How To Build a Remote Work Culture and Improve Employee Experience
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 09/19/2023
Table of Contents
Workplace changes resulting from the pandemic have encouraged many employers and employees alike to embrace a remote work culture for the long-term. Before deciding whether this makes sense for your business, it's vital to understand how culture can help determine the failure or success of a remote team.
Developing a strong virtual culture for employees can lead to higher productivity, greater job satisfaction, and improved employee retention. To help set your remote teams up for success from the beginning, consider these tips on building a positive culture for virtual teams to help improve the remote employee experience.
What Is Remote Work Culture and Why Is It Important?
Remote work culture is a shared set of norms, attitudes, and ideas that structure how remote work teams operate. This takes the concept of work culture — a collection of shared attitudes, beliefs, and ideas that make up a traditional work environment — and applies it to teams working remotely.
Every work group has a unique culture, whether by design or not. Organizations with strong company cultures set expectations on how their teams should communicate and collaborate during the normal course of their workday. These efforts can translate to higher productivity levels and a sense of belonging and community.
Managers should focus on designing a remote company culture where virtual employees feel connected to the larger organization and to other members of their team. Employees and managers may benefit from:
- Reduced feelings of isolation among remote workers.
- Enhanced employee morale.
- More opportunities to attract new talent.
- Increased quality of work.
- Increased job satisfaction.
- Improved work/life balance.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to fostering a strong remote work culture is the potential for significantly improved employee retention. When remote workers feel engaged with their company, their employee experience is generally more positive. Also, employees with a favorable remote work experience may feel less temptation to seek employment elsewhere. These days, having a robust remote work culture is a key ingredient in attracting new job candidates and becoming an "employer of choice."
How Does Remote Work Affect Company Culture?
Building a culture for your remote workers comes with some inherent challenges. These include:
A Range of Cultures
Since hiring remote workers is less dependent on a prospective employee's physical location, it may be necessary to better understand the regions where these remote workers are stationed. A solid culture recognizes there may be even more differences in backgrounds and experiences among remote workers than those that already exist among on-site workers and fosters an environment of cross-cultural awareness among both employees and managers.
Obviously, when employees aren't working on-site, communication becomes critically important. Without the resources in place to support high-quality communications, misunderstandings can occur that can become costly to the organization. For these reasons, it's necessary to invest in the right communication tools and to establish effective best practices in this area.
Feelings of Isolation
This may be the biggest challenge employers face when building a remote team culture. It's easy for an employee who lives and works far from their company to feel cut off from what's going on within the organization. These employees may also feel a lack of connection with fellow remote workers. Again, this is where a cohesive and focused communications strategy can be effective.
Lack of Work/Life Balance
In our new "remote worker" era, the lines between work and personal environments can be blurred, leading to possible stress and burnout. Like their on-site colleagues, remote employees may feel frustrated or overwhelmed when personal obligations interfere with their work. Employers should be proactive in helping their employees find a healthy work/life balance, especially when they are working remotely.
How To Build a Remote Work Culture and Improve the Employee Experience
Building a strong virtual team culture and improving the remote employee experience takes effort, but you can set clear expectations for your workers with the right methods and tools. Here are tips on how to build a strong culture with a remote team and enhance the employee experience.
1. Onboard Remote Employees the Right Way
The onboarding process gives new hires their first glimpse of the company's culture. Introducing new hires to their co-workers and helping them to foster solid work relationships is essential when onboarding remote employees.
Most new employees will have questions that arise through the course of their workday as they become acclimated to their new job. Rather than popping by the office next door with a quick question, remote workers need to take additional action to seek out information. Rather than expecting new remote employees to take the initiative each time they're stuck, schedule time to check in with new hires on an ongoing basis. You could also invite new employees to sit in on meetings that could provide information they need to do their job, even if they are not ready to contribute to the discussion.
2. Set Your Remote Employees Up for Success
Big ideas can only come to fruition when you (and your employees) have the proper resources to support them. Building a strong remote work culture includes setting your employees up for success by providing them with the right equipment and tools to work efficiently.
The exact tools needed for members of your team may vary based on work tasks, but consider the following tools to engage remote employees:
- Laptop or desktop computer
- Reliable, secure access to the internet
- Paper and office supplies
- Quality web camera and computer microphone (if not built into the computer)
- Ergonomic desk and office chair
- Cell phone or virtual phone capability
It's worth noting that some state laws require reimbursement for necessary work expenses. As with on-site employees, businesses must comply with any differing state or local laws that arise when they have workers performing their jobs in other locations. To be confident that your compliance requirements are in order, take a look at our 2023 Year-End HR Compliance Checklist.
3. Establish a Remote Work Policy
Once your employees have the resources they need for working remotely, they'll also need guidelines on expectations during working hours. Create a policy document for digital distribution, and have your employees sign off on it. Comprehensive remote work guidelines should include sections for communications policies and scheduling policies.
