3 ways to strengthen team culture in 2022 and beyond

Our top culture strategy tips, plus a free ebook for you and your team

January 31, 2022
5-minute read Yellow Squiggle

Remote work is here to stay. According to an April 2020 survey from MIT, nearly half of the United States workforce is now working outside of the traditional office setting. However, just because teams are dispersing beyond what was considered the norm prior to the pandemic, doesn’t mean that culture-building efforts should fall by the wayside.

Even without in-person happy hours, team outings, and coffee breaks in the office kitchen, team members need a sense of belonging in order to feel truly engaged in their work. This is why it’s essential for teams to have a clear culture strategy. As we’ll share in this post, fostering a strong team culture is an ongoing process that requires daily effort, even while remote. Read on to learn more about the key aspects of team culture, and how to strengthen culture on your (distributed) team.

What is team culture?

According to HubSpot (which has held a top spot on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list for the past seven years), “culture” refers to the “values, behaviors, and shared vision that contribute to the environment of an organization.

In other words, a team’s culture encompasses:

  • The key principles or beliefs shared by members of the team
  • The patterns of behavior that the team supports
  • The overarching purpose that teammates are working towards together

Fostering a thriving team culture is comparable to whitewater rafting — consistent effort is required to keep the whole team feeling positive, safe, and on track to its final destination.

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Image from the BigPicture People

Why team culture is important

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" – Peter Drucker

While some might view a thriving organizational culture as a nice-to-have perk, the reality is that a positive culture — one that actively encourages personal development and employee engagement — is highly correlated with business success. When leaders are committed to building team culture, they're more likely to optimize team performance and support employees in accomplishing business goals over time. Research by Gallup has shown that organizations in the top quartile for engagement are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

Additionally, studies show that a healthy workplace culture, where employees feel a sense of connection and shared purpose, is closely linked to employee retention. In a study that McKinsey conducted on employee attrition in 2021, 51% of participants reported that one of the main reasons they left their jobs was because they “didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work.”

How, then, can teams and their leaders go about maintaining a healthy culture that empowers everyone, including remote employees, to do their best work?

How to build team culture (while remote)

1. Lead the way to creative conflict

Leaders have an important role to play in modeling the behaviors associated with an inclusive, positive team culture. In a TEDx talk about creating a work culture that brings out the best in employees, Chris White (former Director of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan), shares ways to prevent employees from “checking out” at work.

  • He notes that it’s essential for leaders to ask questions, show curiosity, and invite everyone to engage in creative conflict – productive expressions of different viewpoints.
  • In addition to encouraging employees to bring their full selves to work and (respectfully) share their views when they disagree, leaders need to be as responsive as possible when people do open up. That way, employees will feel supported and heard, and will be more likely to feel personally connected to their work and their team.

By encouraging employees to open up, ask for help, and engage in creative conflict, leaders can strengthen feelings of psychological safety on their teams, helping everyone to feel like they belong.

2. Design touchpoints that keep your team connected

From daily routines to annual events, team touchpoints of all kinds can help to foster a strong team culture that supports everyone to do their best work and show their authentic selves. Finding the right cadence is key. At Range, we’ve found that the following routines seems to work well in strengthening connectedness between remote teammates over time:

Daily to Weekly

  • Team-building questions — Answering team-building questions is a great way for teammates to give each other insight into who they are, what they’re working on, and how they see the world. At Range, we weave team-building questions into our daily status updates to get into the habit of bringing our full selves to work.
  • “Traffic light” check-ins — At Range, we’ve found that a red/yellow/green color scheme is a useful index for sharing how we’re doing and how present we’re feeling at work on a given day. Openly sharing how we’re feeling helps create an inclusive culture where everyone knows how important it is to take your own mental health into account and consider the personal context surrounding your work day.
  • Asynchronous activities — Async activities (online or offline) like cooking contests, photo challenges, and Kudoboards can help teammates feel connected and showcase their personality, even across different time zones.

Quarterly to Biannual

  • Virtual team off-sites — At Range, we’ve found that remote team activities like selfie scavenger hunts give teammates an opportunity to refresh and strengthen connections each quarter.

Annual

  • In-person team off-sites — Getting daily and weekly team-building routines in place helps teammates develop a foundation of trust, which opens the door to deeper discussion and collaboration at work. From there, teams can schedule in-person off-sites pretty infrequently (we recommend annually) to bolster the connections they’re already building day after day.

3. Find tools that help teammates bring their full selves to work

Part of building a healthy team culture that encourages authentic engagement at work (rather than “checking out”) is checking in — not just on what people are working on, but also on how they’re doing. Below are some online tools to help you and your teammates strengthen culture while you work:

  • Drawing games — From competitive, team-based games like Draw Battle to collaborative games like Gartic Phone, drawing games are one of the best ways to create moments of fun and connection on your team. Laughter isn’t just a powerful stress reliever – it’s also a great way to foster team connectedness, especially on remote teams, where spontaneous casual interactions are harder to come by.
  • Gatheround — Gatheround turns video meetings into fun online gatherings. The video platform pairs off mentors and mentees, tees up prompt cards for interesting conversations that go beyond the boundaries of the everyday grind, and provides pre-made templates for monthly leadership meetings, socials, and more.
  • Range — Range integrates team building into the daily flow of work, helping teams stay in sync about what they’re working on and how they’re doing. With asynchronous check-ins in Range, teams can easily share their progress towards common goals and build even stronger relationships along the way.
Ready to strengthen team culture in 2022 and beyond?

Ready to strengthen team culture in 2022 and beyond?

Download our ebook of Strategies, Activities, and Actions to Build Strong Distributed Teams.

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3 ways to strengthen team culture in 2022 and beyond
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