How to build a company culture remotely?

by MartinsMillers. Posted on Sep 16, 2020    176    100


Hey guys. Like many of us, our team is now 100% remote. Most of us love it, but I’ve noticed that our company culture has gone down. We used to be a close team - have good banter, go for beers or have our foosball tournament. At the moment none of that is around. What do you do to build and maintain your company culture working remotely? Have you done some remote team-building activities? Any ideas and suggestion appreciated. Thanks.


Comments

Open_Dream_2907

I found it to be hard as f*ck. There is no sense of “vibe”, no sense of presence or connection. I’m guessing that my subordinates are incredibly lazy, but things never get turned in on time, overall trash attitude and a complete lack of respect for the company. Good old Mexican labor, I guess. And it’s not like you can fire your entire team. Remote work is the dream, but take into consideration that work culture is the first thing that goes straight out the window. At the very least you team needs to understand that remote work is still work, they need to at least remember what the whole point of the company is, otherwise, you’ll be in extreme pain.

RyanMatonis

Honestly just reward people who hit their goals remotely and get rid of people that use remote as an excuse to slack off

TheLandYouUnderstand 8

How does that build a culture?

Escuu_ 14

He’s not talking about productivity, he’s talking about camaraderie

mttmllr710

I work for a multi-billion dollar corporation where company culture and energy are paramount. I’m admittedly not very high up in said corporation, but I have 2 years of experience with building a positive team culture, and a few months of remote team culture curating. PM if you would like any further information and I’d be happy to chat with you pro bono.

charassic 1

Care to share with the thread?

mttmllr710 2

Sure! It all starts with a company mission statement- ours relates to the positive experience we provide to customers, the dedication and capability of employees, and making our work our passion. The company treats us very well at all levels and positions, so everyone is happy and enthusiastic about work.

After the mission statement, hiring is paramount. Positive thinking and cheerfulness are just as important as qualifications for the job.

The app “Slack” is great for communicating on the fly and keeping the team connected.

Weekly business meetings with everyone turning their cameras on are fun. We have themes, like crazy shirt/hat day, cosplay day, etc.

It also helps to have team meetings separately from the main meeting.

Finally, we do fun meetings at the end of the week in order to keep morale up. Basically some higher-ups talk about fun and exciting things coming up to keep us interested.

Also, we have optional Zoom call Friday night wine downs where we just hang out and have a drink as a team.

That’s what we’ve been successful with, I’m just as happy with my company now as I was when I got hired, even though my commission checks are about $1k less on a weekly basis I feel blessed to be supported by such a great team, and I still have healthcare and a decent monthly salary to pay for the essentials.

offsyte 1

Though we didn't originally create Offsyte with the intent of doing virtual team building activities, that's what we ended up pivoting to when covid hit and folks went remote. Check it out if you're looking for ideas! These activities can be great for building team morale https://www.offsyte.co

charassic 1

Which online class is your most popular

Lexicon-Jester 1

I honestly genuinely think nothing will work, except meeting up.

It can't be replaced. Our company have tried so many things, but being at home, noone can be bothered to do anything. It all feels like it's taking Time out of something else.

TheHonProfSirMrDr 1

We used this in my old role at a fully remote startup: https://chatfox.app/. It integrates with Slack and gives little prompts to help keep everyone connected. It works well!

kdr6998 1

Remote working can be tough, while we are all at home social distancing let's not confuse that with social disconnecting and try to better engage with the workforce to manage your remote teams more effectively.

Huddle by peopleHum, is a smart remote team management tool that will help you with that, you have to try it to believe it.

AA0754 1

You don't need to make work more social and enjoyable - that's a tool long used to keep people working longer.

Remote work is beautiful because it encourages autonomy. If you agree on vision and deliverables, the next thing you need to do is get out of the way so people can execute.

The managers job, and only job is to remove obstacles that prevent their employees from doing their best work.

alc90 1

I'm also really interested in building a great team culture for remote teams. That's why I started a newsletter to help you discover different articles, lessons learned and actionable advice from different teams that managed to build a great team culture leading to happy team members, a great working environment, exceptional employee retention and multi million-dollar revenue.


Check it out - https://cultureweekly.substack.com

Team_Elephant123 1

Create and invite your team to an online meetup. Play games via zoom or other video conferencing tools. We need to accept that this is the new normal and I think this will go on for a few years at most. Just play along to what happens next. Cheers!

bush_sid 1

The first step of building a company culture itself can be difficult and when it comes to remote working especially in these times of crisis the one thing that companies are majorly focusing on values. Have a clear set of expectations from both ends and an open channel to communicate can help both the employers and employees to build a world-class remote culture.

