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How to Keep a Healthy Remote Culture

“Coming together is a beginning;
keeping together is progress;
working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

So, you managed to navigate the interpersonal day to day relationships successfully using these guidelines but there’s still another perspective to consider: what does the big picture of a remote company look like? Specially in these times of uncertainty (and really any type of crisis), the roles of leaders need to be more present and vocal than ever before. 

Being on top of everything without being physically present is challenging for sure. At the very beginning, when the teams are small, there aren’t many concerns: everyone knows each other and holding a cup of coffee every morning, you can talk about work and even what we did during the weekend. 

But soon enough, companies start growing. Sometimes it happens really fast and there’s not enough time for teams to adapt.

What usually happens is: more people joins and there are new faces coming into the meetings all the time, they get more crowded. When this happens people tend to start shying away, cameras soon start to be off and microphones permanently muted. Leaders and managers stop hearing from some people completely. Communication gaps start to appear: the information travels through more people to reach leaders and sometimes messages don’t find them at all.

These are some of the most usual problems that, as remote leaders, we need to confront: siloed teams or individuals, miscommunication, misinformation and a lack of engagement due to some not even feeling part of the company or team. If you season the daily hustles of software development projects with any of the above, you’ll get the perfect recipe for a good headache.

Here are some of the strategies that work when faced with these problems:

Communicating often to EVERYONE. Yes, communication is a word that will soon be worn out (if it hasn’t already) and with good reason. But how can we reach out to ‘everyone’? Holding all hands meetings to make sure announcements and news get through to everyone can have a huge impact. This has also a very desired effect of concentrating the source of information to an official one and crushes different versions of it going around.

With the current health crisis, people are faced with a lot of anxiety about their jobs and the future in general. No need to feed that uncertainty with silence. It shouldn’t sound crazy to double the amount of these announcements in the face of events like the COVID-19 emergency. Your employees will feel more at ease knowing what’s going on. Whatever that is.

Crisis aside, it’s always good to nurture collaboration and team building. 

Other symptoms of broke communication can be disengagement, disconnection from one another and repeated efforts and initiatives all across. The latter clearly shows that the needs exist but people are covering them in any way they can and isolated from other teams. What can be done? Facilitate spaces where people can share their knowledge. In general, everyone loves to talk about something they know a lot about so, organizing a series of 30’ webinars on different topics is a great option. Some folks may notice that others within the company knew about stuff they need and knowledge starts to flow around.

Saving all these materials in different spaces like Confluence for people to read any time is a perfect way to support company culture: this is our approach to things.

Another major source of concern is general information about how the company is doing. It’s a good idea to communicate (within reason) what’s the financial situation of the company and announce upcoming wins. 

Another important consideration is to funnel information through direct reports and keep them to a handful. That way, you always have ears on the ground.

Finally, and maybe the most obvious means: spaces where people can talk. In a remote world, Slack has been an oasis for these interactions. It allows for announces as well as closed channels and private messages (and calls). But you should definitely research to find the option that works best for your business.

In sum, you probably already know that communication is key but it is also key to know in which direction it should flow, how often and who should be the main recipients to keep a healthy remote team culture.

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