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8 ways to create a positive and engaging remote work culture
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8 ways to create a positive and engaging remote work culture

Create a positive remote work culture for your teams with these 8 steps. Boost engagement, improve communication, and keep everyone in sync.

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The earliest modern offices, built in the 1900s, were modeled after the factory floor and were meant to foster productivity. They did this by seating everyone at endless rows of desks with managers located in corner offices where they could keep a close eye on people. This was known as Taylorist design, named after its creator, Fred W. Taylor.

However, rather than creating a positive remote work culture that placed trust in employees to do their jobs, Taylorist offices enforced productivity by letting managers observe their workers at all times. 

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then.

A picture of an early modern office, with workers sitting behind typewriters in rows
The offices of the early 20th century were designed to enforce productivity by seating everyone at rows of desks where their manager could see them. Source

Today, work doesn’t look like this for most people. Offices have gone from a Taylorist design to having cubicles for privacy or an open floor plan aimed at creating a feeling of greater equality. In the largest shift to date, many people don’t even go into an office five days a week.

By trusting employees to be productive even if they’re out of sight, remote and hybrid work brings many benefits, like greater flexibility and healthier work-life balances. 

However, these incredible benefits don’t just happen on their own. You need to build a positive remote culture that brings people together even if they’re in different time zones and rarely–if ever–online interaction in person. This boosts motivation and helps prevent siloed working. 

To do this, you need to use tools and methods created specifically for remote and hybrid environments—and lead by example. This helps your people connect to each other and their work and builds community. Not to mention keeping them as (or more) engaged as in-person teams. 

Here are some ideas you can use to grow a positive company culture and motivate your people to do their best work, wherever they are. 

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8 tips for building a positive work culture

To create a culture your remote team members enjoy being a part of, you need to think differently about how you manage them. Rather than trying to make in-person culture-building styles fit remote working, you need to use strategies and tools to make online work feel the same as–or even better than–in-person.

Here are eight best practices to help you do just that. 

1. Establish and live your values 

To create a positive remote work culture, start by establishing your company’s core values. These principles define the direction of your organization’s culture. When team members are aligned on shared ideals, it’s easier for them to support each other, work toward a common goal, and make better decisions. 

As a leader, you also need to lead by example and establish trust by embodying those values, because once you live them, your people will too. 

To improve your company culture, define values that build trust, foster kindness and respect, increase communication, and create a sense of belonging. For example:

  • Always be kind and respectful: This can mean different things to different people. But in general, encourage your people to be mindful of others’ time, feelings, and bandwidth. For example, don’t message team members outside their working hours. If you’re using Slack as your main internal communication tool, schedule your message for when they’re next online.

  • Open communication: When you encourage and practice open, transparent communication, you create an environment where your people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns. This improves teamwork and problem-solving. For example, be upfront about what’s going on in the company—good or bad. This lets everyone know where they stand and what they can expect, which builds trust. This is especially crucial for distributed teams.

  • Radical candor: You and your team should always give and receive honest but fair feedback. For example, never use the language of blame and “you-statements.” These are phrases that begin with “you” and place blame on the other person. For example, “You didn’t send me the data I needed, which made it difficult for me to deliver the report on time.” Always see the best in people; look for solutions, not problems; and lead with empathy when giving constructive criticism.
  • Extreme ownership: Everyone should strive to identify potential problems or opportunities before they happen. That means employees need to feel like they have a stake in their work and in the company’s success. If you’re proactive, decisive, and own your mistakes, your team will too.

Clearly document and communicate these company values and dedicate a few minutes to reiterating them during team-wide calls. This serves as a refresher for existing employees and helps your new hires get the hang of things faster.

Looking for some more actionable steps to establish your values? Check out our guide to defining and demonstrating values to build trust and create a positive company culture

2. Nail onboarding 

Your onboarding process is every new hire’s initial introduction to your company. And you know what they say about first impressions...

A great onboarding experience gets people excited about their decision to join your team and helps immerse them into your culture right off the bat. This is especially important for distributed team members because it helps them feel connected to each other.

