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.
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:
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.
"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?
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.
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.
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
Quarterly to Biannual
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: