How to Create a Positive Work Culture for Remote Teams in 2022
Remote work has been around for many years, but when we talk about remote work and remote teams today, most of us are referring to the events of 2020 and the consequences it has had on workplaces globally.
The growth of remote work could be why now, more than ever, employees are leaning into the idea of what workplace culture truly means. As the world of work changed forever last year, employers and employees scrambled to find new ways to navigate work whilst keeping employees safe and maintaining business growth. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), even conducted a study and surveyed hundreds of workers to find out how culture had impacted their members’ workplaces. The 2021 Workplace Culture Report reveals that nearly 75% of working Americans claim that the ‘values implemented in their organisations helped guide them through the pandemic’. What’s more, 9 out of 10 people managers (94%) agree that ‘a positive workplace culture creates a resilient team of employees’.
While remote work might be new for a lot of organisations, remote teams have existed long enough for us to learn from their benefits and drawbacks. No matter whether you’re new to the term ‘positive work culture’ and you are looking for some clarity on that, or you’re searching for ways to improve the culture at your workplace, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will address what a positive work culture is, its benefits, and the most important aspects of creating a positive work culture in any company.
Work culture – what is it?
In short: Work culture is the environment that surrounds us at all times at our place of employment and refers to the unspoken beliefs, values, behaviours, and norms that comprise an organisation. Work culture can have a huge effect on a business’s success or failure. And if you’re a team leader, it could even have a profound effect on your sanity.
Work culture heavily influences how we feel about our jobs and our role in the team. A company’s culture reflects the way its employees think, act and treat one another on a daily basis. Interestingly enough, since there are now more remote teams than ever, company culture becomes less relevant, and in turn, the significance of individual team culture increases.
Why should you want to create a positive work culture?
Positive work culture is really important from the employee side as well as from the company side. When the work culture is strong and positive, it is more likely that employees will get up for work with a smile on, that they are gonna be more productive, more effective, and less tired by what they are doing. A great work environment helps keep old employees with the company, but it also attracts new ones.Marta Pawlik, HR Administration Specialist, Tagvenue
Many experts, as well as company leaders, believe that a strong workplace culture separates the most successful companies from the average ones. Organisations with positive work cultures outperform their competitors in many areas – they are, for example, more successful financially! If that wasn’t enough, a strong workplace culture attracts more qualified candidates! It is likely that prospective employees will take the time to investigate and evaluate your company and its culture. So the more positive the feedback, the better. After all, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 study shows that companies with the strongest cultures are more likely to attract and keep talent.
Positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced as well. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces employee stress.
At Tagvenue, we have been working fully remotely for more than 18 months now and, like most of remote organisations, we have faced many learnings along the way. But one thing that has proven to be more important than ever is our sense of community! Our employees truly appreciate daily stand-ups and the possibility to see each other on camera. Apart from discussing work, we make sure that we share small things from our life outside work, such as book and film recommendations or newly-found recipes. Small team-building activities are what keeps us going as well. If by any chance you are looking for team building games and activities for your team, be sure to check out this article which has a lot of fun recommendations for group activities with remote teams.
The right mindset is a basis of a strong work culture
Before you have settled on what kind of software your company should be using, or how remote work in your company should be structured, there are a few other important things to consider. Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen, researchers who have been studying remote teams for years now, have come up with a few key factors that every remote team must embrace in order to be successful. According to them, make sure that your team reaches a place of shared understanding of each other’s work habits, that there is a shared identity among the team, and, finally, a shared purpose. Here are some details to make sure those key mindsets are clear and, more importantly, implemented in the team:
Step 1: Shared Understanding
In the early stages of every team’s development, it is normal for team members to be voicing their opinions and feeling one another out. It may be a rough path, but eventually, it leads to a place of mutual understanding and respect.
What we refer to as ‘shared understanding’ is the degree to which members of the team know each other, each other’s skills, and the abilities of everyone else on the team. It is also the knowledge about each team member’s communication preferences, work styles, and availability. Besides, it’s likely that individuals come from different cultural backgrounds. To sum everything up: it’s impossible to get great cooperation without a deep understanding of every team member, what they’re good at, what are their assets, what they need help with and how they ask for it. This is why providing everyone with a space to develop shared understanding in the workplace is crucial.
Wondering how to do so? Well, for starters, find time in the week to discuss a wide range of topics. Giving the team members space to talk about various things, such as their hobbies, family life, or random news, provides them with an opportunity to learn more about each other. A great (and fun) way would be to play icebreaker games and activities in your team. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can always have a look at our article on Virtual Icebreakers for Remote Teams.