Get a new hire off to a good start by giving them everything they need to do a fantastic job—even if they’re not physically in an office. Here are three steps to do just that:

  1. Start by setting expectations and communicating your company culture and values to new hires. Let them know you’re available to help with any questions they may have and help them get settled in. You can even set up quick daily video calls to check in during their first week and make sure everything’s going well. 
  1. Help them set up their tech stack. Learning how to use company tools means they can quickly start communicating and working with the rest of their team as if they were in a physical office.

  2. Show them where to find your processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs). This way, they can find out how to do something even when everyone else is offline.  
Pro tip: Switchboard is a browser-based collaboration platform that lets you work together on documents and apps inside a virtual room without having to share your screen.

If you use Switchboard for onboarding, you can save all your training materials in a permanent, virtual hub that saves your work. That means you never have to put together the same onboarding pack twice. New team members can always find what they need whenever they need it.
A screenshot of a Switchboard onboarding and training room
With Switchboard’s persistent rooms, you can always keep your documents in one place, even when no one’s in the space. Source: Switchboard

3. Create opportunities for people to connect 

A big part of building a positive work culture is creating opportunities for your people to connect and build relationships “outside” of work. Because when your people know they can trust and count on each other–and you–they’ll feel more engaged and energized. Plus, remote and hybrid employees with close ties are more likely to work together and be successful. 

Create a space where people can feel like they’re working side-by-side, connect spontaneously, and enjoy “water cooler” interactions as they would in a physical office. This helps build deeper relationships and replicates the opportunities for personal connection that you get in a physical office.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Encourage regular (monthly or quarterly), informal huddles and calls between inter- and cross-functional team members. Instead of talking about work, these calls are so people can get to know each other better and learn about the other person’s hobbies, interests, and even pets.
  • Run team-building activities once a month or quarterly using your virtual meeting tool of choice. You can even have your people vote on their favorite events using Slack polls or a similar tool. These fun programs let your people see each other in a different light and connect in a non-work setting. Just remember to run inclusive activities and virtual employee engagement games that encourage participation from both extroverted and introverted employees, so everyone can enjoy taking part.
  • Add fun opening segments to meetings before you dive into the agenda. Rather than diving right into work, by having a little fun in the first five minutes of a meeting people get to know each other informally. Plus, if you’re about to have a difficult or tense discussion, starting off on a lighter note could be helpful. 
  • Use Donut, a Slack integration, to randomly connect people for a casual virtual coffee chat. This is a great way to connect people across teams or departments who wouldn’t normally talk to each other, especially in a remote setting.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to create a permanent virtual “water cooler” or “game” room. This way, your people can regularly pop over to that space and host fun, spontaneous activities or conversations in a collaborative space.
Permanent games room in Switchboard with three games
Switchboard lets you set up a permanent games room for team-building activities—or just some fun time-out from work. Source: Switchboard

4. Respect boundaries and time zones 

When your team is remote, everyone might have different schedules and work from different locations and time zones. For your company’s culture to be positive, everyone needs to acknowledge these differences and respect each other’s boundaries. That means understanding and accepting each other’s personal preferences and making sure you don’t schedule meetings outside of a teammate’s working hours.

One of the main reasons people want to work remotely is to have better work-life balance. So being aware of when and how you communicate helps keep that balance and avoid burnout. 

Start by discouraging checking or sending messages to coworkers outside working hours, on the weekends, or when people are on holiday. If you’re scheduling a meeting, make sure to hold it at a time when every participant’s working hours overlap so no one has to wake up at 5 AM or log on at 8 PM to participate.

Have your people set their time zones and working hours on their calendar and communication tool profiles, like Slack or Microsoft Teams. For added transparency, employees can also update their Slack statuses to indicate if they’re away from their desks. This way, every team member is clear on when they can reach out to someone else and expect an answer.

