When it comes to building remote teams, culture is at the forefront of HR and business topics. It’s general knowledge that physically located teams have an easier time building culture compared to remote teams. Of course that is because that has been the “normal” since we can remember. 

Most startups or companies have told me that their culture problems were solved by simply having an afterwork drink or adding a foosball or table tennis to the staff area. If you work in HR, you know it’s not as simple as that 💁🏽‍♀️ (am I right? 😜).

With physically located teams, it’s easy to overlook culture building with the assumption that it will naturally happen. In most situations, this is simply not true, but by the time a physically located team realizes it, it might be too late to repair their culture.

With a distributed team you know going in that culture will be hard to build. When you’re team building online, you don’t hoodwink yourself thinking that culture will procure when you utter “expecto patronum”. You go in eyes wide open. If a strong culture doesn’t develop it’s not because you didn’t try, it’s usually due to other reasons.

To help you with some impending struggles, here are 7 remote team building principles that Agile lives by:
  1. 🛑 Stop building culture around activities

Can we all agree that your culture has to be built around more than afterwork drinks, go karting or other mundane activities? The sooner you realize this, the better. These activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams. Therefore, your culture has to be built around something more than this.

  1. 👩🏼‍🎤 Culture is about loving the work you do

2020 brought a huge wake up call to a lot of people. When you strip away the work environment and office “culture” you are left with the actual job you go to work to do. I spoke with a lot of people (myself included) who turns out, did not like their job. In a remote environment you have to love the work you do which is why at Agile, our team believes that you come to work for the work. Most of your time at work is going to be work, so the work has to be rewarding by itself. 

Thinks about changing your approach to how your employees view their work, here are some examples: 

  • When dealing with customers, is speed more important than quality? 
  • For internal communications, is this a phone call conversation or an email conversation or a chat conversation?
  • Define your collaborative working hours, do we work 40 hours or 80 hours?

Those decisions and values create culture in remote companies because our work is our livelihood.

  1. 💻 Software tools are for collaboration… and fun

In a world of smartphones and social media, there is not one single person who doesn’t share experiences, inside jokes, stories or whatever it may be, in a digital format. Collaborating with your team can be done exactly the same way. You can find a whole list of collaboration tools in one of our previous blog posts. Here are some tools we love that helped shape our culture:

goat meme

😜 GIFs / Memes

Most online communities have a go-to set of GIFs and memes they love. Agile is no different. Being able to drop a relevant GIF or meme seconds after a timely Slack comment is one of the more spectacularly amusing things that happen in our little digital office place. Slack, in particular, has a great Giphy integration where you start a message with /giphy followed by your search term and you can insert a relevant (or oftentimes a not so relevant) GIF.

💬 Zoom Calls, Hangout and Pair-Buddies

Chat is awesome, but being able to talk in real time and visually see someone is very important for some issues. Zoom or Hangout calls for bigger team meetings or quick one-on-one’s. During these chats, it’s always fun to have a five-minute personal checkup just to see what the other person/people are up to.

Pair Buddies are a weekly random pairing with 2-3 people on the team that allows you to catch up on work, life, or anything else. Pair buddy chats help keep some semblance of the office social life as part of work and encourage people who work in different departments to get to know each other better.

🎵 📚 Music and Book Perks 

A favorite of ours to do, is send out a Spotify, iTunes or Google Play card to employees, which is great since many remote employees love to listen to music during the day. Having music handy also makes it fun to share what everyone is listening to and hear what sort of eclectic tastes everyone has. You can even go so far to make a communal playlist that everyone is listening to at the same time. 

And because it’s just as easy as a Spotify card, consider giving out a voucher for eBooks through Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play. Well-read teams are happy and productive teams.

  1. 👩🏻‍👨🏻‍ Face to face catchups are still important

As much as remote work has its infinitive perks, it’s still great to get the whole team together, and why not make it more special than a company retreat. During the retreat, do things that help amplify your culture. Obviously this depends on where you live and the restrictions you have, or make a plan that you do after the lockdown (if it ever ends 🙈)

  1. 🌁 Encourage your team to get out in their community

We love this! Nothing pulls a team or company together than having your very own ambassadors out in your local community. Some ideas around this could be, joining meet-ups to share employee experience at the company or taking off on a friday afternoon to help a non-profit.

  1. 🙏🏽 Build & champion trust 

Just like physically located teams, remote teams have to trust their teammates and managers. Most people genuinely want to do a good job, and with working remotely, rather than counting the hours of the day, you measure yourself by what you have achieved. Trust is earnt, built and savored. 

Side note: Being public and transparent about your company’s values and culture  goes a long way towards establishing trust in a distributed team and also for hiring people who will thrive at your company.

  1. 😜 Get sh*t done

Ever felt that feeling in your weekly meeting like “ooof, I didn’t finish that project last week” and next thing you know its your turn to speak – I think we have all been there 💁🏽‍♀️. This feeling creates a desire to finish whats important for the week and helps build that trust with your team. You want to show up and speak loudly to what you are working on, therefore you need to get sh*t done.

As remote teams get more popular, I expect we’ll hear more about the cultures in remote teams and how they evolve differently.

We at Agile HRO are no strangers to remote work or helping companies succeed, no matter how or where in the world. If you’re thinking about setting up a remote team, hiring employees around the globe, or simply considering expanding your business, feel free to reach out to us and tell us how we can help here.