How to build a strong remote culture
Some people will tell you that it is impossible to build a strong culture in a remote company. They reason that culture is something you can only really build from being together in-person, by going to a happy hour at a bar, coming together in a room for a Town Hall, or playing ping pong in the break room together.
To those people, we say this: if building culture online is impossible, then how did WordPress or World of Warcraft become so popular? They created incredibly powerful communities with a strong culture and did it primarily online.
As we will see in this chapter, your remote company can create an even more powerful culture than you might find in an office and then amplify and strengthen it through in-person activities as well.
The key to a happy remote team and strong remote culture is constantly pumping motivation into it so that people feel connected to something bigger than themselves and not simply alone in their living room all day.
Your goal in leading a remote team is to focus on breaking the ‘radio silence’ each day and replacing it with inspiration, motivation, and ways for people to share and engage in new ways.
If you don’t, you risk your team falling into the same rut that every remote worker is faced with often — loneliness, demotivation, burnout.
In this chapter, we will cover many of the same tips that would help you build and foster any online community but also work incredibly well at motivating remote teams.
Create asynchronous opportunities that connect people
Your goal is to constantly try and stimulate your team's content output/production, as that content will motivate and inspire one another.
Culture does not just appear out of the blue; it comes from people talking, engaging, sharing and inspiring each other, and you have to create the opportunities and the environment for it to happen.
If you do not, your team will likely maintain radio silence and merely discuss what ticket they should be working on.
An example of a great day on a remote team with a strong culture looks something like this:
The day starts with a playful message to kick off your week and remind each other that we are a group of real people with personalities:
And then seeing photos from your team inspiring you to get out and get up more:Then seeing one of your developers gave a talk at a meetup last night, inspiring you to want to grow and do the same:
And then a wave of welcoming GIFs as a new developer joins the team:
And then love and appreciation shared from team to team for helping one another:
And then seeing a new Game Night tournament has been set up that you will get to play with your teammates in:
The day keeps getting better as you start seeing your teammates (some of whom have come together for a meetup) and where they are today:
Or seeing the teammates who are at our roaming hacker house:
And then ending the day with a big Town Hall as everyone signs on together once a quarter to hang out and get hyped up about what is coming next in the company:
This is just a very, very small taste of what a typical day at our remote company looks like and the amount of culture we have built and opportunities we have created for people to connect over the years.
The key is that none of this happens without first setting a precedent — one that shows your team that it is OK to share where you are, what you are doing, how you are growing, how you are inspiring others, how you are getting up and out more, how you are having fun that day.
Until you set that precedent and culture that shows it is OK to travel, it is OK to have fun, it is OK to go to the gym, etc., they will continue to assume you want them working 24/7 and everything else is unacceptable.
Create an environment that welcomes this content, that encourages them to share about all the ways they are growing, learning, inspiring and living their lives as digital nomads.
Creating culture on a remote team happens the day you start sharing the kind of content that you want others to share and that will ultimately build your culture.
You start it by doing it yourself first, and soon after, others will follow. Then you can graduate to more structured and recurring opportunities as we will see next.