Remote Work Culture: 7 Best Resources to Take Your Approach to the Next Level

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Communication between team members is always hard because you’re asking a group of people with different personalities, backgrounds, and experiences to get along right away and understand each other well enough to work well together.

Even a lot of people who live in the same house can’t do that.

Then there’s the problem of communicating with diverse remote teams who may be working in different parts of the country or even in different parts of the world.

It’s not obvious how to talk to people on a team who live in different time zones and come from different cultures and generations. But there are ways to improve communication so that work days are less stressful and the team does better.

At Tackle, we operate with over 300+ teams spread across more than 800 cities worldwide. Here’s what we learned about how to improve your remote work culture:

1. Improve team communication—in-person and remote

In the contemporary business landscape, the prevalence of a hybrid workplace model is striking, encompassing nearly half of all businesses. This innovative approach delineates a scenario where a faction of employees operates within a physical office setup, while another segment engages in remote work from their domiciles. In light of this, any deliberation concerning the optimization of team communication mandates a comprehensive consideration of the needs of both individuals working on site and those participating in remote work arrangements. Notably, it’s pertinent to acknowledge that a substantial 78% of companies actively integrate freelancers into their workforce, with the added dimension that these freelancers predominantly engage in remote work.

Evolving workplace dynamics underscore a noteworthy trend: the increasing likelihood of collaborations with external entities – be it vendors, partners, or contractors – situated in geographically distinct locations. This trend persists even when conventional employees are mandated to operate from onsite premises.

Given these shifting paradigms, there exists a pragmatic rationale for scrutinizing and refining your communication protocols. This entails ensuring that the communication strategies in place seamlessly cater to the requisites of both localized personnel and those engaged in remote work. As a tangible illustration, certain forward-looking organizations prescribe a noteworthy practice: in instances where only a solitary employee opts for remote participation in a meeting, the entire in-person assembly is required to convene by logging in remotely from their individual workstations. This practice not only fosters inclusivity in remote work scenarios but also underscores the importance of adapting communication norms to the evolving hybrid landscape.

2. Start the week off with a quick meeting

Facilitating brief team check-ins can prove to be a time-saving strategy during the workweek, warranting reconsideration of reservations about incorporating another meeting into your schedule. These concise gatherings should:

  • Unify the team around shared goals and established routines.
  • Engage members in projects transcending departmental boundaries, ensuring continuous awareness.
  • Provide a platform for individuals to voice their concerns and engage in discourse regarding their ideas.

It’s imperative to allocate a mere 15 to 30 minutes per week to conduct these meetings. Particularly if your team is geographically dispersed, instituting video calls as a standard practice can yield substantial benefits. The visual interaction with familiar faces tends to enhance engagement and foster interpersonal connections, thereby mitigating the potential sense of isolation experienced by those separated by distance.

Encouraging participation can be supported by adopting a camera-on policy. While Upwork mandates consistent camera usage for all team members, we acknowledge that there might be occasions when adhering to this guideline isn’t feasible.

3. Understand everyone’s unique communication style

Effective communication encompasses both the manner in which information is conveyed to others and the comprehension of the messages received. This twofold dynamic plays a pivotal role in fostering successful interactions. Failing to provide team members with tools to grasp divergent communication styles can lead to misinterpretations and conflicts.

Consider, for instance, individuals who are action-oriented. Their focus typically centers on identifying problems and tackling challenges promptly. Operating at a brisk pace, they value directness and are inclined to ask precise questions, anticipating factual responses without delay. Their priority is task accomplishment, which often translates into a willingness to offer guidance.

On the other hand, individuals with a more analytical disposition proceed more deliberately. They favor established routines and prefer responding to inquiries after careful contemplation. They may perceive the swift tempo of action-oriented individuals as overly assertive and risky. Moreover, the directness displayed might appear impolite and overbearing. These contrasting perspectives could potentially hinder receptivity to new ideas and collaboration.

Communication possesses a significant psychological dimension, making professional guidance a valuable asset in mastering effective discourse. Seeking assistance tailored to your resources and requirements is a viable approach. For instance, team members can access fundamental online courses through platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy. Alternatively, enlisting the expertise of a Human Resources (HR) professional or a business coach can yield tailored training strategies to suit team dynamics.

4. Create psychological safety

A study by Gallup shows that many employees hold back their contributions and ideas because they feel that the benefit of “saying nothing” outweighs the benefit of speaking up. In most cases, employees fear that their ideas will be rejected or that managers will go so far as to penalize them.