 A screenshot of a user’s OOO status update on Slack
Respecting your coworkers’ boundaries and time zone differences creates a healthy and strong remote work culture people want to be a part of.
Source: Flying Cat Marketing

5. Offer flexibility in working hours 

Giving your people autonomy over working hours and schedules creates an environment they want to be a part of and frees them up to be productive when it suits them. 

Everyone has different working styles. Some might be night owls and get their best work done in the evening while others might be caregivers and need to work during the day between responsibilities. In a positive remote culture, these differences are not only acknowledged but embraced. Let people choose their hours and focus on getting work done at the right time for them rather than sticking to a rigid schedule. This demonstrates trust and motivates people to stay longer in their roles. 

Of course, there should still be a certain amount of overlap for meetings and real-time teamwork—but offering flexibility is the number one factor in improving company culture. 

Finally, while virtual work has many benefits, around 65% of employees say working remotely can put added pressure on them to work at all times, even while sick. To support and protect your people’s mental and physical wellbeing, encourage them to use their paid time off and take the sick days they need.

Pay attention to how often your remote employees request vacation time, and gently remind them of the number of days they’ve accrued. Help make sure they’re encouraged to take it by leading by example and taking some time off when you need it—and not responding to emails while you’re on vacation. 

6. Put the right processes in place 

Remote team members may be online at different times, so you need to keep all your processes well-documented so no one is left hanging. For example, make sure information on how to communicate with clients, prep for meetings, request vacation days, or use team collaboration tools is written up and easy to find. 

Create clear SOPs so people can always access the information they need and work effectively async. Having comprehensive SOPs also:

  • Simplifies communication and onboarding, so you can scale and grow your teams more easily  
  • Empowers people to take ownership, find answers on their own, and keep the workflow moving smoothly
  • Provides clear directions and helps avoid misunderstanding and mistakes
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to keep all your important documents in one virtual room, so people can access them whenever they need.
Switchboard room with open files and notes
Switchboard’s permanent rooms keep all your documents in one room for easier access.
Source: Switchboard

7. Ask for and give honest feedback 

Giving regular, actionable feedback shows your commitment to employees and is important for their professional and personal growth. Delivered correctly, it shows you care about their development and the quality of their work and establishes you as a trusted guide who can help them grow and achieve their goals. 

But feedback goes both ways, so you need to encourage your people to share honest input with leadership. To do that, you need to create a psychologically safe environment where your team  feels secure voicing their opinions. 

Regular 1:1s or quarterly performance reviews are a good opportunity to share and receive feedback, concerns, and opinions. Anonymous feedback forms also allow people to flag issues outside of these times.  

Pro tip: Practice radical candor when giving feedback. This involves telling the truth but also being empathetic and caring. Essentially, giving constructive criticism in an effective way. When you challenge people from a place of caring, you can share useful, actionable feedback that helps them grow without hurting their motivation.

8. Choose quality over quantity when it comes to apps

Unlike in a physical office, your remote team members can’t just walk over and tap someone on the shoulder if they have a question. That means effective communication and collaboration apps are a must—but too many can be overwhelming.

To make work more enjoyable and efficient, you need to use the right tools—specifically those that connect people to each other and give them better visibility into what everyone is working on. 

By picking a few great tools that work in multiple situations, you can save time and energy and your team can get on with work instead of switching between multiple tabs looking for information. 

To choose the right tools for your team’s working and communication styles, you’ll want to prioritize ones that allow for a mix of real-time and async teamwork. That way, your people can work together or alone depending on what works best at any one time.  

Here are some tools that help you create a better remote work culture: 

  • Switchboard for cross-team collaboration and remote meetings: Switchboard lets you and your teams collaborate on multiple documents, files, and apps inside a virtual room. No more having to share screens or switch between multiple tools and tabs. You can brainstorm and work together on presentations, sales demos, or ongoing projects in permanent, hostless, cloud-based rooms that double as virtual canvases.

  • Slack for instant communication: Slack lets distributed teams share information and files in real time, work on projects, or jump into spontaneous huddles.
  • Notion for project management and knowledge sharing: This productivity and organization platform lets you share files and collaborate in dedicated wikis. It’s great for project management and keeping everyone in the loop. Use it to create or organize tasks and assign team members to them, track milestones, and set deadlines.