Now the major question arises- How do you build a rapport and enable your remote team to verbalize their feelings without coffee breaks and water cooler banter? With Huddle, we recognized this and acknowledged it our way. Click here to know how https://s.peoplehum.com/8g5bn

mindaslab 1

Do you want to form a money making entity or a cultural entity?

stickynotes3m 1
  1. We do 30 minute zoom meetings on Friday mornings with our whole team
  2. We do monthly top down meetings
  3. For individual connections we use coolerculture.com
  4. Slack. Recipes, dog pictures and random fun stuff
  5. We did some online games after hours which of course was optional for everyone.
  6. We implemented bonusly for peer to peer acknowledgements

    With everyone remote there seems to be more and more great tools out there. Good luck and stay safe.
rahulkumar_5921 1

Try out some HR team building games.

ZaurbekStark 1

We don't do specific activities regularly at my startup, but we have a good culture because we talk every day. We have a daily standup (google hangouts meeting) every morning where each of us says what they are working on in the days and mentions any updates. Then we have a very active Slack. This makes it seem like we are working in the same office :)

Scribbles1337 1

Scribble.io is really fun

charassic 1

I did a pizza making glass for my cross-time zone team. It was fun! After the class we stayed on and socialised. Another manager on my team does a regular daily standup but once a week they play online games together.

beefstockcube 1
  • Make sure everyone has their videos on for calls
  • Use a messaging service (we use slack) for the banter/replaces just wandering into my office for a chat
  • Shared experiences - I've sent fruit boxes, snack boxes, pizzas etc
  • Make sure everyone's calendars are shared
PryFinancials 1
  • Happy hours - we host virtual happy hour every 2 weeks on Thursdays via Zoom. It's optional but we encourage everyone to join if possible. We usually play games together or bring our own drinks and chit chat.
  • Snacks - we have 2 snack boxes sent to each employee every month. One box of snacks from around the world and second box from Japan specifically. Our team loves them.
  • Monthly poll - every month we send out a happiness monthly poll via Slack to keep a pulse on where everyone is at. If anyone is unhappy about anything or have a topic they want to discuss, we will address it in our weekly All Hands meeting.
galoccego 1

In my company we use the SCRUM methodology.

hornfan87 1

I always thought that rewarding the "best backdrop" would encourage employees to venture out of the monotony of their current situation.

shwahdup 1

I'm part of a group called Penny University, which mainly exists on Slack. We have Slack channels organized around people's interests, from things like data science to philosophy and startups. Members organize conversations over Zoom in these channels and since they are around common interests, they often end up creating some meaningful relationships.

janusasaurusrex 1

F

Elephant-and-Castle 1

1:1 digital coaching — we use Taizen.io and they are brilliant (and great value)

There are probably others out there too.

fpswilly 1

Maybe try some online party games for those who feel they’re missing out on social events. Among Us can be run on PCs or phones, is easy to pick up and fun to play and mess with your friends/colleagues.

AdamKyleWilson 2

Our company is small and full of gamers, so we often do Mario Kart Friday tournaments for cash, meetings inside a Call of Duty Warzone multiplayer match, or play drinking Mario Party.

It’s all about getting people together on the mic for a good time, laughing, and hanging out non- work related. It really helps having the video game element, otherwise you’re all just looking at zoom with a drink in your hand wishing you were doing something else.

polluxspeaks 2

Hubspot has great videos on this. U just have to keep ppl engaged.

raffikeklikian

Engage engage engage. If not bye bye bye.

turklish 2

Do you have a link handy?

bizkido 2

Adding a comment as someone who 1) works in HR and 2) is running a remote company.

Being real is probably the best culture save. It’s scary, yes, to have people open up and talk about the ugly side of everything, but we all really need support right now. I notice a lot of teams throwing “HH” and virtual events — but we are ALL overwhelmed, and faking another smile on a call won’t help anyone.

I’m not saying to bitch-fest on every call — but I try to be vulnerable with my remote team on my stressors and it has led to them opening up a TON about things I had no clue were happening — and as a result we’re closer even when we don’t see each other because I know a bit more clearly what’s happening when the camera is off. And I see the team lean in to support each other more.

Also we’re a very jokey, casual bunch so this works well for us because it grounds us a bit. The companies I work with who have all these weird fake social events are struggling because we all can feel the inauthenticity of it. Find yourself real and don’t do it through more awkward meetings.

engoradottech 2

Of course be mindful of people's calendars but spontaneous calling and talking to your colleagues is a great way of recreating the water-cooler talk. And try keeping the conversation on them, not work.

