Remote Culture Without a Petri Dish

by Melissa Smith - Wed, 29 Apr 2020

Straight to the punch today, let’s dive right into some ways you can build a great culture for remote workers within your company.

While Everyone is Still Remote

Start remote office traditions. For many offices, there’s a feeling of togetherness and camaraderie that keeps the team together and functioning through the hard times. Starting some remote office traditions will help alleviate some of the stress of these uncertain times, but they will also reinforce that feeling that the team is in this together. Ideas include:

  • Silly hat Friday for all meetings
  • Zoom background contests
  • Zoom lunches where everyone has takeout to simulate weekday lunches

Celebrate together. Find a way to honor people’s birthdays and other events in ways that aren’t generic. Send meaningful YouTube links. Collect favorite stories about your co-worker. Arrange a ridiculous surprise with the co-workers partner, roommate, or neighbor’s co-operation. If you’re all still relatively local, arrange for a social distanced marching band to wish them happy birthday from their front lawn during a meeting. Something big. Get creative.

Consider the occasional, optional virtual Happy Hour. As onerous as these may be to the introverts among us, group social time is crucial. Consider a flexible format to these, with smaller groups. Perhaps just invite a couple of people you like but haven’t talked to in a while.

Start lunch-and-learns. Learning together helps build teams, and giving people a chance to lead a lunch-and-learn is a great way to let people shine. During the remainder of the pandemic, these lunch-and-learns can be invaluable ways to help your co-workers get through that list of problems you’ve identified in your research. They’re also a helpful way to socialize while avoiding the dreaded small talk.

Consider a company video series or channel. Remote work can be depersonalizing. People become talking heads, and it’s especially easy for people who don’t attend meetings together to forget the people behind the emails. Videos are an AWESOME way to help your co-workers resolve the issues you’ve uncovered, especially if they are technical. Yes, you could point your co-workers to an anonymous YouTube video that perfectly explains what they need to do. But you and your co-workers explanations will sink in better.

Post-Pandemic If You Stay Remote While Others Don’t

Be prepared to speak up again and again for inclusion. Recruit your fellow remote workers so you can take a turn raising your hand. The people in the physical office will forget to include you. Often. That old cliche about “out of sight, out of mind” is true. It’s not out of spite, just human nature. But you’ll need to be prepared to remind them that you exist and need to be included.

Establish an informal buddy system. You and your remote companions should set reminders to regularly check-in with a buddy in the office. They will be your lifeline to what’s going on. They’ll connect you to the office gossip, and they’ll advocate for remote workers because of your connections.

Start a #remote slack channel. As you now know, working from home brings its own challenges and rewards. Band together. If you’ve stayed remote while others haven’t, it’s entirely possible that the people who went back to the office weren’t successful AT ALL at home. Get used to their jokes about pajamas and day drinking.