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The pandemic threw (and is still throwing) many curveballs at small businesses. One of the most impactful was the shift from onsite to remote work models. But as stated, that was only one. With so many other issues to face—like new technology needs and customer access issues to say the least—it’s easy for small businesses to lose sight of why their workforce comes to work in the first place.

Remote work is just like everything else in life: there are two sides to the coin. With the flexibility and lack of commute also comes isolation and a muddied sense of job purpose. If companies want to keep their talent motivated and happy, then creating and nurturing a positive culture has to stay in the crosshairs along with keeping the business running. Here are some of the most important tips to keep in mind.

1. Clearly Communicate Your Organization’s Mission and Values

Your organization’s mission and values separate you from other organizations in your industry by reflecting your unique capabilities, resources, and internal strengths. It’s vital that your employees not only understand why your company is in business, but that they believe the same vision and values. That’s because a team united by a shared purpose is stronger and more solution-oriented than a team whose main motivation is a shared to-do list.

More importantly, remote employees that deeply believe in your organization’s mission and values are more likely to take personal ownership of the importance of their work. They’re also less likely to lose a sense of purpose when working alone from remote locations.

It may seem boring or even daunting, but repetition is key here. Don’t rely solely on stating your mission and values out-right. Find way to incorporate them individually into presentations and online meetings. If you can make it fun—like linking it to a game—then it will stick faster than simply asking them to read it.

2. Foster Communication by Choosing the Right Remote Working Tools

Communication is typically the first thing to suffer when employees transition to remote work because all passing interactions and non-verbal signals instantly disappear. That’s bad news since there can’t be a positive remote work culture unless team members communicate effectively and often.

The most obvious solution to this problem is remote working tools, which include everything from  video chat applications and instant messaging tools, such as Teams and Zoom to project management software, such as Basecamp and Asana.

When choosing remote working tools, it’s important to pay attention not only to their features and capabilities but also their usability and security. And don’t forget that selecting a tool which integrates with other commonly used tools—like Microsoft Teams working with Microsoft Word and Excel—increases user adoption and satisfaction exponentially. A team that likes the use tools they use are is more likely to use them, and therefore is more likely to communicate. Consider how your teams work now, and be careful not to change too many of their processes along with their tools. Change fatigue can be a real problem and work counter to any efforts you’re making in building culture. Also, make sure that you’re providing training that’s focused on the end user experience and is readily available.

3. Grant Employees Flexible Work Hours and Support Different Work Styles

Not all remote workers have the luxury of a dedicated workspace separated by a thick wall from noisy neighbors and one door from screaming children and other family members. Employers should recognize this and allow their employees to work at their own pace and style as long as they can still meet deadlines and help coworkers.

Some employees may decide to work on the most important tasks very early in the morning, when all two-legged sources of distraction are still sound asleep, while others may decide to separate their workday into multiple shorter time blocks with dedicated family and personal wellness time spread between them.

Either way, the employer has nothing to lose as long as all work gets done on time and there are no problems with team communication. In fact, employees who are granted the flexibility to work the way that best suits them are typically willing to go the extra mile just to show that they appreciate your trust .

4. Make Room for Water Cooler Moments

It’s easy for remote workers to miss the human side of working—all those unproductive coffee pot and water cooler moments go a long way to keep everyone positive. Such moments happen naturally in traditional office spaces, but they obviously can’t when working remotely.

To make room for them and keep work fun, it’s a good idea to set up a dedicated digital space just for informal interactions, such as a cross-departmental Teams channel (ours is called HDCav Virtual Water Cooler and we make use of it!). Casual audio and video group calls with strict no “shop talk” rules can also be effective, but they should never be mandatory. Nothing is as far away from fun as forced fun.

Of course, it’s important to have rules covering what language and content is acceptable during digital water cooler discussions, but it’s doubtful they’d need to be enforced if they’re understood. Culturally sensitive and team-oriented employees won’t need to be reminded of them.

5. Don’t Forget to Take Feedback on a Regular Basis

Growing a positive remote work culture is an ongoing process, and you need to take feedback on a regular basis to see if you’re getting closer to your goal. From time to time, have a short chat with each team member and ask them what they like and don’t like about working remotely. It’s a good idea to work this topic into any regular employee reviews so it’s understood that culture is a formal concern for the company. You should also establish an official way for employees to provide constructive feedback and make them feel safe to express what they really think. If you’re able to, conduct anonymous surveys every so often so the shyest of your staff feel comfortable being honest.

Now’s the time to build something great

Business is made of people. And just like people, it naturally evolves. As more is understood about the importance of business culture, technology is working to keep up with new demands it makes. If you’d like to take a look at the options you have and which would work best for your employees and your bottom line, just contact us. We’re always here to help your teams work together as productively as possible.