Online cooking classes could be fun. Book clubs and fitness challenges are worth exploring.

somethingrather 2

I suggested removing the daily morning status call and replacing it with a slack form. This nets you about 2.5 hours per employee per week with 40 employees = 100 hrs/wk of labour.

In lieu I suggested taking the time gained with volunteer/innovation projects. This company is an online marketing/design agency so for example:

  • They could volunteer their time to help out a dog/cat shelter or
  • Promote some hypothetical product/service

    It should be opt-in (not forced), but during company time so the alternative is to just do work.

    It gives the opportunity for staff to flex muscles on an issue that they care about or want to get experience in without the risk of lost revenue.

    If it is just for a volunteer service or fake product then who cares how or who pitches it?

    Whatever the task is, you should have a common goal to work toward and it should broadly align with the company values.

    E.g. If you are positioned as innovative then you could let employees pitch ideas and post them somewhere where people can give feedback on the product and feasibility. Make it more like an online forum where others can help them do product mockups, calculate theoretical financial projections + cost breakdowns (marketing, support, development, etc), marketing strategy and let people ask questions about how to do them.

    All of this cross-function interaction is invaluable. New relationships, new understanding of processes and the inevitable establishment and strengthening of common interests between employees that comes from them coming to work together as a team.
TittiesnSteins 2

This is huge and it verges on forced fun? I really don’t think the world has ever faced this issue before and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

In my workplace even the break room has been separated up due to COVID restrictions. This means less face to face talking and everyone on their phone, max 2 people at tables for food, it so quiet in there! Even being in person the culture and friendliness is dropping and there’s nothing really that replaces human interaction.

When you do find the answer please tell me!

imnos 34

You don't.

Company culture is fake, that's why people don't bother with it when working at home - they don't have to. Let people be professionals and just do their jobs and get paid for it, without shitty team-building exercises. They're adults, not children.

sarafionna 1

Thanks for this

Franks2000inchTV 3

I mean every company has a culture. Culture is much more "the way we do things" than it is "the stuff we do to make it fun."

The reason why you think "company culture is fake" is because a lot of it is done cargo-cult style.

"Google has Foosball, so that must be how they are successful!"

Culture isn't something you can add to a team, it's already there.

The best company cultures are invisible to everyone in them. The office is just a place where you can work on stuff that matters with people you like and respect, and you feel trusted to get the job done.

It won't feel "fake" because it isn't. That's the real secret. It's just about actually giving people meaningful responsibility, clear feedback and a chance to make a difference.

Ragnar09 5

That might just be too logical for alot of people.

refreshx2 6

One of the goals of a company culture is to improve communication between team members. That's what most of this discussion is about. Better communication between people can massively pay off. Sometimes a single quick "ya know I should call X and run this past them" before setting something in motion can drastically affect the direction. The person making that phone call first needs to know who to call, and second needs to be comfortable enough making it to actually do it. We are all human and have good days and bad days. Businesses benefit massively by good communication, and "company culture events" are often used to promote that communication.

ceilingbeetle 15

10000% this

albierto 7

I love this.

amickle393 13

Yep this is it, everyone please take notes

guitcastro 4

For dev experience we do a lot of pair programming and code dojo, not in the conceptual format where devs change the pilot. We just share the screen when anyone fell that need help, this way we strong enforce the collaboration culture.

The onboarding (usually first week) of new devs is always with someone dedicated to envolve the newcomers with this cultural way to handle commutation and collaboration remotely. So we take real tasks and show how our pipeline works, eventually doubts will surge and the senior will call meetings with PM or dev team. After the first week, the newcomers will know how to communicate and how the company works.

In our company the values, mission vision, are very strong and when we take decisions we make explicitly that the path are taking is based on that.

For example, we had I developer that received a offer for other company. We decided to talk to everyone that will be a great lost but we decided to let him follow his path, because we believe in meritocracy so we don't do counter offer. Next week another developer received an offer, but we make and counter offer and his stay with us.
We call the whole team and explained that the reason that we make an counter offer 1 week after saying that that's not how we handle things here is because we reconised that we failed in reconised that he should have had an promotion before and we keep our best to never make this happen again. Before we explained all of this we told that we are taking to everyone because this involve two of our values: meritocracy and transparency.

So make explicitly every time a decision is made is because you are looking for the company values.

15458434 4

Online team building? Play WoW together or some other online game.

joe-ducreux 12

Take all the money you spent on company culture and give it to the employees.

Problem solved.

