How To Build a Remote Work Culture and Improve Employee Experience
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 01/13/2023
Table of Contents
Workplace changes resulting from the pandemic have encouraged employers and employees alike to embrace a remote work culture. But before deciding to have your team begin setting up remote offices, 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 off-site.
Every work group has a unique culture, whether by design or not. Organizations with strong company cultures set expectations on how their internal 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. In these cases, 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
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 remote employee experience is generally more positive. Also, employees with a favorable remote worker 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 remote worker culture comes with some inherent challenges. These include:
A range of cultures. Since hiring remote workers isn't 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 already exist in their workplace, and works to foster an environment of cross-cultural awareness, among both employees and managers.
Communications. Obviously, when employees aren't working on-site, the element of communication becomes critically important. Without high-quality communications in place, misunderstandings can occur that become costly to the organization. For these reasons, it's necessary to invest in the right communications 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 coherent and focused communications strategy can be the most 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. With this in mind, 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. 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 essentials:
- Laptop or desktop computer
- Reliable access to 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 is worth noting that some state laws often 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 “2022 Year-End HR Compliance Checklist”.
2. 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 written policy for digital distribution. Comprehensive remote work guidelines should include sections for communications policies and scheduling policies.
Creating written policies for your remote employees to follow can proactively answer employee questions and eliminate stress and uncertainty with a newly remote role.
3. Communicate Collaboration Expectations To Connect With Remote Employees
As remote work becomes more commonplace, the demand for remote communication channels has fueled an entire digital marketplace of communication apps 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. These can include:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Office Suite
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 during off hours
4. Create an Events Calendar
Calendar management is 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 remote employees. Give your team a motivational boost by adding fun and collaborative events to a shared events calendar.
All-hands meetings and team check-ins may not be all fun and games, but they still give your employees a sense of inclusion in the bigger picture of your organization's direction. Knowing these dates in advance can also keep them motivated toward finishing projects or hitting milestones to share with the larger team.
5. 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.
6. 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 employees 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
Thanks to technology, building a community in the virtual workplace is entirely feasible, meaning your remote teams won't feel excluded from the fun.
Manage Your Remote Team With Flexible HR Solutions
By providing your remote teams with the proper equipment and tools, 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.