Step 2: Shared Identity
Developing shared identity is important for any team but even more so for remote ones. It is the degree to which team members feel that they are part of a group. Shared identity is simply a term to define whether or not individuals truly feel like they’re a part of the team. The term ‘team’ carries great importance because when we identify with a group, that particular group shapes not only our own identity but also our behaviour.
One powerful way to develop not just a team identity but a bond between team members is to point to (and to continue pointing to) the team’s superordinate goal. What is that? Superordinate goals are the objectives that affect everyone in a group (or even across groups) and, in order to be achieved, require participation from everyone who can get affected.
If you want to strengthen bonds within a team, team building activities could help with that. We know how important collaboration, communication or problem solving are, which is why we recommend team building. Team building activities are fun, relaxing and engaging, but most importantly can build a sense of collaboration in a team.
Step 3: Shared Purpose
People seek a sense of purpose not only in their personal lives but also at work. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that a lot of organisations have trouble with helping to express that sense of purpose and people may feel like their job isn’t that important.
To develop a shared purpose within a team, you shouldn’t focus on the question ‘Who are we fighting?’ and rather ask your employees: ‘What are we fighting for?’. The first question sets up an unhealthy, competitive attitude that won’t be useful, let alone beneficial. ‘What are we fighting for?’, on the other hand, may take on many meanings, such as ‘What is the problem that we’re trying to solve?’ or ‘What are we trying to prove?’, but mainly the question defines why the company exists. What we want you to take away from this particular mindset is one simple thing: don’t focus on the competitors as it is a short-term purpose; instead, focus on your mission – a long-term purpose.
Establishing these three mindsets early on in your team will set everyone up for success. Shared understanding, identity and purpose won’t just make your team more productive; they can actually make them feel closer to one another, no matter how far away they are in real life.
Tips on how to create a positive work culture, a.k.a How the best teams become the best teams
As you already know, there is no success in business without happy and fulfilled employees. But creating a healthy and positive work environment can be more difficult than we may think. Leaders have to remember, though, that it is not impossible. Below you will find some tips on how to create a positive work culture in your team (or organisation) and help your business thrive.
In 2015, Google’s People Analytics team (some of the best organisational psychologists and statisticians in the world) carried out one of the largest studies of teams ever conducted. The researchers focused on teams’ regular behaviours, traditions and norms (in other words, their culture) and they started to find patterns that really explain the difference between the highest-performing teams and everyone else. In total, they found five elements of a team’s culture that seemed to explain how the best teams became the best teams, which are:
In short: the extent to which team members are accountable to shared expectations.
It is impossible for employers to micromanage every detail of their employee’s day. With dependability, they can focus on more important tasks (such as growth and development of the business) since there is a high level of trust in the team. But employers aren’t the only ones who benefit from dependability in the workplace. Trusted employees have bigger chances for growth and promotion.
If you’re still not sure what dependability in the workplace means, here are a few examples. Being on time may sound like an obvious thing but plenty of people do not really care about watches and clocks. Dependable employees respect deadlines and do everything they can to meet them. It’s possible to meet deadlines when you properly plan your work and use work hours effectively.
When it comes to dependability in the workplace, being detail-oriented and taking the initiative is also quite important. Even a small detail can make a difference between success and failure, which is why dependable employees should notice when something is off and take the initiative to either fix it or talk to the manager about the issue. And last but not least – supporting peers! Helping colleagues with a task (or any process) not only builds team unity but also helps training efforts.
2. Structure and clarity
In short: whether the team has established roles and rules of engagement.
Managers should monitor their employees’ work but should avoid holding their hands on every project. This approach is important in order to build trust between themselves and the employees. This trust is built by agreeing on clear plans, goals and roles – not only in a team but also for every individual.
Role clarity is a clear understanding that employees have about their tasks, responsibilities and processes at work. It isn’t limited to individual roles, it also includes their colleagues’ work. Why is role clarity crucial? A lack of clarity can cause stress and confusion, and, eventually, negatively affect productivity. To reduce these feelings and improve both personal effectiveness and the organisation’s performance, you should have a strong structure and role clarity at your workplace.
What could further help your workers are regular check-ins and one-on-ones, during which both the leaders and employees get to voice their goals, expectations, challenges as well as feelings! Open communication can heavily influence establishing roles and rules of engagement.
In short: how much the team feels their work has significance.