Yavin4Reddit 6

Pay more. Focus on the work more than culture. Let people have more time off.

soloplatform 17

It’s important to note that the “ culture” you’re referring to has long been a tool employed by management to ensure employees stay at work.

“how can we make work more enjoyable and social?”

The beauty of a remote team is that you don’t need to worry about that. Instead, you need to ensure every team member is treated like the professional they are.

  • Clearly communicate vision and goals (often)
  • Keep people accountable to goals and workload, even if deadlines are made up
  • Demand excellence but allow autonomy
  • Be super strict on what you put out to your team, you can’t have knee jerk reactions define you, always be mindful and in control of the things you personally do - this will define culture more than anything else.
Franks2000inchTV 2

My solution to culture was randomly send the intern to the liquor store with the company credit card.

Shy-pooper 9

Gitlab is 100% remote and has a "playbook" for any company to follow: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/

ceilingbeetle 50

I actually love the fact that there is no “mandatory fun” and “team building” nonsense at my company.

We get our work done and are trusted and autonomous. Where we have common ground with people we discuss it outside of work hours.

Our system is premised on the fact that we’re not teenagers and have our social needs met outside of the workplace. To force “camaraderie” feels patronising.

Open_Dream_2907 10

I wish all of my subordinates thought like you. We’d be able to pull off remote work flawlessly. But all of a sudden someone’s productivity drops because they’re suffering from anxiety because they’re not being able to connect with others, and then team morale goes down and everyone basically starts rioting. I find it kinda disturbing how Google and Facebook set up their workspace to basically look like a playground and how everyone’s trying to copy them. Apparently now IT guys in their 30’s need to be surrounded by video games and colorful drawings in order to not suffer from depression.

Franks2000inchTV 2

There's lots of research that shows that colourful, dynamic spaces encourage creativity.

wake4coffee 4

I agree 100%. I enjoy my company and I enjoy the people I work with. But I don't work at a place bc I need friends.
Before COVID, I showed up at 7am, worked on my own, left at 130pm and worked on the train home.

I rarely went to happy hours bc they were at 5pm and I had a 1 hour commute home. I want to get home to my family and have fun.

Already my work is talking about working from the office again and I have expressed desire to not come back to the office. No need for a daily 2.5 hour commute to work solo.

boffum 32

i have the feeling that organized events are not the answer... these type if things need to come from the people, not from some company guy

farmingvillein 3

Sitting on the manager side...

I'm very sympathetic to this. Flip side is that creating zoom based events that people will enjoy is actually very hard. Not rocket science, but it requires a lot of time invested.

Eg, setting up a game night/afternoon takes much not more organization, to make sure it is an environment that keeps flowing as smoothly as possible.

This is not to say that team driven events are not desirable, but that it is a lot to ask people to plan, as a bottoms up activity of any scale.

(As an aside, we don't do the above very often, don't want people to drown in zoom. But when we have, we've put in a lot of effort to make things flow. It's a lot harder to do that for 50 people than 5.)

Toast42 21

Yep, everything my company has done feels super forced and unauthentic.

sgryfn 12

If you use IRC/Slack/Teams or whatever make sure the team can use that space for social reasons alongside their work channels.

At my old place we had #motorcycles #Gaming #Rockclimbing #Beer #Music #Films #T.V. Basically anything that’s a shared interest amongst the teams. It lets everyone find others that share their interests and give them something to chat about that isn’t work during the down time, potentially making outside of work arrangements like meet up on a game, an activity the pub etc.

It’s really useful for letting new team members make friends and keeping existing team members communicating on a social level.

If you spot one channel has a lot of members and activity you can host a thing around that activity, even if it is remotely.

Rejust 80

Yeah we’re struggling with the same problem. We recently hired a head of people and here is what we have started doing.

  • planning events: it has to be more purposeful. Before we would just spontaneously do a lot and so we had less frequent planned events. Now various departments have scheduled happy hours every two weeks. They play games like jackbox or horsepaste.com. When there is time someone puts together bar trivia and that is fun.

  • we have a 30-45 minute all hands each Friday. We go through organized slides but fun is also sprinkled in. Someone puts in fun facts about other employees and we all guess who it could be or play a round of would you rather.

  • we’ve been doing contests to win gift cards. Zoom scavenger hunts and things like that. There are also a couple virtual escape rooms we’re looking into.

  • one department organized an in person covid safe meet up. They ordered food and went to a field with masks and social distanced lawn chairs.

  • lead fun slack conversation. Pick fun topics to debate in a random channel and get people to participate.