Creating written policies for your remote employees to follow can proactively help answer employee questions and reduce stress and uncertainty that can come with a new remote role.
4. Communicate Collaboration Expectations To Foster Connection
As remote work becomes more commonplace, the demand for remote communication channels has fueled an entire digital marketplace of communication applications and tools. Having a variety of app choices may allow your team to find uniquely targeted solutions for their work style, but it can also be overwhelming to remote workers who are struggling to keep up with multiple channels throughout the workday.
Many of the most popular remote collaboration platforms offer corporate account options that make it easy for your teams to stay in touch while still maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
In addition to outlining which channels your team will use, your collaboration policies should also specify expectations for response times and posting frequency. Letting your team know where and how often to expect virtual meetings can further take the guesswork out of online collaboration. Clearly state your collaboration policies related to:
- Amount and frequency of meeting times.
- Which collaboration tools are approved for work use.
- Communication expectations, including response times and methods.
5. Create an Events Calendar
Calendar management can be important for setting incremental goals, increasing productivity, and looking forward to big-picture efforts. However, calendars filled with tedious work tasks and countless meetings can be quite draining for employees. Give your team a motivational boost by adding fun and collaborative events to a shared events calendar. Knowing these dates in advance can also keep them motivated toward finishing projects or hitting milestones to share with the larger team.
All-hands meetings and team check-ins may not be all fun and games, but they can still give your employees a sense of inclusion in the bigger picture of your organization's direction. Depending on your department budget and the location of the employees on your team, additional in-person meetups can provide opportunities to make remote teams feel connected and build better work relationships. Tacking on an informal lunch or other casual event to in-person meetings can also give your remote workers an additional opportunity to get to know their team.
6. Establish a Buddy System
Just like with your employees working in the office, regular communication with a work "buddy" can improve an employee's sense of belonging within your company. While this is likely to happen naturally for employees in similar roles or work groups, you can foster a deeper sense of team camaraderie by pairing work buddies across different offices or teams. This can give employees a better understanding of how other departments operate within the larger organization, improving their ability to collaborate effectively and accomplish work tasks with a "bigger picture" mindset.
7. Engage Virtual Employees With Creative Team-Building Ideas
With in-person work groups, team events may be commonplace for community building. A little planning can help you engage your offsite employees in similar ways through creative virtual events, such as:
- Virtual happy hour
- Ice-breaker games
- Virtual cooking classes
- Virtual coffee chats
- Online team board games
- Virtual show-and-tell
- Virtual volunteering
Thanks to technology, building a community in the virtual workplace is entirely feasible, meaning your remote teams won't feel excluded from the fun.
8. Offer Professional Development
Professional development opportunities can provide ways to help engage remote employees and potentially improve employee retention. Investing in your employees is a smart idea, and these engagement activities for remote teams also give them the chance to learn and grow in their career. Some ideas for remote teams include professional development workshops hosted by an in-house professional or an external expert. Training sessions can also help to connect remote workers throughout the company with similar professional interests and background skills. Mentorship programs are another professional development activity that can help employees advance in their careers and build a one-on-one working relationship with a more experienced manager or executive.
9. Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance
A healthy work/life balance can be difficult to maintain when you work where you live. Help your remote employees by encouraging them to set "out of office" time and take their PTO as needed. Additional ways you can show that the company supports work/life balance can include shortened summer schedules, half days, or company-wide closures. Review vacation schedules throughout the year and remind remote employees to take time off as needed.
10. Send Your Team Branded Gear
Most companies infuse their corporate culture into their office space through logos and other branded décor. For remote employees, you'll need to send the brand to them. Mail them a welcome package of branded company gear, like t-shirts, hats, or office supplies. This can help to create a sense of unification for those working remotely. Better yet, let them choose their own gear from a catalog of options and add your corporate logo to it.
Options for branded items include:
- Water bottles
- Duffel bags
11. Recognize Accomplishments
How you choose to recognize team and individual accomplishments can reinforce company culture and improve employee engagement. Remote workers may sometimes feel forgotten in the midst of company and team celebrations. Find ways to include them virtually, and make sure they're recognized for their efforts just as much as employees in the office. Gifts or rewards, even small ones, can be highly motivating to your remote employees. Send virtual gift cards or mail a small, personalized item along with a few sentences thanking them for their efforts.
12. Measure Employee Engagement
What's the best way to motivate and engage remote employees? If you're not sure how to answer that question, you might want to ask your virtual staff. Use surveys or informal discussions to find out what they appreciate most. You can then incorporate their feedback when you create future employee engagement strategies. Document the feedback you receive from employee engagement surveys and compare it to future surveys or polls to determine if any changes you make in your engagement strategies have made a difference for your remote workers.
Manage Your Remote Team With Flexible HR Solutions
By providing your remote teams with the proper equipment, tools, and engagement tactics, you can set your employees up for success and help them to create their best work in a comfortable and inclusive environment.
Take advantage of Paychex HR solutions to help your organization successfully support hybrid or remote operations.