It may often happen that your team becomes burnt out and dissatisfied with their work; it may seem repetitive or even aimless. This is why it’s extremely important to celebrate your team’s successes, no matter how big or small. Remind your team members that their individual efforts are a big portion of the company’s overall success and progress toward a larger mission!
As a leader, you should also frequently communicate with your employees. A high level of transparency and keeping the workers in the loop about what is going on in the organisation will make them feel trusted and valued. This kind of news could be shared during company weekly meetings or quick catch-ups.
Remember to regularly praise your employees for their work and share each team’s successes with the rest of the company! How? It could be done either in a simple, yet cheerful message on Slack or perhaps you could go a step further and celebrate with a special meme made to commemorate the occasion. Remember that when employees feel valued, they’re more likely to feel satisfied with their work!
In short: how much the team feels their work makes a difference.
It is really important that all team members feel like their work is meaningful and really matters. How could you cultivate the feeling of importance and significance? We have some ideas! First of all, keep reminding your team how important they are for the business and how much you value their work. This could improve morale among your coworkers.
People often have more impact on others than they realise. Depending on the type of the business and what its main purpose is, there is always some kind of an impact on the world. It doesn’t matter whether your company is providing clean water to communities and regions where it’s difficult to access or helping people host their dream wedding, you are still making a difference! Whatever the level of influence, clarifying this sense of mission can help employees find a purpose in their work more easily – especially if they live it every day.
5. Psychological safety
In short: how much the team feels they can be vulnerable and authentic with one another.
Amy Edmondson, the main researcher on psychological safety, described it as ‘a team climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves’. Let’s dig deeper and see what she had in mind when describing psychological safety.
First, let’s focus on trust as it is the first building block of psychological safety. It may sound cliché and you may have heard it a million times (which actually highlights how true the statement is), but the core element of healthy, productive cultures for both the company and the team is trust. If there is trust within a team and the team members trust their leader, (almost) everything runs more smoothly.
When it comes to leading a remote team, trust means creating opportunities for individual team members to feel trusted and act in such ways that they will feel comfortable. In fact, it should be leaders who go first. You could share your thoughts and concerns openly so that your team feels trusted with your vulnerability and they could reciprocate the action. What else? Admit mistakes in order for your team to feel like they can trust you and they will hopefully admit their mistakes to you too. Remember that the change starts at the top!
The other, equally important factor in psychological safety is respect. The difference between trust and respect is simple: trust refers to the degree to which a person is comfortable sharing their authentic self, whilst respect refers to the feeling that the other person accepts that self. In other words: If I trust you, it means that I will be open with you when I share; if you respect me, it means you value what I share.
Even though respect has an enormous impact on organisations, it isn’t shown as much as it should. In 2013, Harvard Business Review in collaboration with Christine Porath and Tony Schwartz conducted a survey in which they asked employees about the feeling of respect in their workplaces. The study found out that more than half of employees (54%) didn’t regularly receive respect from their employers which translated into less engagement, more turnover, less productivity, as well as rarely feeling that their work had any meaning and significance. In fact, the study showed that respect had a bigger effect on employee outcomes than any other factor.
Ideas for creating a positive work environment
Now that you know all about the factors that contribute to a positive work culture, it’s essential to integrate some activities into your workplace culture to foster positivity and enhance employee wellbeing. Below are our top ideas to create a positive work environment.
Capitalise on employee engagement
We’ve highlighted the importance of employee engagement in our last article, however, in case you missed it, we’d like to reiterate its significance in reinforcing a positive workplace culture. Employee engagement not only helps people perform better but also reduces employee turnover, and improves employee morale and satisfaction.
Whether it’s through simple but meaningful activities such as a wellness session, brainstorming opportunities or online group games, by encouraging employees to participate in company events, happier employees will positively impact the work culture.
If you’re looking for other ways to capitalise on employee engagement, we suggest integrating these strategies:
- Involve employees in decision-making
- Focus on clear and open communication
- Trust your employees and provide them with enough autonomy for growth and improvement
- Encourage two-way feedback in all departments
Promote employee well-being
Top companies have one thing in common: they invest in their employees’ well-being. Mental health is often overlooked when it comes to the work environment, yet it is one of the main factors that directly impact your work environment and culture.
By directly investing in your staff’s wellbeing, you help employees feel connected to their workplace, increase loyalty to their company and make your people feel valued.
There are many ways to cater to your employees’ wellbeing. Here are some of them:
- Provide adequate medical cover and health insurance
- Encourage rest time and vacations
- Promote work-life balance through fun activities and time off
- Integrate well-being activities such as meditation into the company’s culture
- Provide social security like retirement benefits
Contributing to your employees’ well-being improves staff retention and encourages employees to adopt a positive attitude towards the workplace.
