The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we work, forcing millions of employees and business leaders to handle their jobs remotely. Many organisations have set up scalable remote infrastructure rather than just a temporary exercise. However, there is a set of things that need to be put in place in order for employers to efficiently lead a remote team. In addition to the right tech tools, a great ‘work culture’ needs to be fostered as well.

When it comes to developing a remote culture for a team that is only acquainted with the physical office environment, it may be a little challenging. The new reality may represent an uncharted territory for most employers. But the good news is many big companies like Google, Unilever and Microsoft are successfully running remote teams with a strong remote work culture in place.

Let’s dive down in this blog and learn how you can build a great remote work culture:

1. Build a sense of shared leadership

Managing a remote team doesn’t entail that you only define deliverables, track commitments and give people a list of things to do. Rather, it is equally important to give people the opportunity to “pull” the team ahead.

Your team members are likely to feel like task monkeys if they are only assigned tasks and not given chance to show the initiative.

Find ways to involve your employees in leading the team. For example, give your workers the opportunity to coach each other in their areas of expertise, or ask them to run a virtual team-building exercise. This would be a win-win situation: not only will this lift some burden off your shoulders, it will also help in the grooming of team members, so they could climb the proverbial corporate ladder and become managers themselves someday.

2. Create a “virtual water cooler”

Oftentimes, some of the strongest debates happen around the water cooler. Many times it is the site for impromptu and informal conversations that involve discussing generic to specific topics – movies to food tastes. But what if your staff isn’t present in the same physical office? This is where a virtual water cooler comes into play.

Creating similar moments in the remote setup is equally important to make workers feel like a team, even if they don’t work on the same project. As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage engagement via various fun activities and channels where the team can talk about anything and everything.

One simple way to do this is by creating a separate channel for this specific purpose of sharing memes or fun activities. You could also consider hosting regular virtual happy hours and team bonding calls where all employees can chat and interact casually, play games or share a laugh.

That being said, draw a line for the level of humour and fun team members can exercise so that no one gets offended in the process. Creating a virtual water cooler is invaluable in building team cohesion and building a positive culture in the remote team.

3. Collect feedback regularly and make adjustments

Whether it was COVID-19 that propelled you to transition to remote work or something else, if you have no experience of running a remote team, chances are you won’t get everything right the first time. Ask each one of your employees to give careful attention to the process and communicate what worked and what didn’t. This will allow you to make adjustments and improve the process along the way.

Once you make regular feedback a part of your routine and regularly incorporate it into the way you lead your remote team, you’ll significantly minimize friction help keep your business moving forward.

4. Foster communication with tools that match your culture

When your team is collaborating inside an app instead of a physical workplace, it’s critical that your applications and tools harmonize with the company culture you intend to develop or emulate. For instance, if you’re trying to create an enjoyable and laid-back environment, chat apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams may come in handy. As these tools include features designed to make professional communication more personal, they could help you give the same vibe.

In addition to choosing communication tools that match your culture, you would also want to ensure your team members remain connected throughout the working hours. Email alone is not sufficient. You could benefit from video conferencing for complex or sensitive conversations, allowing participants to receive visual cues and reduce a sense of isolation among teams.

However, for situations that call for quick collaboration or when the communication has to be less formal or time-sensitive, mobile-enabled individual messaging media could be used.