Do you have a great remote work culture? Many leaders are thinking about this right now as they try to figure out how to deal with the coronavirus. But is it a trend that will end when the world gets “back to normal”?
I don’t believe so, some businesses may still have a structure where people can work from home in the future. Whether your employees work from home for a short time or a long time, it’s important to create a good remote culture that makes them happy.
But you can’t make someone happy against their will. Leaders can set the tone for how people should work and talk to each other, but they can’t make people do what they say. Instead, this is done by culture.
It takes work to create a great culture for people working from home. Even though my business is based on remote work, it had to step up its game to ensure employees feel safe and supported in today’s tough times. This is even harder to do if you have to start from scratch. Without a base to build on, your new culture in the middle of nowhere might feel like it’s sinking.
But it is possible to set up a quick but strong foundation. From years of building remote teams, I’ve learned the following:
A great culture for people who work from home starts with planning. Tell your team what you expect from them and what it means to you as a leader to work from home. Tell them how you want them to talk to and treat each other.
Even better, hire people who already have these qualities. Once these rules are set, it’s easier to give your team the tools they need to do well as they build on them.
Your team will do what you tell them to do. Leaders who tell their team what to do but don’t do what they tell them to do kill motivation and a positive attitude. I’ve heard this from people who know a lot about remote work. For instance, Help Scout’s Director of Talent Acquisition, Leah Knobler, told me that a leader’s values could affect a company’s culture, even if your team works from home.
Fun is the unsung hero of good work relationships that no one talks about. Some might think that remote workers slack off at home while wearing their pajamas and not being watched.
Most traditional workplaces have physical barriers between work and personal life, but remote workers sometimes have that. When they are at home, they are at work. It can be hard for them to stop when they are very motivated.
So, take some time to add some fun. Set up a party-like atmosphere and create team traditions. Use your creativity to mark important events. Then, even though you can’t force people to join, you can let your team know they can have fun.
People want to make a difference and help. Telling your team to “think outside the box” and making them do their work in a robotic way are two different things. From what I’ve seen, this can make people feel like what they do doesn’t matter because the expectations are already set. Let them feel like they can do things differently from what they do every day. Get people off the hamster wheel.
Great cultures grow in places that are open to them. People can only have a relaxed environment when they trust each other and believe what they think and say will be considered.
Could you tell the difference between a culture that works but is sick and one that is healthy and full of life? It’s important to be able to tell when a cultural trend is good or bad so you can change it. Hailley Griffis, a leader at Buffer, which puts out an annual report on remote work, taught me that a healthy culture is one that a leader has set up and that employees want to be a part of.
Watch how your team responds to figure out what your company’s remote work culture is like. Do they show you and each other they care? Do fun and positivity seep into channels of communication that have nothing to do with work? Are you getting a sense of who they are? Are you and they free to help each other? These things show that the team is coming together.
Great remote work culture is an unspoken call to work together. It comes from what people do and from what they believe in. It happens when each person knows how they fit into the whole. And the rest of the group picks up on it.
If your remote work culture is open and positive, it will spread on its own, even if things change as your team grows. So even though it takes work to keep it healthy, a good work culture will benefit both the company and its customers.
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