Featured Article from Conferencing

Retaining a Strong Corporate Culture with a Remote Workforce

December 05, 2016

There are many benefits to operating a company with a remote workforce. There are the cost benefits, the work-life balance benefits, and the opportunity to reach new markets. However, one issue is that it can be difficult to build a strong corporate culture.

The Trouble with Remote Workforces

The biggest issue with employing a remote workforce in which employees are spread out over many different cities, states, or countries is that the interpersonal bonds that normally form in standard offices don’t always develop. If they do form, it takes much longer and requires a very concerted effort on the part of the leadership team.

Bonds and connections are typically formed over everyday things, like carpooling to work, chatting in the break room, grabbing lunch together, or even gossiping at the water cooler. When you remove these elements from the equation, you run the risk of making work relationships too “clinical.”

Strategies for Overcoming Deficiencies

The good news is that employees in remote workforces don’t have to be detached from one another. From a leadership perspective, you should be implementing careful strategies that bring your employees together and make them feel connected to your business, as well as one another. Here are a few ideas:

1. Host Regular Videoconferences

Video conferencing technology is what makes remote working a viable opportunity for most companies. While you can talk on the phone, there’s something about seeing someone’s face and observing their body language that allows for better and stronger relationships. Make sure you’re hosting video conferences on a regular – perhaps daily – basis with employees. It’s the quickest way to strengthen bonds without being together.

2. Meet in Person at Least Once Per Quarter

There’s no way to replace being together. You need to make it a point to get your employees together at least once a quarter – both to conduct business and bond. Something as simple as a 48-hour gathering where you have a couple of meetings and go out on an excursion can be extremely effective, especially when done multiple times a year.

Since you only get to gather together as a team a few times each year, it’s imperative that you make this time memorable. Try a classic team bonding activity like white water rafting, which teaches people to trust in one another and overcome fears. Or maybe you want to take your team to a ropes course where they have to help each other complete various obstacles. The options are endless.

3. Create Teams

If you have lots of employees in your organization – say 15 or more – then it’s challenging for them to get to know each other in remote settings. That’s why you should form small group teams. Having teams of three or four people allows your employees to feel like the company is smaller than it is. This also ensures that they know at least a couple of people really well (and are also known by a couple of people).

4. Maintain an “Open Door” Policy

Just as a good leader keeps an open door policy in a traditional office setting for employees to drop in, ask questions, and interact, so should remote leaders. This obviously looks a little different, but the idea is the same. By giving out your personal email, cell phone number, and social media profiles, you can show employees that you’re there for them at any time.

5. Give Rotational Leadership a Try

People feel connected when they have more of a vested interest in the business. One way you can encourage more remote employees to have a stake in your company is by offering them opportunities to lead (even if they aren’t in formal leadership roles). Some call this rotational leadership.

“Most members of high performance teams are fully capable of leading themselves and the group, but unfortunately they don’t often get a chance,” business executive Michael Hahn says. “Rotational leadership allows each team member to lead the team—whether it’s simply heading up the weekly phone call, planning a monthly team building activity, or organizing an educational event.”

As soon as employees notice that they aren’t just remote workers who are cost-effective for your business to employ, the game changes. When they notice that you actually care enough to give them some leadership responsibilities, they buy in to your company and feel a much stronger bond with every aspect of the organization. While you can’t always extend leadership opportunities to every employee, attempt to seize these chances when they arise.

Putting it All Together

At the end of the day, you can’t mimic or match the same strengths that traditional office-based companies possess. There simply isn’t any way to replace being in the same building for 40 or 50 hours a week. However, you don’t have to settle for detached relationships and awkward interactions. Implement some of these strategies and reap the rewards.

Edited by Alicia Young