Do you need an office to have a strong company culture?
When talking about company culture, we should start by talking about what company culture isn’t. Company culture isn’t casual Fridays. It’s not the slogans and posters papering your office walls or the company buzzwords dotting your newsletters. It isn’t even your mission statement.
Your company culture is your North Star. It’s the heartbeat that pumps your values through every aspect of your business. More than just words on a page, your company culture defines who you want to be and the mark you want your company to leave on this world. It’s also one of the most important aspects of a successful business. Companies with a strong company culture have a 40 percent higher retention rate than those who don’t, and those employees are 72 percent more engaged.
In a remote company, where distance can make employees feel isolated, the need for company culture is magnified. And now that COVID-19 is forcing many employees to work from home, businesses that previously operated through brick-and-mortar locations may be wondering how to convey their company culture to a distributed workforce. While it’s not as easy without daily in-person opportunities, I’m here to assure you that it is possible.
My company, AnswerConnect, has had a remote team since 2007. We outgrew our office building and decided to experiment with working from home—before telecommuting was commonplace. We started small by allowing one or two employees to work from home. Then, as we saw the benefits of distributed work, we allowed more and more employees to work from home until we were fully remote.
Since then, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the values that drive our company are equally motivating to our thousands of team members around the world. I can confidently say that any of our employees would describe us as a mission-driven company. Here’s how we got there—and how you can too:
Amplify your culture with technology
You can’t promote your values if you’re not communicating them. Luckily, there’s no shortage of tech available to bridge the distance between remote co-workers. All communication tools—company chat, video conferencing, email, etc.—should be a springboard for encouraging conversations around your values.
My company, for example, values learning. We strongly believe in a growth mindset and in investing in our employees. We want every team member to know that learning is a lifelong endeavor, so we use our tech to promote learning whenever possible. We have a work chat where employees share interesting things they’ve learned. We host video meetings to share favorite books, articles, podcasts, etc. several times a week. We’ve even created an online university, where we’ve gamified learning by turning our favorite resources into obtainable badges. We use the tech available to create online spaces where our love of learning can become a living community.
Saturate your communications with a mission
Your newsletters and internal communications should pulse with your company culture. Sure, there will be times you just need to share some necessary bare-bones info, like product updates or policy changes. Even then, you should dig deep to find the why. How do your product updates help your company advance its mission in the world? How do your policy changes create a better workplace? Dig into past sales metrics and performance stats to find the heart.
Every piece of writing your team puts out should point back to your North Star. You’ll find that your employees will not only be informed but also feel inspired, engaged, and ready to work harder to help you achieve your common goals.
Talk the talk and walk the walk
You can tell your employees about your mission and values until you’re blue in the face. But unless you’re backing your words up with action, it’s just lip service. You must turn your values into real-world, actionable items that can involve your entire team, wherever they are.
Giving back is one of the pillars of my company. We value philanthropy and community service, so we give our employees paid time off to volunteer in their communities. We also encourage team members who live close to each other to organize volunteering meetups, such as packaging food at local food banks.
Sustainability is another high-priority value and the keystone of our mission to help the world work anywhere, but it can be one of those big picture concepts that’s hard to make tangible. To help our employees and customers feel involved, we donate money to plant a tree each month for every AnswerConnect team member and client. And when anyone uses our video conferencing app, Teleport, we display how many carbon emissions were saved by choosing to meet via video instead of commuting.
Culture and community are concepts that transcend office walls.
By nailing down the values that define what your company stands for and taking every opportunity to promote and communicate those values to your team, remote employees will feel that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. That level of engagement is integral to meeting challenges and weathering crises like COVID-19 together as a team.