Remote employees can experience social isolation and lack of influence in an organization – how to ensure your company culture extends to your remote team culture
There’s no doubt about it, remote work is definitely on the rise. According to Ohio University, 40 percent of American workers telecommute regularly — a number that is only expected to go up in the next few years. Remote work has significant advantages; not only does it boost employee productivity, it also saves companies millions of dollars every year. However, there are also serious challenges that remote workers must contend with — and time and again these pain-points are overlooked by management.
Despite the freedoms that come with telecommuting, remote employees are often neglected when it comes to being included in the cultural activities of their organizations. Though in the past it was expected that remote employees would have to give up being involved in company happenings, that belief has become an actively exclusionary practice now that remote employees make up a larger and larger share of the workforce.
Two of the greatest causes of stress for remote workers are social isolation and lack of influence over people and events in the workplace. This is often because their lack of physical presence leads to them being left out of important conversations and culture-building activities. They begin to feel like outcasts, and disengagement follows not long after.
Replicating an in-office cultural environment for remote workers is no easy feat. However, employers who are serious about the happiness and engagement of their remote workforce must determine how to extend the company culture to both include and support them. It’s in doing so that communicates that remote employees are just as valued as on-site staff.
Though much planning and forethought is needed to make remote workers feel deeply connected to the company, it can be done.
Who Can Help with Remote Team Culture?
Everybody in leadership is responsible for remembering that not all employees are reporting to work under the same roof. Although it’s incredibly easy to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, that’s simply not acceptable when it regards members of your staff. They are human beings and worthy of notice.
Here’s how leadership can make sure remote employees are being included in company culture:
Though some may thrive in solitude, other remote workers struggle with being alone day in and day out. A manager’s part is to understand each employee’s personality, give them the level of interaction they need, and offer plenty of feedback and acknowledgement. They also need to regularly take time to chat without any agenda. This helps to make remote workers feel as if they’re part of the team.
HR has a particularly large role to play in company culture, especially when it comes to extending it to remote workers. HR promotes change and improvement to company culture through the collection, distribution, and application of employee feedback and criticisms. This process can either successfully improve company culture over time or, in the absence or mishandling of such efforts, corrupt company culture and cause it to become an unfavorable aspect of the organization.
The HR department’s role is to request regular feedback from employees (preferably via anonymous surveys) and then make certain that feedback reaches the upper levels of management. Then, they must ensure that it is received, accepted, and acted upon. Failure to take action based on employee feedback (whether it be to improve culture or employee experience) causes employees to become cynical, angry, and resentful — all of which negatively impact morale and engagement.
Members of the C-Suite have the authority to pinpoint dysfunctional cultural attributes and lead cultural change across the company. By accepting and acting upon the employee feedback provided by HR, they can establish new cultural axioms, be a role model by doing things consistent with these new beliefs, and reward employees who behave in ways that support this renewed culture.
What Can Be Done to Build Remote Team Culture?
Now that we know who’s in charge of what, we can look at how to go about making changes. Here are a few ways you can extend company culture to your remote employees while creating a positive environment among teams.
Listen, Listen, Listen
This is the number one way to make positive cultural changes and engage your employees. You absolutely must listen to them when they talk to you, and especially when they’re making complaints. When your employees take the time to tell you what’s not going right in their work life, they’re giving you the perfect opportunity to fix important issues and prove that their opinions and suggestions matter. If you fail to act on their feedback, they will eventually stop talking to you at all. Once that happens, you can kiss positive company culture goodbye.
Remote employees often get the shaft when it comes to internal communication. This can be remedied by making company announcements through chat or email, and ensuring all meetings are transcribed and sent out in an email shortly afterward. The latter is particularly important when dealing with conference and video calls, as they have a tendency to cut out or be hard to hear.
Proper recognition is a great way to boost both morale and productivity among employees. Unfortunately, leaders regularly struggle to show appreciation for their on-site staff — so it’s no wonder that remote employees are almost entirely forgotten. Luckily, there are a number of easy ways to make sure all employees are getting the recognition they deserve.
- Take a moment to extend a simple “good job” through a private chat message.
- A handwritten thank you card sent via snail mail can have an incredible impact on employee morale.
- Public recognition voiced during a team meeting or chat gives other team members the opportunity to recognize the contributions of their coworkers and offer their congratulations.
- Digital recognition programs such as Kudos or WooBoard can level the playing field for all workers. Gamification, virtual badges, and monetary rewards for employee achievements will show your staff that you truly appreciate their efforts.
Getting recognized for their accomplishments is the perfect way to demonstrate to remote staff that they are a genuinely valued part of the company.
Team building is an important concept in almost every office in America. So why is it that so many remote employees are completely overlooked in team-building exercises? To ensure remote employees are on equal footing with their in-office counterpart, you must create opportunities for them to work together and mingle.
You can do this by:
- Brainstorming: Hold brainstorming sessions in chat rather than in meeting rooms. Not only will this avoid the hassle of conference calls cutting out, it will also take some of the pressure off, encouraging everyone to participate.
- Donut Chats: Donut is a Slack extension that automatically pairs everyone in your company up for a non-work-related one-on-one chat. These chats can be scheduled every one to four weeks, and offer all employees the chance to get to know people they may not work with on a daily basis.
- Digital Coffee Talk: Once every few weeks, send everyone out to a local coffee shop and set up a video conference. If you’re feeling particularly generous, offer to pay for their coffee using Venmo.
- Get to Know Me: Have each employee write down 10 important facts about themselves and their families. They can also gather a few pictures of their partner, children, pets, siblings, parents, childhood, and so on. Schedule a “Get to Know Me” chat once a week with your entire team and have one person tell everyone a little bit about their personal life.
Remote employees need constant interaction to avoid the isolation trap and feel as if they’re really part of a team. By incorporating team-building activities into your workflow, you’ll find that, over time, your employees will start to build stronger bonds and collaborate more effectively as a result.
Just because your employees aren’t all in the same place doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Cultural activities that take place online are the best way to ensure everyone has a chance to join in the entertainment aspect of company culture. Here are a few ways to pump up the fun factor for all employees:
- Have themed picture contests in chat
- Play online games together
- Play Wikipedia games
- Hold an online movie night outside of work
- Play trivia or 20 questions in chat
- Start a book club
Fun activities such as these are a simple way to include remote employees while growing a positive company culture. Much like the team building exercises, participation in these activities will cut down on feelings of isolation and help cultivate peer relationships.
Inclusiveness is an integral part of company culture which is why it absolutely must extend beyond your office walls. By making sure remote employees have both a place and voice in cultural activities, you’ll demonstrate how much you value each and every person working for your company. With a bit of intentional planning, you can build a company culture that provides a fun, unique work environment for all members of your team.
Latest posts by Liz Greene (see all)
- 5 Things You’re Doing That Turn Millennial Customers Off - December 12, 2018
- 5 Constructive “Parties” to Keep Your Employees Engaged During the Slow Season - November 11, 2018
- 11 Things You Need to Do Before You Hire Your First Employee - November 6, 2018
- 8 Ways Your Small Business Can Get Involved in the Community - September 28, 2018
- 5 Ways to Stop the Spread of Sickness in Your Office - August 27, 2018