5 Ways to Instill a Company Culture Even When Your Workforce Is Virtual

A strong culture grows from working toward shared goals, even when you aren't in the same room.

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By John Boitnott

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Company culture is without a doubt one of the top job benefits for employees. Free snacks and good vacation time make a difference, but how you interact with your supervisors and the environment that results from that is what can keep an employee on board even when pay raises and bonuses aren't a regular thing. But for the increasing number of professionals who don't work in an office, a positive culture can be difficult to achieve.

Using the many tools now available, however, leaders can achieve company culture virtually. Here are a few ways you can create a winning culture for your remote teams.

1. Consider your personalities.

Much like onsite workers, your remote employees and contractors have varied personalities. You likely have extroverts who crave regular interaction with others, along with introverts who could be just fine with going days without direct communication with another human being.

Get to know your workers one on one and determine the type of work environment that works best for each of them. Some introverts are perfectly fine with communicating with others using a chat tool, so that might be the best option for all of you. You can even take it a step further and create fun activities and in-person get-togethers that work best for the team as a whole.

Related: 5 Mega-Successful Entrepreneurs Who Are Introverts

2. Honor your talent.

If your workers are being creative as part of their daily duties, consider that their unique work styles might improve their daily output. Instead of berating your designer for choosing to work late into the night and sleeping until noon the next day, consider that it may be just a part of that person's process. As long as your team members meet their deadlines and are available for scheduled meetings, there shouldn't be an issue with the work hours they keep.

Related: Keeping a Good Employee From Leaving Is Your Best Growth Strategy

3. Make meetups fun.

If your teams are virtual, chances are you rarely all meet face to face. Even though it comes with an expense, it's important to try to work in at least one group meeting each year. Consider scheduling a fun retreat where you can learn new skills or make up for enjoyable activities missed in the office each day.

When the day's meetings are over, plan a night out at a local restaurant or recreational attraction. You'll likely find those excursions lead to far better teambuilding than you could ever achieve in a conference room.

Related: How to Build a Culture Across Your Virtual Workforce

4. Encourage play.

You don't have to be in the same office to socialize. If you have a small team, encourage members to get to know each other by providing the tools necessary to do so. If you regularly host video chats, you'll quickly find employees initiate those calls on their own.

For larger teams, consider separating workers into groups. If certain employees live within close proximity to others, schedule regional gatherings or encourage them to meet up on their own occasionally. You can also pair workers by interests and help them get to know each other through a Secret Santa exercise at Christmastime or by pairing them on a special project. You'll likely find they develop a bond that extends beyond that one experience.

Related: Lessons From Companies Thriving With 100 Percent Remote Teams

5. Reinforce your mission.

For remote teams, it can be even more difficult to remain constantly focused on the goal. You must be clear on your company's mission and communicate that with every salaried and contract worker. You should also regularly reinforce your company's mission. The words likely won't have as much meaning if you don't walk the walk.

Demonstrate how your work impacts the customers you serve. Share videos and images through your company's internal communication tools or collaboration software that demonstrate the hard work that's being done in your office and in the field. If you have testimonials from customers about how your business has changed their lives, this can be especially powerful. It will help your remote teams stay focused on what's important.

Related: 7 Hilarious Videos That Make Fun of Office Culture

Company culture isn't necessarily dependent upon a physical workspace. It's especially important for virtual teams to find a way to instill that culture in other ways, such as through video chats and online collaboration. Employers have to create opportunities for salaried and contract employees to get to know each other when they're remote, since they won't have the benefits of daily face-to-face interaction. Despite that extra effort, many entrepreneurs say hiring remote is still worth it, since it often brings greater flexibility, cheaper talent, and varied perspectives.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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