The more your business grows, the more critical it is to build your remote work culture. This is especially true for remote teams. A healthy remote work culture is a powerful growth driver.

Strong remote culture can help you overcome many of the challenges of remote work. Some remote workers feel lonely, so it’s hard for them to stay engaged. Employees working from home may struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

There’s less built-in accountability when your team works from home. Nobody is there to see if they take some extra breaks or focus more on Netflix than their to-do list.

Fortunately, going remote is a smart way to increase productivity and profits. Remote teams get more work done and generate higher revenue than on-site employees. They’re also happier and more engaged in their work.

Hubstaff has been a remote-first company since 2012, and we’re ready to share our knowledge to help you build a strong company culture for a remote workplace.

Hubstaff's best tips for employee happiness

Are you getting the most out of your remote strategy? If you’re ready for your remote business to be the best it can be, it’s time to put some work into your culture.

“Remote and on-demand workers have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, but only if corporate culture is set up for their success.”

— Chris Dyer, CEO of PeopleG2

This article is here to walk you through creating a strong, positive culture for your remote company. Creating culture is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. Bookmark this post so you can come back to it as you grow.

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What is remote work culture?

Remote work culture is made of the habits, beliefs, and behaviors that your team shares. That includes the ways employees connect with each other and with you. If you used to work in the same office, it’s probably similar to the culture you had there.

There are nuances that make remote culture different from co-located team culture.

Interactions between distributed employees are virtual. Culture is built and spread by the connections between people, so your remote culture is more heavily influenced by the technology you use to connect.

Nelson taught the team to make temaki over Zoom.

Nelson taught the team to make temaki over Zoom while working remotely.

Everything from how you use emojis 👍  to how you prep for video calls shapes culture.

You’ll notice the phrases that your team uses (#ship it!) and the things they do often. Culture is also visible in the way your team works. If most people cut out early on Fridays, that’s a piece of your remote team culture.

In a remote environment, it takes more effort to communicate your company goals and values. Sharing goals is one of the most essential parts of culture.

Despite this, 60% of workers have differing views on what their company stands for. This is true for all types of companies, including those that work in a shared office.

That means there’s a lot of room for improvement.

What are the benefits of a healthy remote company culture?

Your team has a culture whether you put effort into it or not. If you haven’t intentionally worked on it, you probably have some cultural behaviors you don’t want.

Here are some of the warning signs that your remote culture is negative:

  • Complaining is more common than problem-solving
  • Productivity is low
  • Employees don’t use the tools you provide, like time trackers and task management systems
  • Everyone leaves their video off during team meetings
  • Gossip runs rampant
  • Turnover is high
  • Your employees don’t take breaks

If you see these symptoms, there are more problems that you can’t see because your team works from home.

Those problems can be expensive. They may even prevent you from growing as your counterproductive culture infects new hires.

warning signs of a negative remote culture

Fortunately, the opposite is also true.

A great culture brings out the best in your employees. Here’s what you can expect when you nail it.

Learn how to navigate the challenges of remote work

Higher engagement

According to CultureIQ, improved employee engagement is “a direct outcome of a high-performance company culture.” This is because “high-performance cultures clearly outline behaviors and norms that are healthy and supportive.”

In other words, people care more when the culture is right.

People are more likely to focus entirely on work when they feel like that’s expected — not just from you but from their peers. There’s a lot more motivation to plug in when it feels like you’ll let your team down if you don’t.

It’s more than just peer pressure, though. Your remote work culture can and should make your employees feel how much you care about them. It’s easier to stay engaged when there’s caring on both sides.

Team members don’t want to let down their friends. In a great remote culture, employees are accountable to each other.

Effective decision-making

If you’re the only person who knows what’s going on, you’re the only person who can make informed decisions.

remote workforce productivity

That’s not a productive way to work.

Culture creates alignment. Everyone knows the ultimate goal, so they’re better equipped to make choices that move you in the right direction.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

— Henry Ford

Increased productivity

Your remote work culture has a direct impact on productivity.

The same feeling of responsibility that keeps your team engaged also increases productivity. Team members finish more tasks because they don’t want to create extra work for teammates.

Healthy remote work culture creates an environment where it’s easier for people to get things done. There’s less stress about minor things, so your team can focus their energy on top priorities.

Happier workforce

When you build a better remote company culture, you create a better work environment. It’s more pleasant to show up and connect with co-workers. Employees feel more fulfilled and essential.

