Employee Engagement & Retention

How to Build Remote Team Culture

By Jackalyn Beck

Last updated: Feb 15, 2023

In 2021 Gallup found two out of ten employees reported feeling lonely regardless of where they worked. One way to combat this at remote or hybrid organizations is by building a strong remote team culture.

 Good Faces via Unsplash.
Good Faces via Unsplash.

Building a healthy remote team culture has never been more important — it improves company performance and employee wellness.

While remote work comes with plenty of benefits, such as better life balance and increased productivity, it also leads to increased feelings of social isolation.

In 2020 Gallup found 26% of people working from home felt lonely. Even though the number dropped, in 2021 Gallup found two out of ten employees reported feeling lonely regardless of where they worked. One way to combat this is by building a remote team culture.

Communication and trust are key to culture

Communication and trust are important for building a healthy remote work culture because they empower both employers and employees. Likewise, having open communication keeps everyone on the same page.

“We try to make at least one contact with employees each day,” Carl Brown, President of SimplyRFID, told The Org. “Daily meetings are brief and casual but put people on the right track and build open communication.”

Having open and regular contact between managers and employees also plays a role in creating a team culture of psychological safety and trust.

“I think support and trust are key to building a remote work culture,” Elita Summers, technical writer and owner of Plume, Pen & Pencil, told The Org. “For me, transitioning to remote work wasn’t a problem but the freedom was a lot. But, the fact that my company trusts me to get the work done makes a big difference.”

Psychological safety plays a major role in fostering a healthy culture for in-person and remote teams. Without a culture of safety employees feel like they can’t take risks, which leads to less job satisfaction and contribution.

“When you hire someone, there’s something that differentiates that person from everyone else,” Summers said. “Continue to nurture that trust and value you saw in them. Give them the space to be trusted and assume positive intent.”

Studies have found only 3 out of 10 employees feel like their opinions matter at work. Doubling that number would result in 12% more productivity and 27% less turnover, the Gallup study suggests.

“When something needs to be addressed my managers will address it without trying to tear people down,” Summers said. “They try to identify where the ball got dropped and assume positive intent. No matter what, I know that they see what I can do and that they don’t have to be over my shoulder.”

Engagement and culture lead to higher productivity and retention

Having a strong team culture can improve morale and productivity; it is also linked to a higher retention rate. Unfortunately, studies show only 20% of employees feel engaged at work.

“Trust and engagement are important to both companies and employees,” Summers said. “When employees are trusted and valued, they are more productive and feel better about their job.”

Having a healthy remote work culture can also make it easier to get to know people in different time zones or across departments. Not only does this improve productivity but it also lowers feelings of isolation.

“When you go into a main office you may know five or six people and that’s it,” Brown said. “Remote work lets me talk to the entire team and talk with people one on one. I like the ability to have casual meetings and water cooler chats without being restricted to the same physical space.”

A culture of community and engagement is linked to higher rates of happiness at work and job satisfaction. In fact, happy employees are 12% more productive than their peers.

Healthy remote team culture leads to higher job satisfaction

Having a positive remote work culture also allows employees to set boundaries and focus on what matters to them.

“Working remotely and having a team I can trust allows me to enjoy life’s simple pleasures,” Summers said. “It gives me more time to do what I enjoy and spend time with my husband and the people who are particularly special to me.”

76% of employees reported work stress affects their mental health. Likewise, having a better work-life balance is linked to lower rates of burnout and improved work satisfaction.

“If I get an idea over the weekend I can jump right into work and use that motivation,” Summers said. “In the same way, if I need to clean I can clean. If I want to take a little road trip, I can do that. They trust I’ll get my work done and that gives me more bandwidth for my brain.”

Building a remote team culture leads to higher job satisfaction while also lowering turnover and feelings of isolation. It’s vital for companies to take the time to build trust, communication and engagement with their employees.

“Remote work is the future,” Brown said. “Companies have to figure out how they are going to deal with it. They need to begin building their culture now and embrace change.”

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