The shift to working in fully remote or hybrid arrangements happened slowly... and then all at once in 2020. And we’re still figuring out how to deal with the consequences, both the good and the bad. 🤔
One major thing many employers have struggled with is how to improve their remote company culture. It’s no small task!
But don’t worry—this guide will take you through everything you need to know about improving company culture when you’re working in a fully remote or hybrid environment, plus six steps you can take right now to make real progress.
And if you think you don’t really have a company culture because you’re remote, think again. There’s always an existing organizational culture, whether it’s positive or negative.
Strengthen your team with this employee appreciation activity—impactful any time of the year.
Why remote company culture matters
While remote and hybrid work arrangements have a lot of benefits for both employers and employees (less money spent on office leases and commuting, more time in comfy clothes!), there are also some real challenges that come along with this change.
Creating a positive, supportive, and healthy company culture is one of them. These best practices for improving your company culture absolutely still apply, but it’s harder when employees rarely, or never, spend time together in person. A great company culture means that workers feel protected, connected, and engaged—and that can be tough to do in remote environments.
And since more than half of US workers would prefer to work remotely full-time permanently—and 35% would even take a pay cut to keep working from home—adjusting to the realities of remote and hybrid work arrangements is simply common sense for companies right now.
Simply demanding that all employees come back to the office so you can go back to your former company culture isn’t going to work—that will damage retention. But slipping into a less positive company culture while working remotely can also hurt retention and engagement.
That’s why a thoughtful, strategic effort to develop a strong company culture while working remotely is so important. And that’s why both CEOs and CHROs have said company culture is their top concern with remote work. But there are solutions that can help you tackle this critical task!
1. Ask employees what they think
The best way to learn what your remote company culture looks like today, and what employees would like it to look like in the future, is to ask them directly! We did it here at Bonusly—check out what we asked our employees about hybrid work.
The key to success in building a better company culture is gathering employee feedback. And it’s even more vital in remote and hybrid organizations because you won’t get feedback from those casual water cooler conversations from everyone.
Asking employees questions about what they value and how they’d like to see your culture evolve can be enlightening. ✨
For example, perhaps you’re concerned because the monthly office wine and cheese mixer isn’t working with employees who are remote—do employees value that social time, would they like to see it continue in a creative format, or are they fine with doing away with it?
Replacing or renewing those completely in-person events is a big company culture concern for leaders, but your employees might have a different view on their value and how to move forward. Asking them is the best way to find out how they feel.
2. Embrace asynchronous communication
The boundaries between work and life are often a lot blurrier in hybrid and remote workplaces—for better and for worse. There can be an expectation that remote employees are always available for questions if they’re online, or that they’re free for meetings because they don’t have a commute.
But expecting remote employees to be constantly available is a recipe for burnout and can interrupt deep work time and worsen work-life balance. To make your company culture more friendly to workers who desire more flexibility without being always on, rethink which meetings and touchpoints need to happen with everyone at the same time.
For example, could that weekly team meeting where you share updates be done asynchronously in a chat channel on Slack? Could that meeting to get updates on a project be replaced with a recorded video instead?
The point isn’t to replace all meetings with asynchronous channels—but to replace the ones where it’s not adding value so employees have more freedom and flexibility. It also benefits employees who are based internationally as well so they can stay in the loop without having to navigate different time zones constantly.
3. Set clear expectations
Managing and leading employees in a remote or hybrid environment can be a big challenge if you’ve never done it before. It’s vital to set very clear expectations for employees to help them succeed—it’s easy for things to get missed or for miscommunications to happen, and that can be damaging.
Setting clear expectations around working hours and availability, and sticking to those guidelines, helps you create a company culture where there are good boundaries between work and life.
You might consider having core hours so it’s clear when people are working and when they might not be. Encouraging employees to block off time on their calendars for deep work can also enhance their capacity for getting thoughtful work done without interruptions from messages or an in-office question.
Setting expectations around performance and career development is important too. If your managers aren’t able to tell employees what success in their role looks like—whether they work in-person, remotely, or both—employees might struggle to do their work well.
Clarity is good for company culture. People thrive when they know what is expected of them, and when they and the folks around them are held accountable for those expectations. And of course, recognizing and rewarding them for their hard work for meeting or exceeding expectations is vital as well!
Also check out: the complete guide to hybrid work strategy
4. Strengthen internal communication
Having a strong internal communications strategy is an underrated part of improving company culture. Completely remote companies won’t have the chance to have those informal catch-ups, and workers who aren’t in the office much in hybrid environments will miss out.
Sharing key information about your company’s values, organizational happenings and priorities, and news in a clear and proactive manner is essential—and it’s the purpose of internal communications.
Plus, your internal comms strategy can include ways to increase the connections coworkers have with each other across the organization, like sharing videos of new hires talking about themselves and their interests so their teams can get to know them better.
Internal communications can even develop culture-building activities everyone can take part in to build those stronger connections between colleagues and teams. And they can help leaders to communicate more with their organizations so they build better relationships and share their vision for the function effectively and often.
5. Avoid on-site favoritism
On-site favoritism can be quite a damaging form of subtle bias in hybrid workplaces. It happens when managers and leaders favor employees who they see in person more often. And since more people of color and women favor remote work options, this kind of favoritism can enhance existing hierarchies as well.
You can reduce on-site favoritism and the negative effect it has on your company culture by making an effort to ensure all employees are treated equally, no matter where they work. That can look like:
Holding meetings either entirely in person or entirely online to avoid disadvantaging those who aren’t in the office or your geographical location.
Keeping track of who gets access to career-boosting assignments so those who don’t get as much physical facetime aren’t left out of exciting opportunities.
Making meetings asynchronous or recording them whenever possible to avoid leaving out people who have commitments like school pick-up times or are in another time zone.
All of these tasks take work and deliberate planning—they don’t happen on their own. But that work is vital because it will create a company culture where everyone feels they have access to opportunities and information no matter where, when, or how they work.
6. Give everyone the tools to succeed
Working effectively in a remote or hybrid environment means that everyone needs to have access to the same tools and technology that make working, collaborating, and communicating a sinch. 👌
That can mean switching to software like Google Docs to make writing and editing together easy, ensuring everyone knows how to use all the most important features in Slack, or investing in project management tools like Asana to keep things organized and on track remotely. Finding ways to collaborate remotely can take some creativity, but more and more solutions are coming on the market every day to help.
Making sure employees have a comfortable, safe, effective setup no matter where they work is important too. It’s easy to prioritize employees who are in the office—they’re going back to their ergonomic chairs, sit-stand desks, and big monitors paid for by the company.
Don’t leave remote workers out! Giving remote employees a budget for office setup and supplies so they have the same healthy setup and tools as everyone in the office ensures they are set up for success and avoids that on-site favoritism we just discussed.
A company where everyone is given the tools they need to do their best work, contribute to company goals, and connect with their colleagues, managers, and leaders is one with a healthy and happy culture. 💚
Improving your company culture is an admirable goal, but it is a bit more challenging for remote or hybrid organizations. These six steps should help you tackle it and build the positive, supportive culture you need to get results.
Looking for more ways to engage your team? Check out this resource! 👇