All of this helps employees feel happier at work.

happy remote workforce

Did you know that happy employees are up to 20% more productive? They’re also more likely to stick around, so your turnover is lower. Happiness and job satisfaction are good for your bottom line.

Better talent attraction and retention

It’s easier to attract the best talent when you have an excellent workplace reputation. Most candidates – 88% – say that culture is essential when they decide whether to apply for a position and accept an offer.

The happier your employees are, the longer they’ll stay with your company.

Plus, your strong remote work culture will attract candidates who are ethically aligned with your company values.

Make sure you deliver on those cultural promises. 30% of new hires quit within the first three months. Of those, almost a third – 32% – blame company culture as their reason for leaving.

The happier your remote workforce, the longer your top talent will stay in their jobs.

The bottom line is that a good culture reduces costs and improves revenue. 94% of executives and 88% of employees say workplace culture is vital for business success.

remote talent retention

Let’s talk about how to do that in your company.

How to build and maintain a strong remote work culture

Creating a strong culture is about finding out who you are as a company. Think of it like a personal development program, except for your business.

Culture is made of your shared beliefs and behaviors. What kinds of views do you want your employees to share?

Start with the values you want to embody. Good cultural habits arise naturally from shared beliefs.

1. Define your remote company values

Values are like the rudder that steers your culture in the right direction. Your remote culture drifts if your team doesn’t know and understand your core values.

First, you must understand your company’s values. Questions like these can help you get to the root of your remote company’s purpose:

  • Besides surviving and making a profit, what is significant to the company?
  • Why was this company founded in the first place?
  • How do our customers see us? How can we make their lives easier or better?
  • Which values do we all share? What motivates us to come to work every day? What would make me more engaged with my work? What will keep me from looking for another job?
  • What should we be doing to improve society that we could do?
  • Which behaviors are acceptable at work? Which are not?

Use those questions to start building a list of the most important things to your company.

Values are like a rudder. They steer your company and give you direction.

Talk to your team about the things they find most important, and add those items to your list, too. Based on their answers, you’ll get a better idea of where your culture is right now.

From there, you can narrow it down to the core values driving your company.

Values do the most good when they’re simple, specific, and detailed. Your team should be clear enough to use them to guide decisions. If they’re too long or complicated, your employees won’t use them for reference.

Hubstaff’s values

Hubstaff’s core values are at the center of our culture and all of our business decisions. They look like this.

  • Freedom: Work where and how you want to work. You’re free to design the business you want when Hubstaff streamlines time tracking and team management.
  • Transparency: Running a business is hard when you can’t see how the work’s getting done. We create tools that make transparency in teams simple and automated.
  • Customers First: Our customers are always first. We work hard to understand business owners and then build the systems that help them succeed.
  • Accountability: We take ownership of the projects we take on. We move projects forward and do what we say we are going to do.
  • Focus: Our products help teams fight distraction and focus on the job at hand. We believe that focus breeds productivity, and productivity breeds success.

We include this list in our company handbook and refer to it often. You can see these values in our products, how we structure our company, and even in the posts on this blog.

As you choose your values, ask yourself how those things will shape the way you work. If it doesn’t fit in every area of your business, it’s probably not a core value.

Hubstaff's core values

2. Prepare your staff to work remotely

If your team is struggling with the logistics of remote work, address that first. Thinking about culture is hard when you can’t get work done.

Set expectations and make sure your team is equipped to meet them.

Do you have the right tools to work remotely? Does everyone on your team know how to use them?

set clear expectations

Keep documentation and process guides where your team can easily find them. You can use dedicated software like ProcessStreet or organize documents in a shared drive like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Offer training as needed. A team not used to technology may need help using Zoom or Slack effectively. Encourage people to ask for help without fear of judgment.

You should be able to tell what your team is working on without needing them to check in daily. Use a tool like Hubstaff to give you the necessary visibility without getting in your employees’ way.

what remote employees are doing

Find and fix the problems that make remote work harder for your team.

For example, if remote communication is an issue, address that by using the right tools and creating clear guidelines. At Hubstaff, we have a Communication Manifesto that outlines what we expect. You can download a copy here to help you make your own.

3. Establish a clear remote work policy

When you go remote, your employees have questions.

  • Can we work flexible hours?
  • Do I need to use my personal equipment?
  • How do I handle sick days?
  • How do you know I’m working when I say I am?

Answer all of these types of questions in your remote work policy.

Publish your policy so that everyone can access it. Update and share it often. Your policies might change as you adopt new tools and learn new things.

A thorough remote policy covers all of these things.

