4 ways for leaders to foster a healthy culture on remote teams

5 min read | by Michael Boykin 
Team Work - A group of people working at the table.

Remote work — whether full-time, part-time, or once a week — is expected by candidates in today’s workforce. And there’s data to back up this claim.

In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report where they surveyed nearly 2,500 remote workers, 99% of respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.

With this in mind, it’s becoming increasingly important for leaders to take a more active role in shaping organizational culture. That means developing a strategy and building the necessary infrastructure to ensure success.

So, let’s talk about how you can take action, foster a healthy culture for remote workers (and everyone else)

1. Prioritize personal connections

Great teams stand on a foundation of trust and personal connections. They matter just as much on remote teams, but they’re harder to foster and maintain.

When you work in an office with your teammates, it’s easy to take for granted the serendipitous moments that happen. You bump into a coworker, strike up a conversation, and then head out for coffee to discuss it further. Moments like this don’t happen quite so easily for remote employees. That’s why tools like Donut, which help create those moments, exist.

Try including check-ins and check-outs during your weekly recurring meetings. We do this at Range. This is a time to ask all meeting participants how their day is going or what’s on their mind. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to Icebreaker. When you’re starting team meetings — and most certainly during any team-building events or offsites — open up this simple tool. It’s got over 300 questions designed to build trust, connectedness, and psychological safety.

2. Hold inclusive meetings

If one member of your team is remote, then you’re all remote (when it comes to meetings). When you approach meetings with this mentality, the whole team, no matter where each member spends the majority of their time working, will benefit.

In practice, I’ve seen leaders take a couple of different approaches. First, alternate the time of meetings. This is a bit easier when everyone is located in the same country, but perhaps on different sides of said country. However, when you’ve got team members on different continents this can be a bit trickier. In either case, just making the gesture once a month — moving a meeting to earlier or later in the day to better suit the schedules of those team members not located in headquarters — is a great way to include those team members who might be more likely to feel disconnected.

Another strategy I’ve picked up from previous teams is to have every member of a meeting join on their machine. Yep. That means the six of you who are sitting in the same meeting room will bring your laptops with you, join on your laptops, and so will your remote team members. Share with them the burden of dialing in, muting your line when not speaking, and then forgetting to unmute yourself when you are speaking. You’ll get used to it quickly, and it works wonders for camaraderie.

3. Share quick daily updates

A perk of working remotely is that people get to work from anywhere they want. But, as mentioned above, that means work-related conversations don’t just happen by chance. Intention is required, and sometimes that means important information doesn’t get shared.

A great way to build awareness on remote and distributed teams is to make a habit of sharing daily updates. (This is actually what Range is all about.) Regular updates on tasks and projects help to foster alignment and improve collaboration on your team as well as across teams. And, if you’re a manager, having access to these updates provides you with a better understanding of your team’s priorities, empowering you to course-correct if needed and, hopefully, prevent you from ever falling victim to becoming a micromanager.

4. Listen and iterate

Figuring out what works and doesn’t work for your team or organization is going to take time. It’s also going to require you and all of your team to talk about what you’re trying to build: a connected, aligned, and productive team.

Make time to discuss how changes are being internalized by the whole team; actually set aside time in a meeting from time to time to do this. Ask for feedback. Let your team know that not only should you be open to more change but that more change is certain to come.


If you’ve found this piece helpful and are looking to learn more on the topic, join me and the founders of Blend Me, Inc. on Wednesday, February 5 during our upcoming webinar: Understanding Leadership’s Role in Shaping the Remote Work Employee Experience. We hope to see you there!

Originally Published by Michael Boykin on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 09:08 | Updated On Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 09:32

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