    The key here is one person needs to focus time on this and planned events need to take the place of former organic interaction.
thoughtsforgotten 1

I was thinking a clue like mystery would be fun where the clues were mailed to the employees in advance

Agnia_Barto 3

Virtual Escape Rooms?

_durian_ 1

Are there any good sites for this?

offsyte 1

Posted above too, but check out https://www.offsyte.co for virtual escape rooms and so much more

sheryar_js 2

Maybe we should make a good site for this?

AudiF 2

Yes. Great idea!

Adventure Lab offers VR Escape room events for groups.

Check out https://www.adventurelab.fun

sebadc 6

Zoom scavenger hunt?

Rejust 6

Zoom scavenger hunt: for example, last person to run and find me a bag of chips is eliminated. Or the last person to find something out of their car. That sort of thing.

Agnia_Barto 38

I think my boss does a version of this - Zoom Hunger Games - last person to meet their quota is eliminated from the company.

netpenthe 21

Have U tried doing anonymous feedback on these events? I feel like they'd be ok once or twice..(we tried a couple) .. but then it was just more zoom grind

StoneCypher 49

> we have a 30-45 minute all hands each Friday.

i have never understood why company people can't understand that doing these things on friday is the worst possible choice

Agnia_Barto

True when you don't like your job or your colleagues

CoderDevo 7

Other way around.

True when you respect your colleagues' time to give them flexibility in their schedule as they start their weekend.

TheSuperRainbow 1

F your Friday meetings! Monday or Thursday please!

drakgremlin 3

Why do you feel Friday is less optimal than other days?

CoderDevo 6

My work heavily discourages Friday meetings.

Lots of people schedule time off on Fridays. Some even elect 4 ten-hour days as their normal schedule with every Friday off.

It is also the day for people to catch up on higher priority work so they can start Monday on track.

Newhere84939 11

Not OP, but Friday is wind-down the week day, not lets-get-pumped-to-work day. I guess it just depends on what kind of meeting you want.

puma8604 9

Our company has a “No Meetings Friday”. It’s been working out. Gives people the opportunity to wrap up the work week without distraction or allows those who need it an early jumpstart to the weekend and sign off anytime past lunch (using best judgment).

fatty1380 12

Google and Facebook historically held their all hands meeting on Fridays. Given those companies’ successes, many startup founders try to emulate the cadence.

Me? I’m a fan of the Monday afternoon, get pumped for the week cadence

Franks2000inchTV 2

"Google did it" is a bad reason.

JadeGrapes 6

We do open office hours every Friday because we're too cooked from the rest of the week to do real work first thing in the AM on Friday like coding, deployments, compliance, reporting etc.

IMHO socializing is the softest "task" we do so for us it makes sense to put it on the day when people have the least to give.

Why do you hate Friday meetings? Travel?

StoneCypher 5

Because if someone is going to miss a day it's almost always going to be a Friday, and this takes that away from them

JadeGrapes 1

I see. Ours aren't mandatory, if people have other obligations they don't need to sweat it... we just like to have at least two people from leadership around.

e_j_white 3

I think that compounds the problem. If the culture-building stuff isn't mandatory, and is scheduled for Friday afternoons when everyone is burned out, then nobody will participate. Then people like OP will ask Reddit "how do we build company culture?"

I get that it's the "softest" task we can do, but if building a remote culture is important, don't make it an optional Friday thing!

JadeGrapes 2

Our meetings are going good, the team likes them because it protects their time the rest of the week. I was just curious why other people don't like Friday.

Our Friday open office is for our prospective clients at 10:30 am we need two people available to walk them through the process.

We open up the call bridge at 9:30 for people who want to ask questions before. It works as a catch all for the week, if people want to touch base without scheduling something... just dropin grab a coffee style. We usually get good attendance, were a team of 12, more than half show up every week. Those that don't either have other stuff to do, or aren't feeling lonely.

TheSuperRainbow 1

You only have 12 people and only half show up?! Thats honestly a failure. All of my team members show up and we have 50. Dont do Fridays.

JadeGrapes 1

Time, money, morale, and focus. It's doing the job I need it to do, therefore it's not a failure.

My goal isn't butts in seats, my goal is everyone has what they need to do their work.

Is taking attendance really helping load balance your time, money, morale, or focus?

e_j_white 2

I like the idea of opening the bridge early for people to just hang out and have their coffee together. I may suggest something like that at my company.

We try to do a separate happy hour meeting on Fridays or whatever, but honestly your idea is simpler and could be placed ahead of any meeting, instead of an afternoon where nobody will show up.

smoguy 19

YES. Monday is the perfect day for weekly meetings imo.