Most people believe that co-located staff have a more unified company culture and therefore sync better together as a team. This does not have to be the case. For any company, whether co-located or remote, there is no easy route to building company culture. It does not just happen overnight, even if everyone is in the same building. Every business has to work on it. Obviously, when teams are remotely located, different measures will need to be implemented to build company culture. With a distributed team, if you put in an effort you can build a company culture even when employees are located thousands of miles away from one another. Here is how.
Having a set of values is vital to the direction not only of your firm but also for defining company culture. You can literally create company values that boost company culture. Since your team is remote, it is not enough for one person to sit down and define those values. It is more valuable to involve the whole team, use Skype, teleconference or create a virtual meeting room so that everyone can participate in pinning down what matters most to the company.
Although it is vital to draft a document that defines your company culture it is also important to make it public in a deck that announces not only to employees but to the world, what your company culture is and post it online. You can even have company software designed to feature your mottos. Netflix gained notoriety when it shared its inspirational ‘Freedom & Responsibility’ company culture slides. The CEO and Founder, Reed Hastings, decided to publish these in 2009 and they acquired over 12 million views.
A co-located office naturally has a shared environment, whether it is the coffee room or the board room. Jokes and experiences are shared between staff over the course of the day and communication is continuous. As a remote team you might think that distance precludes that possibility, but shared space is easily available and open communication can be enjoyed. The internet and online communities offer many spaces where staff can interact. There are lots of tools that can be leveraged to create company culture. Make sure your company uses chats, hangouts, document sharing sites where staff can comment on each other’s work, social media or other online communities to share experiences, jokes, suggestions and facts with one another, as this will boost company culture.
Company culture is something you have to work on. You cannot just expect it to bloom without putting effort into it. You need to find ways to track staff and evaluate how company culture is evolving. You could request many things from staff to encourage them to share their sentiments on company culture. For example you could arrange a monthly email status update from every employee, a Skype group meeting to get feedback in a shared setting, or even send out a monthly survey. These activities should not just be focused on work topics but also overall mood as well as communication of any ideas. The key to company culture is communication!