That’s why Heather Doshay, VP of People at Webflow says that the most important thing leaders can do to build a positive remote culture is to create psychological safety:

Here are six ways to foster psychological safety in your remote team:

  • Acknowledge your mistakes and weaknesses as a leader.
  • Be open to feedback and suggestions from your teammates.
  • Encourage your direct reports to ask questions and disagree with your ideas.
  • Actively ask the quieter members of the team for their opinion during your virtual meetings.
  • Instead of blaming someone for a mistake, address the problematic behavior or outcome as a learning opportunity and use factual language.
  • Measure psychological safety by asking employees how comfortable they feel sharing ideas and disagreeing with other members of the team.

5. Avoid overload and burnout

When people are working from home, the boundaries between “work-life” and “personal life” can fade very easily. That’s why it’s so important for you, as a leader, to set an example and encourage people to maintain a work-life balance. Learn about careers in working from home.

💡 Pro-tip Check out our blog on how to Work Life integration to have a more in-depth idea of how to achieve WLB in your life.

6. Send out surveys to help the team improve

Rarely does a team’s way of communicating work perfectly the first time. To be honest, you may never be done because you’ll probably need to make changes as new team members join and as the business changes. Surveys are a good way to find out what needs to be changed and how to change it.

Making surveys doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. Many tools, like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey, are free and have easy-to-use drag-and-drop tools that let you make a survey in minutes.

Here are a few ways to get more out of your surveys:

  • Keep it anonymous so that respondents feel safe sharing candidly.
  • Set a goal for the survey to keep questions on track. Say what you mean. I want to know if they like the new project management tool. Try saying something like, “I want to know why they’re still using those old spreadsheets.”
  • Mix open- and close-ended questions to avoid survey fatigue and gather qualitative and quantitative data. For example, an open-ended question may be: What do you think we could do differently to improve XYZ?
  • Close-ended questions can include ratings and multiple choice questions like, How many hours a week are you saving with the new software?
  • Use simple, clear words and short sentences. Instead of asking, Was the training not good? Consider: How would you rate the training overall?

7. Use the right communication tools

To use the right tools for communication, you have to know which tool to use for what kind of communication. Tsedal Neeley, an expert on remote work, says to choose the right level of lean vs. rich media and synchronous vs. asynchronous communication channels. A video call is an example of synchronous communication. Asynchronous doesn’t require immediate response, like email.

The idea here is to be aware of your choices, so you’re not defaulting to what’s familiar. Instead, you’re choosing what’s best, such as when deciding:

Email or Slack?

Both of these ways of asking can get a lot of requests. Since both Slack and email are considered “leaner” media, email can be used for less immediate communication or for things that need a longer, more thought-out response from the recipient.

For example, if you have a meeting in 20 minutes but can’t make it, you could send the other person a quick message on Slack asking to reschedule.

If you have questions about a report that might require the recipient to do more research or provide more proof, you might want to send those questions in an email. Email gives them time to think about what they want to say and room to do so.

Meet in person or send an email?

Meetings are important, but you don’t have to have them all the time. Even a short video chat can stop someone from getting work done because every minute spent talking about work in a meeting is time not spent doing the work. Then, to make up for the time spent in meetings, they have to work longer days. That’s like putting oil on the wheels of a car that’s going to crash soon.

When deciding whether to have a meeting or send an email, you should ask yourself:

  • Can your question or problem be solved to your satisfaction through email?
  • Are you just getting together to make sure they’re working? (We’re not criticizing, but this sounds like micromanaging.)
  • Could you wait a few hours to hear back?

If you need to talk about something hard or it’s urgent and complicated, it’s probably best to have a meeting.

But if all you want to do is share information or the problem isn’t urgent, email might be better. Then the other person can answer without stopping the first person’s work.

In the same vein…

Don’t “over Zoom.”

In 2020, the world learned that Zoom doesn’t have to be used for every meeting. Seeing faces on screens can make remote workers feel less lonely and alone, which can make them more engaged. But one study found that too much of it can make things worse.

Even though virtual coffee chats are fun, they add time in front of the camera, which can be stressful for team members. The research showed:

  • 65% said that team engagement is best when they can see each other on video, but only 11% of their video meetings are used for that.
  • 58% of people who say they are introverts and 40% of people who say they are extroverts are tired of being on camera.

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