Due to circumstances beyond their control, many companies are shifting to remote teams and distributed work. Leaders are striving to make this new working environment as efficient and productive as possible.
This begs the question: “how do you develop team culture in a remote environment?”
Building a sense of camaraderie is an important factor in maintaining productivity in remote teams. Not only does it help raise morale in times of uncertainty, but it also ensures employees have the support they need to succeed as distributed workers.
In fact, in one of the most comprehensive work-from-home studies to occur pre-social distancing, Stanford University found that remote teams were 13% more productive than in-office employees.
Beyond that, the study found that work-from-home employees were also 50% less likely to resign, suggesting that remote teams experience greater job satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.
At eRational, our entire company has been working remotely for several years. We’ve built foolproof processes and internal procedures to make sure our online employees are as productive and efficient as possible.
A significant part of this productivity comes from fostering a sense of culture — something that many companies struggle to develop while working remotely.
With that in mind, we’d like to share what works for us. Here is a breakdown of five strategies to help build a sense of culture among remote teams:
1. All Hands Meeting
All Hands meetings are meant for everyone in the company.
At eRational, we hold a weekly All Hands meeting every Monday morning. Each of our team members join a Zoom video chat, so our entire team can meet face-to-face — even if just for 30 minutes.
This meeting is a chance for your executive team to present themselves as strong leaders, helping create an air of confidence, positivity, and optimism.
As well, it lets our executive team share “big picture” insights with all employees at once.
Even if the details aren’t directly related to their daily jobs, the opportunity for our staff to see how all of their work comes together gives all employees visibility on how their role fits into the bigger picture.
This helps foster a “team” mentality where we can all celebrate our successes together.
Not only do we dive into high-level goals and the current status of the business, but the All Hands meeting also lets us field questions from our team.
This creates an environment of openness and transparency — another critical factor in the success of remote teams.
Employees can share their ideas, concerns, and feedback with their leaders in a public setting, creating an open environment that sparks collaboration.
As a result, this All Hands meeting sets the tone for our entire work week, ensuring all employees are aligned and prepared to tackle their individual responsibilities.
2. Weekly Team Sessions
Whether you have remote teams or in-person staff, it’s easy to get bogged down by unnecessary meetings. That’s why we keep our meetings to a minimum — employing strict structures to stay on task.
With that in mind, another critical way to build a sense of culture is through Weekly Team Sessions for each individual remote team in the company.
At eRational, we have a weekly session for each department: sales, operations, marketing, and executives.
These meetings range from 60-120 minutes in length, so each team can explore high-leverage tasks and issues in more detail.
To start, we allocate the first 5-10 minutes to sharing personal and professional news. Each individual gets to share something interesting — on a personal level and a professional level — in about 60 seconds.
This fosters a sense of community — we are all engaged with one another and have an idea of what’s going on in each other’s lives. Our first mandate is to put people first, and this lets each person share what’s important in their life with their coworkers.
In tough times, this support and dialogue is absolutely crucial.
From there, we take another 20-30 minutes to share our individual and team priorities for the week. This aligns the team on key goals and helps identify common issues or roadblocks experienced by the whole team.
Finally, we spend the remaining time tackling 1-2 “big solves” — a significant issue or problem that requires 60 minutes of face-to-face collaboration.
This should be saved for only the most high-leverage problems, but it will pay significant dividends for your team in the following weeks.
3. Daily Team Scrums & Huddles
In an effort to maintain an open environment with plenty of communication, we also hold Daily Scrums/Huddles for each team.
This prevents deliverables from falling through the cracks and being overlooked due to miscommunication. It also minimizes confusion and helps the whole team align on their goals and priorities for the day.
The key to a successful scrum: brevity.
We aim to take no longer than 60 seconds per person, which helps us get straight to the point.
Rather than discussing what we’ve ALREADY done, our teams use this scrum as a chance to share:
- Their goals & deliverables for THAT day,
- Any roadblocks preventing them from accomplishing those goals,
- Their daily metrics & KPIs,
- And any questions they have for other team members.
This helps ensure every individual on your remote teams are aligned and have absolute clarity on their tasks at hand.
4. Virtual “Water Cooler”
For many people who aren’t used to working from home or being part of a remote team, this form of isolation can be lonely.
To combat this, our teams utilize a virtual “water cool” channel in Slack — our communication platform.
(Check out last week’s post for more info about tools to help foster communication within your remote teams).
This channel is designed for general discussion — individuals can share personal or world news, spark conversations about random topics, and have non-business related chats with their coworkers.
For those who struggle with the physical isolation of remote teams, the chance to simply chat with their team members and foster a sense of community is priceless.
In tough times, these general channels can also be a great source of jokes, memes, funny anecdotes, and other social discussions.
5. Weekly 1-on-1 Meetings with Leaders
Finally, whether your staff works in the office or you employ remote teams, weekly 1-on-1s are a great way to deliver and receive feedback with individual employees in a safe, constructive space.
Our teams employ weekly 1-on-1s, so each leader has the chance to meet with individual members of their team. This is a great opportunity to share praise and constructive criticism while also discussing their questions and concerns.
By incorporating this into your weekly schedule, team members feel like their voice is heard — regardless of their role or the size of your company.
For many employees — especially those who tend to be more introverted — large group meetings may be intimidating (no matter how hard you try to foster an environment of openness).
Weekly 1-on-1s give these people an opportunity to share their concerns in a more comfortable setting. If necessary, the recurring topics that come up during 1-on-1s can be brought up in larger team meetings, giving the whole group a chance to contribute to a solution.
This also lets you consistently track KPIs and share feedback on how individuals can improve without calling them out in front of their peers.
The result is a sense of trust and transparency between leaders and their remote employees, which contributes to increased productivity and performance.
Overall, your remote team’s productivity depends on the structure you — as an executive and leader — create for them.
The goal is to maximize communication, visibility, and transparency without feeling bogged down or overwhelmed by unnecessary meetings.
When done correctly, your remote teams can be significantly happier and more productive compared to those who commute to the office for work.
So, have you made the shift to employing remote teams?
What did you struggle with — and how did you build a sense of community and culture among distributed workers?
If you need help structuring your remote teams and setting your employees up for success, book a Growth Call with our team below — we can help!