  1. Who at your company is eligible for remote work?
  2. Under what conditions can people work from home?
  3. What are your productivity expectations, and how do you measure results?
  4. What are your equipment, security, and privacy policies?
For more help creating a great remote work policy, check out this complete guide. You can even download a template.

4. Create a community

One of the secrets of team productivity is accountability. People are likelier to be engaged and committed to their work when they feel like they’d let their friends down by slacking off.

A strong sense of community keeps employees motivated and invested. They’re more likely to stick around and do great work. Plus, they’ll be happier and healthier.

Hubstaff employees

Help create that sense of community by making space for fun.

Start by helping people connect during work hours. It’s unhealthy to expect your employees to keep their heads down and think of nothing but work, especially when working in different locations.

In a traditional work environment, people joke around, chat, and share life updates. Your remote workers need that, too.

Slack is a good tool for this. Create channels where people can connect over similar interests. By default, Slack includes a #random channel just for watercooler conversation. Use it.

If you don’t see conversations happening in these “shared spaces,” start them. Share memes. Respond to other peoples’ posts. Set the example so your team knows it’s okay to goof off at work.

As long as the work gets done, it’s a good thing if there’s a lot of chatter. That means people are connecting — which is precisely what you want.

You can also use remote working tools to host some social events.

Use Zoom to host “Friday Night Drinks” and join your co-workers for a remote happy hour. Of course, they have to provide their drinks, but you can pick up the tab now and then with a food delivery gift card.

Hubstaff team members get together for virtual pub trivia, video game sessions, Zoom cooking classes, and more. Let people get creative and join the fun.

Hubstaff Pub Trivia

Hubstaffers use Slack and a virtual office tool called Workfrom to play Pub Trivia on Fridays.

5. Host an annual retreat

For fully remote companies, getting time together as a team at least once per year is essential.

At Hubstaff, we hold an annual retreat. This brings our team together in one location to work, play, and connect.

This year, our retreat was virtual. The pandemic forced us to stay home, but we still found a way to get together and have a great time.

Your retreat should be an opportunity to come together and get things done. Use hackathons or breakouts so that teams can focus on a big-picture project. This is an excellent tool to help connect employees with the overall strategy while they’re not bogged down in day-to-day work.

Of course, the job still has to get done — schedule work time between events.

Showcase all the unique talents within your team. Plan fun events like talent shows, karaoke, cooking classes, escape rooms, and other things people enjoy. Ask for suggestions. This is a great event to plan together.

Risotto cooking class with Eyal

Eyal taught us all to make risotto at our virtual retreat.

6. Give recognition

Praising employees can lead to a 10-20% increase in revenue. It’s also an important part of a healthy culture.

Start getting into the habit of recognizing good work in the moment. If someone sends you an email with a good idea, reply and tell them, “good job.” When a shy team member suggests something in a video meeting, thank them sincerely for their input.

Giving recognition is easier for some leaders than for others. Build the habit by setting aside time daily to thank someone or praise a job well done. That might be a private Slack message, a public channel post, or a team meeting callout.

Employee appreciation is contagious. The more you point out your team’s wins, the more likely they will start doing the same.

At Hubstaff, we have a #hubstars Slack channel where anyone can post a shout-out to a team member who embodies one of our core behaviors.

Hubstars Slack channel

We use this channel often.

This kind of public appreciation is even more critical in high-performance cultures. When you expect a lot from your team, they should know that you appreciate their effort.

7. Encourage employee well-being

Remote employees take fewer sick days. You don’t end up with the flu going around the physical office because someone came to work sick.

You still need to pay attention to employee health and well-being, though.

Working from home can be lonely. Make sure that your employees have plenty of ways to stay socially connected. Social isolation is bad for a person’s well-being and increases the risk of serious health issues.

In a study of older Americans who were socially isolated, the CDC reported an increased risk of dementia, depression, heart disease, stroke, and death from all causes. Other studies have found similar results in younger adults.Remote work is also tied to a higher risk of burnout. Some people feel like working from home is more like living from work. It’s hard to unplug and step away.

All kinds of desk work involve hours of sitting still. Too much sitting is a major health problem that we’re only beginning to understand. Some remote employees find that they’re even more sedentary when working from home since they can sign in from the sofa.

There’s a lot you can do to help your team stay healthy.

