Written in collaboration with Kathie Elliott, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist for MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department
With remote and hybrid teams now an essential part of MSU’s workforce, it’s important to regularly take time to evaluate how well your team is functioning and gauge the quality of your workplace culture, no matter where your team members may be working. Rapid change is now status quo, and it’s not uncommon for the culture of our workplace to also shift as a team’s shared set of values, social norms, goals and practices may now be drastically different than they were even just a few months ago.
Successful collaboration with coworkers can be challenging while working remotely or in various locations, but it is still possible for employees working in virtual and hybrid teams to develop a positive and inclusive work culture that ensures the same level of quality and productivity as if the team was entirely in person.
Why Is Remote Work Culture Important?
“The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams” describes remote work culture as an unconditional feeling of connection coworkers experience when they’re bonded by similar priorities, interests, and attitudes (Bell 2020). When people are not able to see each other on a regular basis, this feeling of connection can dwindle. Strong remote work culture is equivalent to how strong your workplace culture already is. By creating a strong remote work culture in addition to what your virtual or hybrid team might already have had in person pre-pandemic, employees can continue to feel united around a shared sense of purpose while being on their own.
Even if you are unaware of it, your team does have a culture that is influenced by the work you do, your work location, your team’s composition and your individual team members’ histories. Having a strong remote work culture doesn’t require team members to be in the same location if you are aware of the priorities, interests and attitudes your team shares.
How to Develop a Strong Remote Work Culture
There are many ways to go about developing a strong remote and hybrid work culture, but one of the most impactful ways to do so is through effective communication. It is easy for misunderstandings to occur while employees are working together virtually, causing the quality and timeliness of the team’s work to suffer. By practicing methods of effective communication, you can strengthen your individual relationships with your team members in hopes of creating a unified and cohesive remote work culture with your team as a whole.
- Frequently inquire about your employee’s social and professional needs. Knowledge and information sharing may be inconsistent due to business, lack of attention, misunderstanding what information is valuable to the team (and why). Information sharing may be imbalanced (for some) due to such factors as work style or personality differences, supervisor or co-worker preferences or bias toward certain employees (whether or not consciously known), or technology access and skill differences of team members.
- Ask specific questions using multiple formats. Frequently ask specific questions, using multiple formats. “How is it going?” is not going to get a fulsome response from many employees. But, “Do you feel the communication you receive from me is frequent and thorough enough, timely and helpful? What can I do to improve my communication with you?” is very specific.
- Discuss and set standards for scheduling meetings, work hours, time off, etc. What sort of communications require visual meetings, phone, text, email, messaging? Is there a priority or urgency assigned to the methods? For example, is a phone call only used when an immediate response is needed? Do all messages need to be acknowledged? Within what period? Are there “blackout” hours or days when you won’t send work-related communication unless necessary. (Use the delay send feature in an email if you think you may forget.)
- If something isn’t working, try something new! Whether it’s approaching a work task differently or planning a unique social event, mix it up and look for ways to keep things fresh and use this time to grow as a team. Look for ways to build in relaxing or fun team activities; identify other units or colleagues that might appreciate support or outreach “just because”.
OPD Instructor-Led Workshops
elevateU Self-Directed Learning
MSU Remote Work Policy
Bell, Ashley. “The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams.” SnackNation, 2020, snacknation.com/blog/remote-work-culture/.
“The 2020 State of Remote Work.” Buffer, 2020, https://lp.buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2020.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-waving-at-the-laptop-8546749/