Remote work environments provide a slew of benefits. Studies have shown that work from home policies reduce unscheduled absences, increase productivity, and allows companies to access a larger talent pool. However, having a distributed team also has its challenges. Maintaining company culture in a remote space is a common concern among business leaders. 

In pre-pandemic work environments, physical proximity naturally created opportunities to build company culture. Daily office rituals and face-to-face interactions helped to establish bonds between employees and determine business norms. According to Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, more than 80% of company leaders plan to continue allowing remote work at least part-time. This shift to remote or hybrid work environment will require an intentional focus on building and maintaining company culture. Without in-person meetings and spontaneous collisions that are typical in an office setting, leaders must establish new approaches to foster communication and culture. 

Here are five tips we recommend implementing to build and maintain your company’s culture: 

  1. Be intentional about creating meetings. Without impromptu chats at the water cooler or while heading out to pick up lunch, the number of times employees converse with one another throughout the day has dropped significantly. In addition to daily huddles and weekly catch ups, consider virtual happy hours or other virtual get-togethers that aren’t about work. Consider hosting quarterly virtual lunches to relax, play games, and connect, keeping all work-related talk out of the conversations. The objective behind these gatherings is about personal connection rather than productivity. 
  1. Incorporate wellness. With self-care, positivity, and mental health on everyone’s mind amid the pandemic, it’s important to support your employees and let them know that you are concerned for their wellbeing, too —not just their output during work hours. Think about getting together with an outside professional who can discuss wellness topics and address any questions your team may have. 
  1. Use your voice. In an office, employees are accustomed to visiting a fellow coworker’s desk to chat or ask questions. In a virtual setting, those walks have been replaced with emails and chat messages. Substitute some of those keyboard taps with a phone or virtual call. Utilizing both audio and video will help maintain connection. 
  1. Encourage others to use their voice. During real-life conversations, brief moments of silence create a natural rhythm; but on video calls, too much quiet can give off the wrong impression. According to ScienceDirect, delays as short as 1.2 seconds can make responders appear unfocused or less friendly. Help minimize these awkward silences by helping your team get comfortable with participating during virtual meetings. Encourage team members to contribute by incorporating a round-robin method during brainstorming sessions. During non-work-related calls, play games like, “Would You Rather,” or have an engaging question ready to inspire discussion. 
  1. Have a plan for new hires. A strong onboarding system will provide an employee with everything they need to be successful in their new role. This can be a challenge in a distributed work environment, especially if most of your employees were onboarded pre-pandemic. Be sure to make space for personal connection and ask for feedback. You can learn from your new employees just as much as they can learn from you. 

By implementing these tips, you will be able to build and maintain a company culture that keeps your team connected in a distributed work environment.