4 Ways to Build a Strong Culture for Your Telecommuting Team

How can we bring people together when members of our team
are physically working miles apart?

How do we build a culture for telecommuting teams?  Creating a team culture is very significant because we need to understand that culture is what it takes to merge your people into one team. So, how can we bring people together when members of our team are physically working miles apart?

Let’s say, you have a bunch of independently talented employees who have individual creative processes and individual ways of solving problems.  But since they are working remotely, the next thing you need to make sure of is that they also have a shared sense of purpose.

The “New Norm”

With the recent world pandemic crisis, some companies had no other recourse but to enforce a work-from-home arrangement for their employees.  Though everyone is waiting for the lockdown to be lifted and things to get back to normal, we cannot deny the possibility that this work arrangement will continue to be enforced by many organizations.  This may be  one of the after-effects of the pandemic – more and more employers may be drawn to establishing this new set-up.  

Remote working is not entirely new to freelancers but for a lot of companies, this is an entirely different working arrangement. It will be one of the so-called “new norms” that we are expecting after the world-wide pandemic. Admittedly, this “new norm” will create a very big difference for leaders, team members and the organization.   

Culture by Design 

Creating a culture within an organization is a big challenge to leaders.  But an even greater
challenge is creating a culture among people that you don’t see physically and you don’t regularly interact with. So as leaders, you are going to intentionally define the culture of teams who are working remotely.  

Leaders cannot just build a culture based on however people think, come together and choose to interact with each other. One must remember that company culture is built by design, not by default.  Culture is not tied to a project. It’s not just a piece of paper.  It is the values that you inculcate into your team.  And for teams who are working from their homes,building company culture remotely is incredibly challenging.

Leaders have active roles in building their culture.  Every virtual meeting, email exchange, disagreement or meme adds to defining the culture of the moment.  Now, here are some tips to build a culture for your telecommuting teams.

First, create a set of values and articulate them. 

These values should define the way we think, speak and act.  They shape the basis of the way we approach what it is that we do. And in doing so, the team’s culture is defined. 

For instance, a few but very significant values that most organizations believe in are trust, transparency and openness.  If you want your remote team to move and think around these values, you have to exemplify these things too.   So when you’re crafting emails, having video
meetings, or just instant messaging with a fellow employee, stop and think if your actions reinforce or deviate from the culture that you want to build. 

When you want to build a culture of trust for telecommuting teams, do not send rapid fire emails for status updates.  If you want transparency, make sure the team has access to your work.  And if you want openness, be vulnerable in meetings and be open about any problems you might have and ask for help. 

In other words, be sure to articulate and practice the values you have set for your company.

Second, validate the values.

The values should be evident in the way the members of the team think, speak and act. Observe how your people work.  Find out their challenges while working in a remote set-up. Watch their process. Ask them of the things that they’re struggling with. Identify the rooms for improvement.  It is the same thing as when building a brand. A brand’s value should be able to stand the test of time.  When your team’s values and beliefs are done rightly, ultimately, they should also stand the test of time.

Third, define the norms and get buy-in.

Though managers have the responsibility to define the working arrangement of the team, it is equally critical that they get the ideas of the team and get their buy-in.   Leaders may ask the teams how they want to communicate.  When will people be available? Come up with mutually agreeable service levels and turnaround times.  Who is available to help with specific tasks?

While this is a good idea for any team, it’s especially important for remote teams to have a solidly defined set of norms. It will smooth team interactions, build trust among team members, and bake in accountability. All of which are important factors to overall team health and success. But of course, at the end of the day, it’s the manager’s job to guide the team in this process of creation.

Fourth, provide consistency and structure.

Another very important element in building a culture is making sure that there are well-documented procedures in place and that they are being consistently followed. This will give the members a solid basis for performance.  Telecommuting teams do not interact with each as often as people in the office, there is a bigger tendency for them to head off in different directions, unless there is a solid understanding upfront.

In creating culture for telecommuting teams, leaders must apply rules around procedures and performance to everyone on the team equally. If one member is held to a certain standard and finds out that another gets away with not following the procedures in full, it will cause the leader’s credibility to take a hit.

Make sure everyone on the team understands their role and that there’s adequate definitions of the work at hand.   The individual tasks and deliverables are spelled out, thus, providing the team members with actionable goals to meet, reduces ambiguity, and sets common ground.

Summing it up

Building a culture in a remote work environment takes a bit of an extra effort. But when done within intent, you can see that your telecommuting team is just as cohesive as if they were sitting in an office together. Lastly, one important element in managing telecommuting employees is communication.  If you communicate freely and openly with your team members, you can be assured of success in leading any remote team. 

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