There are so many benefits of remote work, like not having a commute, schedule flexibility, and simply being able to do your laundry between work tasks. The advantages are clear, but one of the disadvantages of remote work is that you are more disconnected from your co-workers and teams, significantly influencing your experience and impacting the job’s overall culture.
In any job, some of an employee’s overall experience is around external factors beyond their control, like the people they work with, their day-to-day responsibilities, and the general environment. Still, their attitude and behaviors are also contributing factors. Regardless of whether you work on-site, hybrid, or remote, it is true that much of the cultural experience falls on the individual with remote work.
So, what can remote workers do to promote a positive culture and experience for themselves and their team? Read on to find out.
What Is Remote Work Culture?
In any job, no matter the model, there is work culture. There isn’t a great way to explain what exactly a work culture is because a lot of it comes down to how the environment makes you feel (like a “vibe” or an “energy”). For example, a positive work culture typically results in happy employees. Now, this isn’t to say that everything is perfect, but overall, a company with a positive work culture is with employees who generally like what they do and where they work.
On the other hand, an organization with a harmful or toxic work culture will have unhappy employees. It isn’t a “one bad apple” situation, either. In a hostile work culture, most employees are displeased with something or another. Often, a culture like this is easy to spot because you hear many complaints (beyond the occasional venting session).
Work culture is usually pretty easy to spot and influence in an in-person or hybrid work setup because employee interactions are part of what makes a work culture. It’s much easier to interact with co-workers when you’re in the same building than working remotely. Also, developing a positive remote work culture takes more intentional work. Employers, managers, and employees all have to work to create a positive remote work culture actively. Otherwise, at best, the culture will be neutral (or non-existent) or, at worst, negative, which will lead to job dissatisfaction (individual level) and turnover (company level).
Things that can contribute to a company or team's remote work culture include communication (in groups and one-on-one), engagement, autonomy, meeting formats, flexibility, visibility, acknowledgment, co-worker relationships, leadership, and collaboration.
Best Practices for a Rewarding Remote Team Culture Experience
The physical disconnect between employees in a remote work environment makes it easy for a culture to idle at neutral or even slip into negative territory. For example, some remote teams fall into an “out of sight, out of mind” routine where no one engages with each other unless it’s unavoidable. While autonomy like this is excellent, people still appreciate check-ins with their managers now and then. If everyone on a remote team is working in their little bubble, communication often becomes less frequent, and this could leave an employee feeling unseen or unsupported by their boss.
The good news is that whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor, there are things you can do to promote a positive remote work culture experience for yourself and your teammates. Here are some examples:
Offer and respect flexible work schedules
Switch up how you communicate with team members and consider which method is most appropriate for a given situation (phone call, video call, slack conversation, email, etc.)
When teammates/co-workers are having a casual virtual conversation, engage with them now and then as a way to form more meaningful relationships
Offer opportunities for work collaboration
Set up regular virtual team gatherings, even if it’s just a 30-minute chat over coffee (bonus points for managers who send employees gift cards to grab a coffee before these meetings)
Establish expectations; whether it’s as a manager with your employees or as an employee in regards to your schedule or what you can realistically complete in a given day
Schedule standing appointments with your employee/manager so that there is always time set aside to connect (how frequently you have these appointments will depend on your needs)
Don’t get frustrated if a co-worker or direct report doesn’t respond to your direct message automatically (employees shouldn’t feel like they will get in trouble if they’re not at their computer at all times throughout the day)
Acknowledge and celebrate the work of others to help them feel seen
Consider all employees equally for promotions or special projects (if you’re a manager) regardless of whether they’re remote, hybrid, or on-site
As a remote worker, the most effective way to ensure a positive work culture and experience for yourself, your teammates, and or direct reports is by prioritizing regular communication to help build connections and relationships. It’s also essential to create a culture of mutual respect and trust, especially regarding flex schedules and personal matters. It doesn’t matter where or how someone works. We all want employers and teams who treat us like humans and responsible adults.
Having a job that allows you to work from anywhere is a huge advantage, but positive work culture is just as crucial for remote workers as on-site or hybrid workers. If you’re currently struggling with your experience, assess whether or not there is anything you can do to improve the situation (such as connecting with your coworkers more regularly) for yourself. Remember, intentionality is the only way to create a positive remote work culture.
If you’ve done all you can, and your remote work culture still isn’t giving you what you need, check out The Mom Project’s job marketplace full of remote opportunities.
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