Maintaining a Strong Company Culture With Remote Employees: Key Strategies for Leaders

Even before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses worldwide were moving toward remote and hybrid workforces. With the rise in digital technologies and productivity tools, the trend of remote work continues to grow. In fact, by 2028, it’s estimated that 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers (1).

This major shift in how businesses operate is shaping how employees feel about their employers and their working environment. Business leaders are also feeling the impact; according to global consulting firm PwC, 36 percent of executives say the loss of corporate culture is the biggest challenge to hybrid work (2).

Leaders have been forced to experiment with new communication and management strategies to motivate remote employees and optimize productivity.

Strategies for Maintaining a Strong Company Culture With Remote Employees

Every leader has a different approach to the way that they manage their remote team and build a healthier company culture, but the following nine strategies are a good place to start:

1. Promote Your Culture

When you have distributed teams, it’s especially important to create a document outlining your company’s culture. Crucially, all employees should have easy access to it. The document is not only a handy reference guide for existing employees, but it can also be used when onboarding new hires. It should clarify the company’s values and mission, explain how employees are expected to behave and perform, and outline how the company intends to support employees in the short and long term.

As company culture naturally evolves over time, leaders should regularly reassess and refresh the document. They should also encourage feedback and welcome contributions from all employees to generate a shared sense of ownership.

2. Establish Communication and Collaboration Norms

With fewer face-to-face interactions, miscommunication can become a recurring issue in hybrid workforces. As a result, working relationships and productivity can suffer. This is why leaders need to create communication and collaboration instructions that everyone can adhere to. The guide should outline:
• Existing communications tools.
• Which channels and tools should be used for different types of communication.
• Email etiquette.
• Chat best practices.
• Response time frames.
• Working hours.

Leaders should emphasize the document’s importance and deliver it to all employees. Setting these standards will minimize miscommunication, make collaboration more efficient, and improve team productivity.

3. Be Transparent

If employees suspect that they’re being kept in the dark about company plans and new developments, they’ll feel less secure in their roles and less motivated to perform well. A lack of transparency from leadership can fuel unnecessary rumors, erode trust in management, and also exacerbate mental health issues.

Delivering a company-wide newsletter is a good start, where leaders can share company news and highlight the goals and achievements of various departments. However, it’s also important to provide employees with a forum to discuss company issues. In-person meetings, where leaders encourage honest and diverse opinions will help employees feel more empowered and improve team cohesion.

4. Prioritize Face-to-Face Meetings

When in-person meetings aren’t possible, video meetings are the next best thing. While you’re not in the same physical environment as the other person, you can still see their facial expression, hear their tone of voice, and pick up on body language signals.

Managers should set aside time to meet individually with employees via video, at least weekly. Some managers find that daily group video meetings are a good way to start working days, whereas others prefer staggered meetings throughout the week to update team members and receive feedback. Whatever the schedule, face-to-face meetings should be used to promote teamwork, celebrate achievements, and clarify goals.

5. Create an Online Office Culture

As more companies adopt a remote or hybrid work model, it has become more difficult for remote workers to bond with their peers through casual conversations. This lack of social interaction between employees can undermine teamwork. However, leaders can still build an office culture online to strengthen social connections. Here are a few ideas:
• Establish non-work-related communication channels where employees can chat in an informal setting.
• Encourage employees to lunch together or take coffee breaks virtually.
• Celebrate birthdays with short virtual birthday parties.
• Hold game nights for employees and their partners.
• Host a virtual happy hour at the end of each week.

These social connection times will provide a supportive environment for individuals and ultimately help to strengthen team bonds.

6. Get Regular Feedback

According to a recent report from the Achievers Workforce Institute, almost half of organizations only conduct employee engagement surveys once per year (3). Put simply, many companies are failing to gather regular feedback to understand the needs and expectations of employees.

To address this issue, leaders should set up frequent feedback forms to capture the attitudes and opinions of all employees. What do employees like and dislike about the current culture? Are they satisfied with existing collaboration tools? What are their communication preferences? All of these questions and more can be answered through frequent surveys. Crucially, leaders should carefully analyze the feedback and then take steps to address employee concerns.

7. Use Recognition to Motivate Employees

Recognizing employee achievements is key to improving employee engagement and performance levels. According to research from Deloitte, employee engagement, productivity, and performance are 14 percent higher in organizations with recognition strategies in place compared to those without (4). In short, when employees feel that their work is appreciated, they’re much more likely to contribute to the company’s mission and goals.

Whether it’s verbal praise in one-on-one chats, a spontaneous “thank you” via text, or a surprise gift card for outstanding performance, showing you appreciate the work of employees is key to helping your remote workforce feel that they’re a valuable part of the company. To strengthen company culture, emphasize the link between certain achievements and the company’s core values.

8. Avoid Micromanagement

Instead of micromanaging employees, use project management and collaboration tools to divide up work tasks and set expectations, then let your employees get on with their work. Employees can use these tools to collaborate more efficiently, stay up to date with daily tasks, and monitor team progress.

When working remotely, different employees have different working styles and personal circumstances. For these reasons, leaders need to be more flexible to help individuals perform at their best. Letting each person take responsibility for their own performance is key to building trust between management and employees.

9. Prioritize Employee Wellbeing

It’s important for leaders to appreciate the difficulties many remote employees face. Distractions at home can undermine productivity, and being physically separated from colleagues can heighten feelings of isolation. These factors can lead to stress, disengagement, and mental health problems. It’s therefore crucial that leaders address these potential issues before they escalate.

There are various ways that leaders can support employee wellbeing:
• Share tips on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
• Encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day.
• Set more achievable, realistic goals.
• Schedule regular one-to-one video chats, at least once per week.
• Be more empathetic to the unique needs of each employee.
• Send out confidential surveys to discover what extra support employees need.
• Encourage the use of communication tools to help employees feel more connected with colleagues.
• Offer extra time off for mental health days.
• Provide extra child care support where necessary.
• Offer a work-from-home allowance so employees can improve their home office.
• Provide access to mental health resources.
• Organize staff social events.
• Encourage and reward supportive teamwork.

By providing a supportive working environment, leaders can protect the mental health of employees, improve team morale, and strengthen the business itself.

The Bottom Line

Whether you lead a remote or hybrid team, maintaining a strong company culture – where employees feel engaged, empowered, supported, and appreciated at work – is an ongoing challenge. It requires transparent communication, patience, empathy, and foresight. However, by using a combination of the strategies outlined above, any leader can enhance the working environment for all employees, build a healthier business culture, and improve business outcomes for the long term.