Building Culture When There’s No Building: Remote Workforces

Written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting

Even with today’s technology, many people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the concept of a virtual company. When someone asks me where Horizon Point’s office is located and I respond that we are a virtual organization, I often get some puzzled looks.

Their first question is usually “If you don’t have an office, where do you work?” And that’s often followed up with something along the lines of “Don’t you miss interacting with other people?”

Truthfully, I’m always interacting with people, including co-workers, clients, fellow HR professionals, and other members of the community. I just don’t do any of that from a central location. Depending on the day my office is at home, at a client site, in my car, or even at Panera Bread.

Virtual organizations have unique challenges when it comes to creating a sense of company culture. How do you get your employees around the water cooler when the water cooler doesn’t exist and even if it did, your employees aren’t there to congregate?

  1. Clearly define your company’s mission and core values. Make sure employees know the organization’s mission and core values, speak to them often, and ensure your employees actions are guided by them. Recognize employees when they exemplify your organization’s mission or core values.
  2. Take opportunities to bring your team together, whether in-person or virtually. If your employees are all local, hold regular meetings with the entire team to talk about what’s going on in the company or plan social events to bring them all together. If they are spread out, hold virtual meetings regularly. Give them opportunities to get to know each other and build a sense of teamwork. Come together at conferences, workshops, or other work-related events.
  3. Recognize employees for a job well done. Remote employees still need feedback and recognition. Give them a call to congratulate them or thank them, send them a card in the mail, or even send out regular recognition emails to your staff.
  4. Be there when they need you. Virtual employees can’t just come knocking on your office door when they need help, but you can ensure that you’re there when they need you. Be prompt in responding to their calls or emails. Take the initiative to check in with them regularly. Don’t ever make them feel like you’re too busy to give them your time and attention.
  5. Encourage them to lean on each other. Another way to help build teamwork is to encourage your team to support each other. If an employee comes to you with an issue and you know another member of your team has expertise in that area, connect the two and encourage them to work together to resolve the issue.

Communication is key to building company culture, whether your employees are all under one roof or spread far and wide.

For more on remote workforces, read our blog It Doesn’t Matter How and Where Work Gets Done. The Death of Office Space, Office Hours and the Employee-Employer Relationship.

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