Working Remote: Keeping Culture Alive During Unprecedented Times

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Team-building remains an important priority despite the shift to remote work, but doing remote team-building well is even trickier than it was when everyone was in the office. This article sheds light on the creative approaches we take to remote team-building and my advice for other businesses that are struggling to adapt their cultural initiatives to a remote setting.

Maintaining company culture remotely

When a workforce completely disperses, especially during this time of economic uncertainty, stress is heightened, normal day-to-day is disrupted, and they all put a company’s cultural fabric to the test. If you define culture as “how things get done” and “what you do when no one is looking,” then it’s relevant more than ever as everyone is now working from home, away from their teams and managers.

For InfluxData, while a little more than 50% of our employees were already remote, the rest had never worked from home full-time before. So, after receiving all our equipment and getting our work-from-home environment set up, we began thinking about how we could keep our engagement the same virtually as we did in-person. One of the largest contributors that allowed us to continue high engagement within the company is what we call our Outreach Club.

Outreach Club is an employee-led group dedicated to keeping InfluxData awesome by promoting the aspects of our culture that make our communities great and by identifying ways to make them even better through activities, volunteering and outreach. We were able to see success by taking an intentional approach to building culture and uniting team members.

influxdata remote working company culture outreach club<figcaption> InfluxData Outreach Club Admins</figcaption>

How to foster culture in pandemic times

Here are six ways you can foster company culture for your remote employees:

  • Communicate culture goals. Broadcast informational updates and continue to reinforce company values through virtual all-hands meetings. So long as your employees understand the company vision for a virtual office culture, they'll understand the expectations, embrace the direction, and work toward achieving those goals and ideas.
  • Schedule regular meetings/calls. Just as you would in a regular setting, having something consistent is key. One-on-one's and team meetings help remote workers feel included, informed, and valued.
  • Celebrate the little and big things. Whether it's an employee anniversary, birthday, or giving mad props and shoutouts, no matter how busy things are, it's important to take the time to recognize and celebrate employee milestones in the workplace. Appreciating even the smallest details can do wonders for company morale and employee engagement.
  • Host team-building events virtually. Consider themes and topics that relate to your employees' interests. These events can include virtual games nights, lunch and learns, gardening together via plant-kits, paint-nights, company-wide contests and more.
  • Enjoy a drink, meal, or snack "together." Sharing a coffee break or lunch break, even if it's over zoom, is a great opportunity to personally connect while apart. Continuing to maintain the relationships you've had in-person is truly valuable in helping you stay connected and enjoy your work. We have a 24/7 zoom available so that anyone can simply jump on and chat.
  • Involve employees' families. Pets howling in the background, kids running around, partners tapping you on your shoulders — they're all new additions to the workplace. Consider offering an opportunity for employees to share photos and stories of these new "coworkers." We have channels and outlets for sharing personal information, so that everyone understands how to share, what to share, and where to share. Also, for us, when we have trivia or scavenger hunts, we always encourage friends/roommates/family to join!

influxdata remote working company culture scavenger hunt<figcaption> Scavenger Hunt with Family & Friends</figcaption>

Maintaining a positive and engaged company culture is truly an ongoing process requiring attention and intention. Right now, more than ever before, a strong and positive culture isn’t just a “nice to have” — it’s mission-critical for business continuity. It’s essentially what keeps your business running during this unprecedented time when “no one is looking”. Ultimately, the question should really shift from how your company culture can survive, to how it can thrive.