The remote workforce continues to expand across borders, as more and more individuals and businesses move towards work-from-home arrangements. But managing a distributed team presents its own set of challenges, such as fostering communication among their employees without the convenience of in-person interactions. 

When introducing systems of communication, it’s important to ensure that team members feel connected on a personal and professional level. The beauty of remote work is that everyone can enjoy their own preferred way of working to optimize productivity. Providing an open space for self-expression and discourse can help make sure that everyone is on the same page despite individual working styles. 

“I was able to connect more deeply with 135 people spread across 6 continents than I could have ever done in an office.”

Read on to discover some actionable ways to establish effective communication and cooperation within your distributed team, building a strong and collaborative company culture.  

1. Work on what you believe in – clearly communicate your company goals and values.

To ensure responsibility and accountability within your team, define and communicate your company’s core values and vision. You should keep this in mind when setting yearly and quarterly goals with your team. This will ultimately affect everyone’s short-term goals and determine their day-to-day reality: it should be clear what each team member is working on. 

A cohesive company culture enables your team to feel invested in your company’s ethos and what it stands for. In turn, they feel like an active and engaged part of the team and better understand their contributing role while moving towards a common goal.

At SafetyWing, our vision and mission statements are written down in Notion, which is one of the most important tools we use as a company. It’s crucial that our team always has access to this document.  

As a fully remote team since the beginning, we quickly realized the importance of looking for a good culture fit when hiring. We create products that we personally benefit from and believe in – our entire team uses the global health insurance that we’ve been offering to remote companies worldwide since its launch. Thus, our personal values are strongly aligned with our company values.

“Your culture has to be written down because you may go years without ever seeing a certain colleague or a certain team member. And you need to know that without a doubt, they’re aligned culturally, which means they’re aligned on values.”

– Darren Murph from GitLab, How to transition to remote

2. Develop and Implement Effective Communication Systems

In the absence of face-to-face interactions, clear and easy-to-use communication systems are required for seamless collaboration and workflow. The bigger your team, the more important it is to lay out specific rules and expectations. You can’t rely on effective communication to happen spontaneously, so make sure to set guidelines to determine how, when, and where communication should take place. 

We try to set clear communication rules that work for everyone in the team.
For example, we divided it by communication systems we use:

  • Slack: used only for internal communication, everyone should aim to respond within a day. 
  • Email: used for external communication, response in less than 24h is not expected.

It’s likely that your team members are scattered across different time zones. Slack allows users to add their time zones, working hours, and availability for meetings in their bios, which is extremely useful. And with the freedom of working remotely, some may choose to work odd hours. This is where it can be helpful to set boundaries, encouraging your employees to take their down-time seriously and strive for a healthy work-life balance.

Our friends over at Hustler Marketing, an email marketing agency uses Slack extensively for every single communication, both internally and externally. They have multiple channels like “management”, “department heads”, “design” and even a channel dedicated just to memes to keep things light and fun! “Using emojis and in fact creating our own is almost like a second language we speak here!” says, Bostjan, the CEO.

Even though we have the ability to work async most of the time, we like using Teamflow – a virtual office where we hang out, have meetings, and see who’s online for a chat or brainstorming session (we even have a virtual watercooler!)

In recent years, working remotely and being completely location independent have led to an influx in systems and platforms that keep remote teams alive. SaneBox has an extensive range of productivity tools to help teams effectively communicate, collaborate, and stay connected.

It’s important to note that sifting through different tools won’t necessarily aid productivity, as it takes time for people to learn and adapt to new processes. A more useful approach is to thoughtfully select a few tools and methods and stick with them while monitoring their utility.

3. Provide a Space for Creative Thinking 

Collaboration and brainstorming are key to generating innovative ideas and should be at the core of your team’s process. In the remote world, however, these conversations can’t always happen naturally, so there needs to be a system in place to facilitate them. 

Encourage your employees to share their knowledge and ideas with each other. This can be done through various means including online meetings, lunch-and-learns, and interactive communication platforms that allow for creative ideas to flow freely across departments. Find an approach that works for your team. Productivity and motivation are important, but it’s okay to sometimes pause and ask yourself “Is this fun for me?” There’s nothing more inspiring than working on a project you truly think is great.

Give your team space to express their ideas and creativity. A key reason why employees are not proposing creative solutions or original ideas is the fear of making a mistake. Cultivate a company culture that encourages and rewards risk-taking. It’s empowering for people to know they will be supported when trying new things. 

A key message we stand behind at SafetyWing is: 

“People make mistakes, that’s inevitable. There’s always room for improvement, but luckily all problems are solvable. So, go ahead and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it. Come up with bold ideas aimed at solving a problem. Subject all ideas to criticism from yourself and others. Judge ideas by their content, not the source. Drop refuted ideas quickly and move on.”

4. Bolster Team Trust and Integrity

Research shows that higher levels of trust and dependability in the workplace accelerate productivity.

You’ve put tremendous effort into hiring the right people, now trust them to work in their own way and contribute to the company. Micromanaging is exhausting, especially in a remote setting, and completely unnecessary. As the mentioned research outlines, simply trusting your team results in: “74% less stress, 106% more energy at work and 50% higher productivity.” This should be at the top of all productivity hacks and advice articles.

With distributed workers expected to comprise half of the global workforce by 2029, building a sturdy company culture is more important than ever. As a remote company, you have a global talent pool to choose from: hire the people you truly want to work with. Achieving your goals will come naturally.

SafetyWing offers the SaneBox community a 5% discount on the first year of Remote Health for individuals and teams.

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