Giving your people the right tools helps them feel more connected and turns them from isolated individuals to a powerful team. And when you combine the above platforms, you make it possible for them to work together anytime on any project.

Pro tip: To create a great remote work environment use tech that’s designed for two-way communication. Switchboard does this by creating an interactive virtual space where you and your teams can work alongside each other for more effective collaboration, any time, on any project, from anywhere in the world.
Switchboard room displaying icons showing popular web-based collaboration apps
With Switchboard, it’s easy to collaborate using different tools, web apps, files, and browsers. Source: Switchboard

How Switchboard helps create a culture your teams want to be part of

Online and hybrid working brings unique opportunities—and unique challenges. But creating a positive workplace culture helps you bring distributed teams together so they feel more connected and engaged.

An online workspace like Switchboard recreates the feeling of working in the same room together. It works with all popular web-based communication apps—with no need to integrate them before use. It acts as a dynamic space where your team can communicate effectively, work together, and get better visibility into projects. Plus, it lets you experience those spontaneous hallway conversations with work friends to make remote work just as good—or even better than—in person.

With Switchboard, you can: 

  • Enjoy the benefits of remote work and the feeling of an in-person office 
  • Find people and work together conversations anytime
  • Keep all your documents and files organized in one place, for example, in a dedicated onboarding room 
  • Provide easy access to information 
  • Boost remote or hybrid teamwork, morale, and engagement  

Build a strong company culture through spontaneous conversations in work-related, “water cooler,” or games rooms

Five team members working together in a Switchboard virtual room
Switchboard acts as a dynamic workspace where your team members can feel more connected. Source: Switchboard

Creating a positive remote work culture: The key to happier, more productive teams 

From the rigid, Taylorist office designs of the 1900s to open floor plans and virtual workspaces, the way we work—and interact with our teams—has come a long way. Today, more and more companies are offering the flexibility of remote or hybrid work. But, while people love the freedom and autonomy it brings, virtual workspaces do come with their own unique challenges. 

That means you need to think differently and get creative to recreate the spontaneous interactions and feeling of side-by-side working that bring in-person teams together. 

To create a positive remote or hybrid work culture, you need to use the right tools and methods and lead by example. For example, establish and live your values, give and accept honest feedback, respect boundaries, and create a great onboarding experience, processes, and opportunities for people to connect. All this builds trust and community and keeps your people as motivated and engaged as an in-person team—if not more. 

You also need to empower them to do their best work together with an online workspace designed for remote teams. Switchboard goes beyond one-sided screen sharing and lets you feel like you’re in the same room even when you’re miles apart. With “always open” meeting rooms that save your work, it turns your team from isolated individuals into a productive, engaged unit that has each other’s backs.  

Ready to create a more positive culture for your remote teams?
Switchboard is the virtual hub your remote teams need to work together more productively and spontaneously.
Sign up

Frequently asked questions about creating a positive remote work culture

What is the importance of creating a positive remote work culture?

Creating a positive remote work culture is important because it leads to happier, more engaged, and more productive teams. And when employees feel supported and valued, they’re more likely to connect to each other and their work, build community, and be as (or more) motivated and engaged than in-person teams.

This also means your people are more likely to stay in their position longer, increasing your retention rates. A positive remote work culture can also improve communication, teamwork, and innovation among your team members. 

What are the pros and cons of being remote?

Some of the pros of remote working include:

  • Added flexibility 
  • Greater autonomy 
  • Increased productivity 
  • Reduced costs 
  • Access to a wider talent pool for employers 
  • Better work-life balance

On the other hand, some of the challenges remote workers face include: 

  • Communication breakdowns
  • Lack of face-to-face interaction
  • Differences in time zone can make it hard to communicate or make progress  
  • Harder to maintain team cohesion and motivation
  • Fewer opportunities to build teams and develop professionally 
  • Trust and accountability issues
  • Harder to monitor and evaluate performance

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