You may have just moved online due to COVID-19, or you may be transitioning to fully remote work for the first time in your career. Regardless, company culture and fostering connection within your remote team is important now more than ever.

You might have experienced one or more of the following situations trying to lead your remote team:

  • Frustration with a team member
  • Performance management issues
  • Struggling to shift or elevate your team’s performance
  • Low retention rates (and not knowing how to fix them)
  • Difficulty communicating expectations or deliverables

We know it’s easy to feel like the odds are stacked against you and your virtual team because we’ve been there too.

There are several steps you can take to bridge the cultural, communication, and teamwork gaps. We’re going to share all the strategies we’ve learned from experience with you so you can build a team culture that fosters connection and productivity from home.

Encouraging Virtual Team Building and Connection

Every team relies on meaningful interactions to strengthen their relationship, rapport, and trust. Since team interactions are even more limited online, it’s essential to prioritize team building for your remote employees.

Learn About Your Team in Individual and Group Settings

Letting your team get to know each other outside of work, is in many ways, more important than getting to know each other in a work setting.

More meaningful conversations happen when people switch from a business into a personal dialogue, learning more personal facts about their coworkers. The vulnerability and openness in these conversations create empathy, which helps to heighten your team dynamic. In fact, your team is 60% more likely to stay with your organization if they have more friends at work or if they feel personally connected to the business.

So while you might not think that being vulnerable or sharing personal stories in the workplace won’t have a significant impact, the research says otherwise. Personal and empathetic workplaces can skyrocket retention and happiness levels which are jet fuel for your businesses. Thus, it’s vital that you create spaces where your team can have virtual meetups, grab a beverage together, and shoot the shit. Some ideas include media clubs reviewing movies, books, and podcasts, or having happy hours as a team with your favorite beverage.

Ideas our team loves are:

  • Development sessions: Goal coaching, webinars, continued education, and mentorship hours.
  • Coffee and lunch dates: Get together to grab a quick bite or drink.
  • Good news: Start every meeting with personal and professional good news.

We emphasize that it’s crucial to turn your cameras on for all these meetups. Yes, it may feel a little awkward at first, but fight through that initial weirdness. Your interactions are more meaningful when you can see somebody face-to-face, almost making it feel as if you’re in the same room as the person.

Foster Communication

Clear, open, and frequent communication is the number one tool to make your remote team successful.

You also need the right tech stack or tools to make sure you can have frequent touchpoints with your team throughout the workweek.

Check out the related article below to dive deeper into all of the essential tools you need, especially if you’re interested in using the specific tools that we have vetted and recommend. Otherwise, here’s a condensed version of what you should consider:

  • Video conferencing app
  • Communication channel
  • Brainstorming app
  • Project management app

Related: Tools to Startup Your Remote Team: Everything You Need For Success

While nothing can replace the power of in-person communication, you can use your tools to nurture your employees and build a culture of communication.

For work-related communication, we highly recommend implementing:

  • Weekly leadership meetings
  • Monthly team meetings
  • Open-door policies
  • Employee weekly check-ins

For team building and bonding, you can use your communication channels to create a:

  • Virtual water cooler for employees to chat about non-work related stuff.
  • Development channel to share topics that inspire personal and team growth.
  • Acknowledgment channel for team members to celebrate group and individual success.
  • Anonymous gift exchange during the holidays, birthdays, or for some team love.

Optimizing your virtual communication platforms will allow you to not only keep your team on track, but to foster the trust, communication, and bonding that would organically happen in an office setting.

Create a Mentorship Program

An internal mentorship program is a powerful way to enrich and build your team to its fullest potential. A mentor offers guidance to your team outside of your direct supervision. It allows your employees the opportunity to dive deeper into personal development scenarios that transcend the working environment.

study by Know Your Team said that 51% of remote managers and employees had reported using a mentorship program. Meanwhile, another study showed that the opportunity to serve as a mentor also had a beneficial impact on supervisors, with both supervisors and employees experiencing higher job satisfaction and commitment.

At Flow, we’ve implemented a mentorship program for our apprentices. Each week, we meet with them for 1 hour. Every meeting begins with a “peak and pit” exercise where the entire group shares their “peak” (high point) and “pit” (low point) from the week prior. From there, we open up space to discuss where we feel we’ve been successful or unsuccessful in achieving goals. Usually, mentorship is an organic conversation but occasionally we have deliberate programming based on recent performance. Mentorship provides the opportunity for us to coach on personal scenarios so they can see the big picture of their behavior and development opportunities.

Cultivating Your Remote Team’s Culture

Culture is king in successful remote teams.

What is Culture? And Why is it Important?

When working from home, it’s easy for your employees to feel auxiliary — as if they have been forgotten or are a satellite worker doing their own thing. Extending culture in an accessible way helps reign in your team to make them feel valued, appreciated, and heard.

But culture isn’t just about happy hour and office foosball tournaments. When you look deeper, company culture means understanding how your team works together, and it takes a tremendous amount of awareness to cultivate.

Culture will look different for every company, role, team, and environment, but if you can nail it, then you’ll see a tremendous increase in:

  • Retention
  • Productivity
  • Cooperation
  • Satisfaction
  • Creativity

It’s cheesy, but teamwork does make the dream work.

A successful remote company takes a team of people with different backgrounds, experiences, skills, and opinions and bonds them together using company culture as a north star. An actual team is so much more than an assemblage of siloed individuals rowing in a different direction, that management labels as a team.

Creating a High Performing Team Culture That Feels Like Your Second Family

Most everybody wants to have a culture of genuine connection, feeling as if their team was their second family. Besides, more millennials are prioritizing companies that have a vested interest in their personal and professional growth.

