Getting teams to collaborate and build a workspace that fosters creativity, comfort, and critical thinking impacts remote culture.

These ingredients would be required to develop your working culture. So, how do you apply these ingredients?

Define your Vision and Values

Start defining your core values. To do this, list out your aims and objectives. They must be genuine, achievable, and relevant to the company’s dream goals.

Now that you know your vision, how do you plan to achieve them? Write those steps down too.

Let them be known, both the vision and the core values, to everyone in the team.

And above all, as a leader, you must exemplify these values.

Commit to Communication

As a remote organization, you and your workers stand a high risk of feeling lonely and isolated. This makes communication a major consideration when building a great remote culture.

There is a range of useful platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Whatever platform you choose must fit into the working culture you’re out to create.

To foster communication, schedule departmental meetings, chats, video conferences, and one-on-ones between team members and/or yourself.

This would go a long way in building a high level of rapport and a strong bond between the team.

Lean into Leadership

Leadership plays a vital role in establishing a remote culture.

As a leader, you must understand that it is your duty to guide the rest of your team and to take total responsibility should things start to go wrong.

Leaders steer the culture.

Great remote leadership requires leaders to set clear goals, give teams space to work, foster initiative, and get into the trenches to do the work.

While this sounds simple, it’s the biggest danger to work culture if the wrong leaders are in position.

Teamwork

One area you cannot afford to neglect is the area of teamwork.

Great organizations are built on great relationships, collaboration, and teamwork.

Personally, I suggest you find a way to include it in your list of core values.

To achieve this, you can create avenues for the team to interact with each other, although they are remote. Team members are remote but should not feel lonely.

Encourage them to seek help from others, bounce ideas off each other, and create agile, cross-functional teams to work on projects.

Feedback and Engagement

It takes a lot of practice and adapting to new routines to understand how to lead and manage a remote team.

This is why feedback is important.

As often as the need arises, get your team members to analyze processes, KPIs, and leadership styles.

Encourage suggestions based on their analysis and make adjustments based on these suggestions.

It is necessary to keep your employees or team members engaged. This helps in fostering a healthy, positive working culture.

From time to time, creatively get your team members to come together to do things that aren’t exactly work-related. This will become more difficult with social distancing orders but in time, in-person team engagement will be more acceptable.

Hiring and Onboarding

Lastly, this is an essential part of remote culture building.

Once your vision and values are in place, be on the lookout specifically for those who fall into your values.

Hire for attitude and fit. You can always train for skills.

This is very important when you factor into consideration that they, the new employee, would be working remotely and will be depended on to integrate into the remote culture.

During onboarding, you have to expose your newly hired team members to vision and values. Take some time to let new members collaborate with seasoned members to gauge if they are indeed the right culture fit.

Final Thoughts

Remote culture should be similar to a strong in-person culture. Take the time to work on values, team collaboration, leadership, and getting the right pieces in place. Vision/mission is the destination. Culture steers the ship.

This article was originally published by Marvin marcano on medium.

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