If you’ve got a team or employees that work remotely, you’re probably acutely aware that it can be very difficult to build a positive company culture. There are no chats around the water cooler, no visual cues to spark conversation, no casual opportunities for ‘grabbing a coffee’ together or a drink on Friday night. Plus, you might be in completely different time zones and come from completely different cultures. Remote team culture is something that can seem out of your hands and too difficult to even bother trying to influence.
But there are a couple of simple things that can make an enormous difference to your remote team culture… We’ve written before about 9 best practises for managing remote workers but how do you really “recreate the water cooler” environment?
Use Questions to get to Know Your Remote Team
Instead of jumping straight into a meeting about some decision or a status update, take a bit more time to build the culture with your team. One of the best ways to get to know your team better is through questions. These should not be used in an interview style, but should be used to spark conversations and talk about something other than work.
You can use these questions equally well in your one-on-one meetings, or in group meetings. For some people, this is all plainly obvious, but if this sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to you, it can help to have a swipe-file for questions you can ask. The idea here is not to ask them all at once, but to focus on one as a starting point for a conversation where you both share bits of your personal lives.
25 Questions to ask your Remote Workers
For most of these, we have some questions as well as some follow ups to keep the conversation flowing. Remember to contribute your own experience or point-of-view too.
- What was the last movie or TV series you watched? Would you recommend it?
- What’s on the menu for dinner tonight? Who cooks dinner in your house? Do you like to cook?
- What did you want to be when you were young?
- How do you like to keep fit / healthy?
- Have you got any travel plans at the moment? What do you like to do when you’re on holidays?
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- What’s your favourite way to relax on the weekends? How do you recharge?
- What’s your worst habit? Have you ever tried to break it?
- What businesses do you most admire? Why?
- What’s your favourite location to work? Do you have a rhythm to where you place yourself for work?
- What time of the day do you do your best work?
- What’s the last book you read?
- What was your favourite project you’ve ever worked on? What did you like about it?
- What’s a talent you have that no-one at work knows about?
- How are your children? What are they into at the moment?
- Do you have any pets? Why or why not? What’s your favourite thing about them?
- If you were to start a business from scratch, what values would you base it on?
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
- If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?
- What’s the best perk you’ve had in a job?
- Who are you most enjoying working with at the moment?
- What do you like to do when you’re feeling stressed? What calms you down?
- What’s your favourite restaurant? What do you like most about it? How often do you go?
- What’s the best thing you’ve purchased lately?
- What’s something new that has caught your attention lately?
Obviously, these can actually be used for people working in the same building too!
Use Photos to get to know your Remote Team
As well as questions, some remote team managers also use photos to help team members get to know each other. After all, a picture tells a thousand words and without them, you have absolutely no visual reference for about your team member.
3 Ways to Use Photos with a Remote Team
- Set up separate channels in Slack or other chat tools especially for off-work topics. These can be things like some of the above themes (eg “What’s for dinner”). Or, you can also do things like “I bet you didn’t know this about me…
- You can also designate a specific time of day for sharing a photo. (Of course this will be different in each location if you’re spread around the world, but it could be right before your weekly phone in for example.)
- Or, you can designate one day a week for photo day – I like “Photo Phriday” as a theme 🙂
Encouraging remote team members to use photos on channels like this can be enormously effective.
Imagine if your remote team members shared photos like some of the ones above. Before too long, everyone would feel like they know each other a lot better. But remember to lead by example – you can’t expect others to share snippets of their personal lives if you’re not!
Why Bother Building a Positive Remote Team Culture?
Of course, having a remote team with a positive company culture means that team members are more committed to each other, work better together, and are more committed to the goals of the business. The end result being increased productivity, high employee satisfaction and a much more pleasant place for everyone to work (including you!).
Do you have other ideas or experiences with building a strong culture with a remote team? We’d love to hear them here…