Producing and developing a thriving team culture is critical for success in any business, one that takes a thoughtful amount of time to nurture and maintain. But what happens when you take the culture you have carefully curated and disperse it in different locations, what happens to the dynamic? If the last 2 years have taught us anything, it’s to be ready to pivot and to pivot quickly.

Here at Talk, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster to nail the remote working culture across the whole business. This is due to the fact that half of our staff have always been remote, working out of locations such as Brazil and the UK. Once the pandemic hit, and again with the recent lockdowns, our team members in Australia have been thrown into adopting a full-time remote working model. We had been luckily in this instance, due to the fact that our systems and processes are built for remote working, so our day to day output didn’t suffer – but what about the impact a fully remote team had on our culture?

The building of our culture is a whole-team approach, we’re nothing without the people who work in the business and work fiercely to protect that. Here’s the top 5 things we have learnt along the way that help maintain a thriving remote working culture.

1. Transparency

Having open and honest communication with your team members surrounding all areas of the business is key to maintaining a strong culture. Sharing the failures and challenges you’re facing may not be the easiest, but it will increase trust and a sense that everyone in the businesses is in it together, no matter the location. In doing so, this will also breakdown any toxic hierarchy and provide an open flow of communication. Talk sets aside time for transparent conversations every Monday morning during our 15 minute company-wide coffee catch up, which aims to share information about the business and teams.

Transparency is also a key conversation topic when hiring new team members. We want to ensure we’re employing like-minded individuals who share our transparency values and will help continue to embed this within our culture.

2. Meaningful Perks Outside of the Office

There are small and meaningful ways you can provide team members perks without breaking the bank or coming off as pushing an agenda. At Talk, our team has told us that their personal time is important, that taking time off to recharge the batteries helps them perform at their best. So in addition to a paid day off for their birthday (because who wants to work on their birthday), this year we also introduced an unpaid “Yay Day”, where team members can take any day off they wanted for something personal. Some took it off for anniversaries, an extended long weekend or even because it was the perfect beach day.

We also provided everyone with a subscription to the Calm App as a way to help team members manage and improve their mental wellbeing.

3. Team Huddles, That Aren’t About Work

Team huddles can’t all be about work or your team members will start to feel like just another cog in the machine. Aside from the Monday morning catch up, which is to focus on business, we also have a Friday “happy half hour”. For the first 15 minutes, we divide into breakout Zooms of about 6 people. This allows for team members who don’t usually work together to speak in smaller groups and get to know each other, forming more meaningful connections and allowing everyone to have a voice. We then congregate for a larger whole team wrap up and head off for an early mark at 3.15pm.

4. Communicate with Intention

Think about the time it was so easy to ask someone a quick question on your way to the kitchen, or to have them to run their eyes over your work. Without these small interactions, things tend to get forgotten or pushed to the side, organic conversations are then replaced by work-focussed conversations. At Talk, we use messenger app Slack as well as chat groups on Discord. Quick and easy communication streams that don’t require a phone call or a Zoom meeting will open up the lines of that chit-chat type of communication between colleagues.

If a meeting does require video, make it a requirement for everyone in the company to have their camera on. Allowing your team members face to face interaction is key to inclusivity and feeling of connection, you might even get to see a pet or two sneaking into the screen. Make sure that you also aren’t distracted when taking these calls and give the recipient your full attention, the same way you would in a physical office setting. You wouldn’t have a conversation in the office and stare at your phone the whole time while nodding and throwing in the occasional “yep”. Turn off notifications, shut down your email, put away your phone and communicate with intention.

5. Celebrating the Wins of the Business & the Teams

Make sure to celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Being laser focussed with getting on with it and not taking the time to celebrate promotions, landing a new client, finishing a project or even something personal like a new puppy or a milestone birthday can be detrimental to culture. These types of celebrations make individual team members feel supported and connected to each other and the business. By fostering a supportive and celebratory culture, you’ll often find team members are more likely to want to promote their wins and shoutout other members, breeding inclusivity.

Keeping a successful and productive team culture doesn’t have to suffer when working remotely, in fact, it can strengthen your business and get all of your employees working together. With a bit of strategic planning, input from all levels within the business and honest communication, you can build a thriving culture and grow together.