  • Encourage social interactions. Meet virtually or gather in person — safely, please. Reach out if you notice that someone is less connected than usual. It’s hard to speak up when you feel alone, so watch for signs of isolation.
  • Monitor workloads carefully. The signs of employee burnout aren’t always obvious. An employee who is more irritable and less reliable than they used to be is likely suffering from burnout. Keep workloads realistic and make it clear that you’re here to help without judgment if someone needs help.
  • Keep off hours off. You are responsible for your team’s work-life balance. It’s okay to ask for extra effort sometimes, but working after hours should never be the norm. If you’re working late, try scheduling messages to send in the morning instead of pinging your team at all hours. Respect their time off, and they’ll get more done during work hours.
  • Create a wellness program. Team wellness programs can be simple. If you all wear fitness trackers or have step trackers on your phones, set a weekly step goal. Send out hourly reminders that it’s time to get up and move. Find little ways to have fun and be more active throughout the day. Your team will appreciate that you care, and they’ll be more mentally sharp after taking a quick walk.

8. Provide flexible scheduling

Employees want flexible schedules. 77% of millennials say it’s a significant factor when choosing an employer.

Plus, flexible work has a lot of built-in benefits. People can work when they’re most productive. Working around demands like childcare, school, and other commitments is easier.

Set shared work hours for part of the day and offer flexibility outside of those hours. This gives you the best of both work styles.

On average, remote employees work longer days than their on-site counterparts. Part of that is because they can work outside of normal business hours.

Offering flexible schedules means that you will communicate asynchronously sometimes. Stay organized by using the right channels to talk.

Project management software is the best place to share updates about work tasks. Email is good for broad announcements that don’t require a response. Slack is good for one-on-one conversations and group discussions, but be sure to organize your channels wisely so you can find things again.

Hubstaff Tasks My Stuff

When working asynchronously, use the right technology to stay connected and productive.

Try a combination of specific and flexible hours. For example, you can ask everyone to be available from 10 AM through 2 PM local time, and outside of that, employees can work whenever they like.

Your team will appreciate it, and you’ll have an easier time creating a productive remote work culture.

9. Hire people who fit your cultural goals

You don’t have to hire new people to change your remote work culture.

But when you do hire new people, keep culture in mind.

You can hire diversely and still find a cultural fit. Match values, not backgrounds.

Behaviors can be learned, while values are more challenging to change. Often, people use the term “cultural fit” to describe someone who acts and thinks like they do, which can stifle your diversity.

Instead of hiring someone with a similar communication style or background, look for candidates with values similar to your company’s.

By hiring based on values, you’ll enrich your culture with new ideas and perspectives.

10. Use a time & project management system

Micromanagement is a culture killer.

Remote managers can accidentally become micromanagers when they struggle to keep track of time and tasks. Daily check-ins and Slack messages asking for project status could be more convenient and efficient.

Signs of being a micromanager

Automatic time trackers are also an excellent way to build more accountability into your culture. Unlike manual timesheets, time trackers are always accurate and unbiased. Your team can be confident that they’ll be paid for all the time they worked, and you can be sure that payroll is on point.

That’s a recipe for trust, one of the main ingredients in an excellent remote culture.

Your project management tool builds on that.

Tools like Hubstaff Tasks show you the status of every project. You can also see employee workloads, plan timelines, spot bottlenecks, and solve problems without micromanaging.

Use your project management tool as a hub for communication. This keeps everyone organized and makes it much easier for someone to step in and pick up where the last person left off.

When you use project management tools correctly, it’s easier for your remote team to be independent and proactive.

Frequently asked questions

What is the culture of remote work?

The culture of remote work is defined by the values, communication practices, and collaborative norms established within a distributed team. 

How do you build a strong remote work culture?

Building a strong remote work culture involves fostering open communication, promoting trust, and leveraging technology for effective collaboration.  

What are the characteristics of a healthy remote work culture?

Characteristics of a healthy remote work culture include clear communication channels, transparent expectations, a focus on results rather than hours worked, and a strong sense of team cohesion despite physical distance. 

What makes remote work successful?

Remote work is successful when there’s a balance between autonomy and accountability, supported by robust communication tools, regular check-ins, and a shared commitment to organizational goals.

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Next Steps

This is a lot of information, and building a remote work culture is a process. Bookmark this post so you can find it again later.

Here’s what you should do right now:

  1. Start listing your company’s values. You can even send an email or start a Slack thread with your team to get their ideas. This will be the list you start with to shape your culture.
  2. Ask your top performers where they see the biggest challenges with remote work. Their feedback will help you spot the things you need to address before you invest time and effort into cultural improvement.
  3. Recognize someone on your team who did a great job today. Get in the habit of noticing and praising achievement now.

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Category: Culture, Remote