Read our mental health wellbeing ideas here.
Invest in quality tools and equipment
Whether it’s an ergonomic chair or keyword, providing your staff with the best equipment makes work more enjoyable and easier. Consumables, computers, and other equipment are some of the things that can make your office a better place to work. Remember, to maintain the equipment and tools through servicing and inspection.
If your team is working remotely, make sure that they have the necessary equipment to make their home office comfy and work-friendly. Flex Jobs has an easy 12-step guide for setting up a workspace here.
Provide learning and development opportunities
Supporting your employees’ growth is rewarding for the company as well as for the individual on a personal level. Companies investing in the development of employees have higher retention rates.
Learning and development opportunities show that when you are interested in promoting personal growth, employees feel safer and supported at work. Such opportunities also make space for career growth within the organisation, and since recruitment is pretty costly, you might want to invest in that one.
Integrate diversity and inclusivity in the workplace
Revising your current policies to make sure that there is no discrimination is a good place to start. Taking into account employee complaints can help companies identify where they are failing. Discrimination is often one of the main reasons for low employee morale. Integrating policies that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion may be an effective solution to discrimination issues.
Here are some tips for creating a non-discriminatory work environment:
- Make employees feel welcomed through onboarding activities and integration from day one
- Encourage employees to practice courtesy in the workplace
- Encourage active listening, communication, and understanding
- Provide employees with equal opportunities
- Set up diversity, equality, and inclusion policies
- Encourage active participation in diversity workshops and events
Check out our Pride Month post to learn how you can make your workplace more inclusive.
It’s difficult to predict, at least now, what the post-pandemic future of work will look like in its entirety. However, the last few months of remote work have shown employees how their jobs could look and they increasingly know what they want.
According to a new study conducted by IBM, 54% of employees want remote work to be their primary method of working. Of those surveyed, 75% said they’d like to continue to work from home at least some of the time, and 40% feel strongly that their employers should give employees a choice to work remotely.
The survey clearly shows that now more than ever workplace culture reigns supreme. That is why it’s time to build on the progress of recent months and increase work on clearly stated values. These values must be embraced by the leaders and then passed down to the employees. Remember that regardless of any challenges, talent needs to be nurtured and valued. Organisations must move past the ‘just getting the work done’ mindset and begin thinking of the long term: all with their employees’ needs and concerns in mind.
HR professionals, executives and people managers need to ensure their organisations can sustain the positive culture shifts cultivated during the pandemic and utilise findings to improve processes. The full responsibility is not only on the leaders – they should also encourage their employees to cultivate those behaviours and attitudes.
One last thing (and probably the most important one) to take away from this article is: there is no thriving business without happy employees. Keep that in mind, cultivate a positive work culture in your organisation and, hopefully, your business will keep flourishing.
What is work place culture?
Work culture is a collection of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that contribute to the atmosphere in the workplace. A healthy work culture combines employee behaviour and company policies with the overall goals. Since no workplace could function without people, the well-being of all individuals is also incredibly important.
What makes a positive work culture?
There are a number of factors that contribute to positive workplace culture, such as the company’s core values and beliefs, goals, work practices and people. If there are a lot of people working in one team, there is sure to be lots of positivity but it can easily turn toxic. A wise and strong management team can create a good work culture and boost the team’s productivity (among other things). According to Google’s research, there are certain elements of team culture that help teams flourish, such as dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, impact, and psychological safety.
Is positive work culture really that important?
People need a positive environment in order to thrive, especially in the workplace. As mentioned above, there are a number of factors that could positively affect your workplace. A positive work culture influences employee happiness and retention, performance quality, better hiring choices and company reputation.
How can I maintain a positive culture at work?
Creating a positive workplace is one thing, but maintaining it is another. When onboarding new hires, you should prioritise teaching them about company values and culture and make sure that they don’t feel left out. Another thing you should consider is creating a comfortable and productive workspace for your employees. In the case of remote teams, make sure they have good equipment and if anyone needs a new desk chair or another monitor, have the company provide it for them. You should also regularly check in on your employees – whether through a message or during a video call.
How can I create open communication in my team?
Open communication within a team is one of the fundamentals of efficient and positive work culture. Employees should always be reassured that their opinion matters and is valuable. Such an approach should be introduced to the new employees at the beginning of their journey with your company. And then, throughout their time in the workforce, they should constantly be reminded that they’re more than welcome to use their voice.