According to a 2017 report by Global Workplace Analytics and Flexjobs, the number of remote workers has increased by 115% since 2005. Telecommuting is indicated as the fastest growing form of commute. So, what does this mean for the establishment and maintenance of company cultures? Specifically, is it possible to have a strong company culture when a large portion of your workforce is remote? The answer is “Yes!” In my experience, a company with about 40% of its workforce consisting of remote employees was able to establish a strong culture. Let’s talk ways to make that happen.
Let them have a voice
One way to promote a company culture with a remote workforce is by allowing remote workers to have a voice. How can you do this? Establish a committee! Just over a year ago, the company where I work created a Remote Work Life Council. This is a committee that consists of crossfunctional employees that work on remote initiatives, best practices, and remote networking. There are approximately 25 employees from various departments on the committee. This committee brings our remote workforce together and lets them be heard (“you have a voice” is one of our company values). The company also does pulse checks with the committee to ensure optimum engagement and solicit feedback for improvements.
Involve them in your company’s cultural events
Next, drive your company’s culture through events geared to involve remote workers. With the help of the committee, my company emphasized its fun, loving culture with several social gatherings for remote workers. In fact, in the past year, the Remote Work Life Council has hosted almost 40 remote initiatives and social gatherings. You’re probably wondering how you get remote workers to get together for events. We were able to utilize a heat map (using Google maps) that enabled employees to see other employees located nearby (without disclosing addresses).
In those densely populated areas, we have employees that are responsible for coordinating these social gatherings. These employees are given event budgets and are even paid a small stipend for their assistance with these events. These events allow our remote employees an opportunity to connect and network, while having a fun night on the town. We also don’t forget to include our remote employees in company contests (e.g., Halloween costume contests) or include them in holiday festivities. Remote workers are sent holiday gift packages that typically include a Chicago pizza and cheesecake.
In another example, the company provides our remote workforce with paid volunteer hours. This is intended to reinforce the company’s community-driven values. All of our workers are encouraged to increase volunteerism and strengthen our footprint in the communities where we work and live. The majority of our remote employees are salaried, so this comes at almost no additional cost to the company.
Keep the communication flowing – in both directions
Last, but certainly not least, is communication. Of course, we don’t have the same in-person connections or interactions with our remote workforce like we do with in-office workers. So, we must be mindful to make our interactions with our remote coworkers frequent and maximize the resources we use to communicate with them. One way that to do this is by capitalizing on various virtual communication and shared virtual workspace technologies such as Skype for Business, Zoom, and Slack, to name a few. From my personal experience as a remote worker, videoconferencing has helped tremendously with collaboration and our team dynamic. It makes me feel like I’m in the same room with everyone else, even when in reality, I’m halfway across the country from one another. Another method of keeping the communication flowing to your remote workforce is by hosting remote town halls. Have quarterly meetings where leaders present the latest happenings and include ways for your remote employees to tune in and ask questions/ participate as needed. Being available, frequent connections, and transparency helps employees feel connected to the company and, in turn, connected to the company culture.
So, the takeaway is that you can still have a strong company culture even if you’re working with a large remote workforce. It will take some effort from all of those involved; however, it will be well worth it in the end.
Ali Haymaker is an experienced Human Resources professional with a demonstrated history of working in the human resources industry. She is currently a Human Resources Business Partner and pursuing a Human Resources Master’s degree at Rollins College.