Thus, a thriving culture encourages a tight bond and high performance in your team.

In many ways, it’s easier said than done, but with deliberate thought, proactive effort, a check and balance system, and these strategies, you can do it right:

  1. Align Your Hires With Your Company Values

Hiring the right people is where fostering the team culture begins. Setting clear expectations with your new hires can immediately create trust, openness, and transparency. In other words, setting standards early on will set the tone for the rest of the new team’s career path in your company.

Since your company’s values and vision are the core of your culture, you need to make sure everyone is aligned while also hiring for the right core values from the start. From there, you can indoctrinate a new, invested employee into the company’s vision, which will promote mindful, continued team building.

2. Promote Personal and Professional Development

A genuinely inclusive culture promotes both personal and professional growth in their employees. Plus, millennials, who will soon dominate the job market, are prioritizing and staying with companies who have vested interests in their performance and career growth.

At Flow Marketing, we invest in our employees’ career growth by conducting quarterly and annual performance evaluations based on Flow’s core values. Not only do our employees get evaluated, but the employees evaluate their managers and mentors based on their performance as well.

3. Give Feedback

Feedback is the cornerstone of creating a culture of growth and high performance, and when feedback is not being given, it’s a clear indication that the team is no longer invested in their overall success.

Feedback is the most powerful when given in quick, direct feedback loops as observations that are intended to support the growth and development of the individual. Feedback challenges and holds your team accountable to being the best version of themselves, while maintaining the transparency and trust of a family. Thus, balancing both is the sweet spot you want your company culture to master.

Boosting Your Team’s Productivity at Home

We know that it might feel counterintuitive, but research has shown that 77% of remote workers get more done in fewer hours, thanks to the elimination of distractions like noisy coworkers, phones ringing, or the elevator continuously dinging.

We’ve found that the key to boosting your team’s productivity at home is to help them trigger flow state, or a state of heightened focus and prolonged concentration where you experience a loss of time because they are tapped into the zone.

We could spend hours going into the theory that explains why flow state boosts productivity by 400–700%, the depth of the flow state cycle, and how to trigger it in this article.

But instead, we urge you to download the Flow State Canvas and learn more about how this powerful tool can impact your personal and professional life from our CEO, Andy Seth:

However, we will show you how to create an environment at home that is conducive to working in flow.

1. Set a Designated Work Space

Different spaces have different distractions and challenges. If you’re switching workstations frequently, there will always be new distractions you have to mitigate before you can get into the flow. Instead, set a specific space to work every time so you can identify and remove distractions once. This will also help separate the areas in your home where you work versus play.

Lastly, make your workspace comfortable and conducive for work. The more you love your workspace, the more you’ll love sitting down and getting into the zone.

2. Identify and Remove Distractions

What distractions are preventing you from staying in a flow in your designated workspace? Identify and remove anything that is blocking prolonged focus. This may also require you to make some additions to your space as well. For instance, if your office is too cold and it’s preventing you from working, then you may need to add a space heater. Or if a specific candle helps hone your focus, then light it up!

3. Establish a Routine

While working from home, it’s going to be tempting to sit in bed, watch your favorite show, and eat your favorite snacks while working; we get it more than we’d like to admit! However, you need to get out of bed and create a routine, as if you were going to the office. This routine helps promote self-care and productivity throughout the day, setting you up for what you need to feel successful.

4. Stay Organized

Keep your desk and to-do list tidy.

Don’t bring anything into your workspace that doesn’t need to be there. Treat your workspace as a sacred space and be intentional about the things that will help you trigger flow.

While you’re at home, it’s easy for your to-do list to become a disorganized beast. Creating too many messy to-do’s can be counterproductive. A better strategy is to write down your top three priorities every morning and keep them organized in one place such as a notebook, notes in your phone, whiteboard, or online app like Todoist. At the end of each day, you can assess and reprioritize your list, so you know exactly what needs to be tackled the next day.

5. Set Boundaries

At home, it can be much harder to separate your professional and personal life. Some days, it’ll be tempting to work all day, or it’ll be hard to ignore the last minute text or email from your team in the middle of dinner time. But making yourself available any time at home is a recipe for burn out. Set healthy time boundaries and create a realistic work schedule, so you give yourself enough time to recover.

Putting It All Together

If you’re still thinking, “Isn’t it difficult to cultivate a thriving team when they are distanced?”

As a digitally native company, our experience shows that the issue is a misconception.

Yes, managing a virtual team comes with unique challenges.

However, the unique challenges that come with leading a remote team can catalyze the creation of a tight-knit and flourishing culture of high performance, more so than in an office setting.

The stakes are higher for virtual teams to be successful, and thus supervisors must be intentional about fostering connection, culture, and productivity, which ultimately results in a more successful team.

Thought leaders need to be intentional about how they build and lead their team, creating culture and productivity doesn’t have to require massive roll-outs. There are simple ways, like the ones we’ve discussed, that will help you create a unifying bond in your remote team.

Culture starts with what your business stands for and who you are as a leader.

Regardless if you’re remote or have an office when you lead by the values of your company and live your culture, you’re going to see a direct impact on retention, productivity, and happiness, ultimately having a cyclical effect on your client satisfaction and bottom line.

We get that creating the connection and culture for a high performing remote team will look different for every company.

As a team, we’ve experienced the four stages of team evolution — storming, forming, norming, and performing. We’ve also successfully led staff changes and culture redirects through COVID. In other words, our experience allows us to accurately recognize where remote teams are in their cultural evolution, identify barriers that block productivity and can find solutions to create connection.

If you need any help with addressing what stage your team is in, implementing strategies, or are looking for any kind of support, then reach out to us.