10 ways to build a strong remote work culture where everyone thrives

These 10 principles have helped us tremendously in building an effective remote work culture.

September 1, 2021
Building remote culture

We’ve been a remote-first team ever since we let our remote work “guinea pig” Silvestras test the waters in 2014, but for many businesses, the concept of remote work only entered their lexicon after the pandemic.

Since then, remote work culture being the new normal has become a hot topic. Many of these newly remote/hybrid teams are tossing up whether or not to continue with their WFH models.

Even though there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for developing remote or hybrid work culture, by following a few simple principles, any team can build a virtual workplace where everyone thrives.


The challenges of developing remote work culture

We realized back in 2014 that remote culture was kind of our jam, so we went all-in. Since that moment, we’ve proven that building a strong, virtual culture is totally possible—but does have some challenges.

The biggest hurdle is making sure everyone knows what to do and has the tools to work efficiently and independently. 

The second is maintaining a work environment in which everyone feels heard, valued and respected. With individual teams spanning across multiple time zones, you need to make a conscious effort to include everyone in the conversation.

That’s why good communication is essential for nurturing team motivation and connectedness. With a small team, these challenges are easier to overcome, but as your team grows bigger it gets trickier.

The Remote Company team currently has over 140 people—all working together virtually (and some IRL). Our remote culture is based on clear company values and different strategies to enhance employee engagement.

Over the years, we've tried and tested many remote work strategies. Below, we'll discuss our most successful ones so you can implement these in your own team and strengthen the remote work culture.


How to build a strong culture with a remote team

1. Get crystal-clear on your company values

When you’re the CEO, you know WHY you build your business. Does your team know too? To get people excited and on board with your mission, it’s important to clearly communicate the company values.

To craft your values, ask yourself things like:

  • What does success mean for my business?

  • What is the main value of my product or service?

  • What mindset do I want my team to have?

  • What do I want my customers to say about the business?

  • How is my team collectively working towards goals?

Writing down The Remote Company values helped us greatly in setting expectations for existing and new team members. Our values show how we work and what we want our product to be. 

We have 10 shared company values:

  1. We focus on people

  2. We’re passionate about our products

  3. We communication with purpose

  4. We’re ready to grow

  5. We simplify

  6. We care about long term goals

  7. We take responsibility

  8. We’re positive

  9. We treat people right

  10. We take care of ourselves

These company values make sure we’re all heading in the same direction. Our support team knows that good customer feedback is valued more than how many tickets are closed. Our development team focuses on building features based on customer demand, not on developing as many features as quickly as possible.

MailerLite team posing in front of wall painted with graffiti.

Our company values guide us in day-to-day and long-term decisions.

Though your company values need to be clear, they can totally change over time. Ours surely did! Discover our personal journey and how we embraced change.

2. Go all-in once you decide to be remote

Once you decide to go remote, it’s better to go all-in. Instead of offering a few remote days per month or only allowing some people to work remotely, it's way better to make it a policy for everyone. This way, you can change your workflows and center all communication around a remote structure.

Building a remote work culture includes ensuring that everyone has a sense of belonging to the team. Those who work remotely shouldn't feel like they need to be in the office to be fully informed.

At The Remote Company, we even talk on Slack when we’re in the same room. For DMs, this isn’t always necessary but for group chats it is. It also makes it easier to find and reread information.

3. Have a clear remote onboarding process

Being a new employee at any job can be scary, but starting a new remote job can be even more nerve-wracking. 

In a traditional office, all you have to worry about on your first day is showing up. In a remote-first team, there is no office. Without a clear onboarding process, new hires can end up feeling lost in front of their laptops, unsure what to do.

You want new colleagues to feel confident and excited to start their new role.

Plan their first day in advance and inform their team and team lead of their arrival. Then send new remote employees an overview of the process before their first day, so they have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

Then all you need to do is craft and follow a foolproof remote onboarding checklist.

As part of the onboarding process at The Remote Company, we introduce new team members on Slack by sharing 3 of their top interests and a fun fact about them. This kick-starts conversations in the thread, and allows people to make personal connections straight away.

Remote onboarding slack introduction

4. Trust your team

The worst thing you can do after introducing a remote work policy is to start micromanaging. That contradicts the entire concept of working remotely and will make your team go crazy.

As a manager, you have to trust your team to work on their own. At The Remote Company, each person has different tasks, but everyone knows what’s on their schedule for the week. Some work in sprints, while others have tickets to resolve or content to publish.

The Remote Company offers the freedom to work independently but team members are expected to find the motivation, discipline and routines that make them the most productive. For each team member, this strategy might look different. Everybody has a different way of managing their work/life balance to promote productivity and progress in both.

Developer Tadas is presenting results and a future plans of the development team.

Trust your team, let them accomplish their tasks their way and organize monthly check-ins to stay updated about everyone’s progress.

Because we’re such a close-knit team, it does become apparent rather quickly if someone isn’t the right fit for the job. If you communicate well and make people feel involved, there’s no need to micromanage a team.

