Why culture is critical for remote teams
Remote team culture is not a topic too foreign to remote team leaders. If each team member’s talent is a block to building your company’s vision, team culture is what binds them together. Regardless of the size of your team, you will notice behaviour patterns. These patterns set the foundation for your productivity, communication and innovation.
In remote teams, a healthy team culture is especially important because of:
- the lack of prior personal interactions
- different cultural backgrounds
- the lack of common workspace
- asynchronous work hours and communication
All of the above factors contribute to a lack of trust and human connections. Therefore without culture, team members see each other merely as “someone who works with me” rather than “a teammate”. By instilling a team culture, the team leader provides a mutual understanding within the team. Given the mutual understanding, the team leader can trust the team to collaborate even with these frictions.
Challenges and opportunities in building remote team culture
On the one hand, the obvious challenge in building a remote team culture is the distance. Remote team leaders must seek ways to make up for physical separation.
Some companies choose to fly the team to one location for a company retreat every year. Others have weekly virtual hangout sessions set up. Thanks to modern technology, various remote team building solutions are available in the market, ranging from Conversation Cards to Virtual Scavenger Hunt.
On the other hand, remote teams have the opportunity to build it from scratch. As Wade Foster wrote on the Zapier blog,
“With co-located teams, it’s easy to ignore culture building with the expectation that it will naturally happen….With a distributed team you know going in that culture will be hard to build.”
Wade Foster from Zapier
In remote teams, the leader must have asked the question “how should we communicate” at one point. As they build up a system for communication, team leaders have the chance to instill a culture. The culture is embedded into the tools they choose to use and the types of meetings they have. While it is a lot of decision to make to set up a remote working environment, it is almost impossible to ignore the significance of remote team culture.
With the challenges and opportunities in mind, we put together a list of cultural traits that are proven effective for remote teams.
Trust in remote team
Do you trust your team to perform at the highest level when you cannot have your eyes on them?
The nature of remote working takes control away from team leaders. So what is left?
Mutual trust can take away the anxiety when you can no longer watch over your team’s shoulder. In fact, Loom believes that a lack of trust could harm your team’s performance.
“People have a tendency to gravitate toward the expectation you’ve set for them, and when a manager sets the bar too low, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that the team will underachieve as a result. “
Also, a trust-based culture allows your team to take initiative, knowing their team is behind their back for support. It gives them the space to tackle the problem with their expertise and creative thinking.
Memory, a hybrid team of 45 employees across 25 countries, described their trust-centric team culture as, “trusting everyone to set their own communication hours and schedules, and shape their days however they work best. ”
Mathias Mikkelsen, Memory’s founder and CEO, further shares that “Remote working cultures don’t work without equal visibility.” Memory team uses their own automatic tool, Timely, to capture and visualize their working hours.
Moreover, Memory sees the importance of human interactions in building trust. They have implemented daily virtual team breaks, #Fridaywin channels, regular one-to-ones and a rotating social events calendar. These regular virtual team building sessions allow the team to talk to each other just about anything.
With trust, comes empowerment
Empowerment is another key culture that brings the best out of your remote team. An empowered team is motivated and accountable with or without the need of any external pressure.
“Empowerment helps build the trust and motivates people to deliver above & beyond,” GoFloaters shares. Running a fully remote team since day one, Srivatsan Padmanabhan, GoFloaters’ co-founder and COO, also believes “Empowering people to set their own schedule and be responsible for their outcomes plays a very critical role in building a collaborative & positive work environment.”
Furthermore, to build a culture of empowerment, GoFloaters emphasizes celebrating the wins. In every team huddle, they celebrate even the smallest success. It provides connections and bonding in their remote team.
Make the collaboration happen
Lastly, a collaborative mindset is the key to unleash the full potential of your team. Most remote working companies choose to be remote to get access to the global talent pool. However, even Captain America needs to assemble the Avengers to save the world, your team also brings out the most innovations when working in collaboration.
Collaboration goes beyond All-Hands meetings or helping other when they have questions. Rather, a collaborative culture is a mindset of:
- “we” rather than “me”
- being open-minded to hear different opinions
- willingness to learn
- not afraid of being proven wrong
- being supportive of other’s initiatives
At Toasty, we believe everyone has an opinion to share. Though weekly All Hands is a big part of our team culture, more importantly, we have team meetings where everyone is an active participant.
For example, we use our Reflective Monthly Catch-up templates to allow everyone to share their opinions.
The ready-made template allows team leaders to gather suggestions in a spontaneous manner. Because the meeting is shaped as a sharing platform, our team members do not feel the pressure to give constructive feedback.
🕗 Remote team culture takes thoughts and effort to build. Learning from the three companies above, rituals and technologies are the foundations of remote team culture. To help remove the hassle so you can focus on the bonding your team together, Toasty has a number of ready-made templates to set up culture-building rituals instantly. Give Toasty a try today.