5. Be transparent

Transparency is how you earn trust. Practicing open communication and leaving little room for misinterpretation will encourage your employees to share their ideas. 

At The Remote Company, we use public Slack channels for the majority of our remote communication. Plus, our project management tool, Notion, has no private pages. From design projects, to partnerships, and even salary frameworks; any member of our team can see what’s happening across all departments at all times.

Feeling “in the know” naturally makes remote workers feel included, not only with their managers, but the rest of their team too.

If you have information that is inaccessible to the majority of your team, ask yourself “Why?” If the knowledge isn’t sensitive, you may benefit from sharing it.

6. Increase engagement with remote-team communication

Some people say, “You can’t build team culture remotely.” Let’s debunk that myth right now. 

The key is to find ways for people to connect and engage, especially those that aren’t working in the same department and therefore don’t need to communicate per se.

We use a variety of strategies to learn more about each other’s personalities and interests:

  • Everyone takes the 16 personalities test

  • We organize team-building activities during workations

  • Creative days (a once-a-quarter day off to unplug and explore)

  • Group video calls on off-work topics (latest inspirations or summer plans)

  • Slack channels to bond over specific topics (music, travel, movies and more)

By sharing experiences and talking about things we love outside of work, it’s easier to find like-minded colleagues to continue the conversation with.

7. Introduce remote tools that boost productivity

Remote working means all communication happens online, so it’s a priority to use communication tools that make it easy and effective to organize messages and keep track of what’s going on.

We love Slack for all communication, both private and group conversations. You can pin messages, style text to highlight important parts, and easily search for documents and content. We have work channels for different teams and projects, as well as fun channels for casual water cooler chit-chats. Having informal channels for friendly, off-topic conversations makes for a balanced, healthy work environment.

Notion and GitHub help us to document our roadmap, tasks and progress. We can track the development of tasks, see who’s involved and easily pull up any additional information within the task’s issue.

Our remote tool kit contains a couple of other tools. Read our tools for remote teams article to find out which ones we’ve gotten to love.

8. Implement team-building strategies for remote-first teams

Remote workforce collaboration, how do you make it happen across time zones? 

We decided early on that face-to-face contact is still important to us. That’s why we bring the entire team together at least once a year. During this week-long meetup that we call workation, we brainstorm, plan our roadmap, connect, learn, go on adventures, and laugh (a lot)! 

We host activities that bring us closer together. From blindfolded hikes to collective singing and mixed group dinners. Understanding your team members’ personalities and values is powerful, as these learnings can be taken into consideration when collaborating.

Hosting these workations reinforces the virtual work environment we build and makes our team more tight-knit, productive and motivated.

And when we can’t all gather together, we make an extra effort to bond in our monthly team meetings on Zoom. We’ll plan fun virtual team-building activities to keep the team connected and make it less about business and more like a “happy hour” that you head to after work with your office buddies.

Gathering together and not talking about work keeps the personal relationships between distributed teams strong and enhances workplace culture.

9. Acknowledge employees from afar

As much as we’d like to, it’s physically hard to give high-fives or back pats to team members when they do something that rocks. That’s why we show virtual love—whether that may be via an appreciation message on Slack or by giving a virtual high-five during the monthly reviews on 15Five. Our team leaders also share their gratitude during monthly feedback video calls.

Furthermore, we dedicated several Slack channels to spreading love. In #proud-moments, we share encouraging messages and compliments that we receive from our customers. In #kudos, team members can show gratitude to each other—because of their help, their accomplishment or just because.

Appreciating remote employees on Slack

10. Reward your team with respect (and benefits)

Sharing the success of your company builds camaraderie. Everyone is working together to reach a common goal, communicating openly and trusting each other.

Make sure to celebrate milestones often and acknowledge the people involved in making this success happen. Mutual loyalty and respect are what make employees show up with a smile on their faces every day.

While a genuine compliment goes a long way, employees also love rewards that are more tangible. At The Remote Company, we have a variety of remote work benefits:

  • Flexibility to work whenever and wherever you feel most productive

  • A home office budget

  • An annual personal growth budget

  • Creative days

  • Paid leisure trips after 5 and 10 years


There’s no perfect formula to building culture in remote teams

Working from home culture isn’t built in a day and definitely comes with its challenges. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for remote-work success, we’ve found that these 10 principles have helped build a virtual culture where employees feel appreciated.

Clear company values, daily communication and a conscious effort to engage people make a remote team thrive. You’ll soon discover that motivated people who feel part of a connected team will make work happen without anyone needing to manage them. Trust your employees, you won’t be disappointed!

Oh and, do you feel hesitant about whether remote work is an opportunity or a threat? We'll elaborate on this question right here.

What's your biggest challenge when it comes to building a remote work culture?

Megan

I’m Megan, Senior Content Writer at The Remote Company. Ever since I started working remotely, I pick my homes depending on the seasons: Europe during spring and summer, NYC for autumn, and winter escapes in Mexico.

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