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How to Build a Strong Remote Company Culture

Going Remote.February 5, 2020
By Paw Vej

Paw quit his office job back in 2016 to become part of Financer.com, a global financial comparison website. He has been traveling for the past 4 years and today he is in charge of recruitment and leading a small team.

Building a company culture that people want to be part of is crucial to the long-term success of your business.

This is true for both remote and co-located work.

As a Hubudian, it’s likely that you’re already working remotely in one way or another.

Since the launch of Financer.com 5 years ago, we have gone from a being a guy with a computer to a team of about 45 people today.

During this experience, we have learned a thing or two about building a remote company culture.

In a remote workplace, it’s easy to forget about culture.

Unfortunately, company culture doesn’t build itself. If you start building yours too late, it can be difficult to fix, because people expect what they’re already used to.

A remote company culture is harder to build than a co-located one.

You’re not going to see each other every day, grab a drink after work or play ping pong during your breaks.

So how can you build that culture and structure your business in a way that supports it?

If you want to build a team or already have, this blog post is for you.

Now, let’s look at how you can build that culture.

Content of this article:

  • Finding the right team
  • The right tools for communication
  • Rewarding output and results vs hours worked
  • Avoiding loneliness – Mentoring or buddy system
  • Meeting up in person – Work retreats
  • Peer to peer learning

Finding the right team

What type of people do you want to work with? At Financer.com, we want a team of doers, learners and growers.

Your company culture and the people in your team are closely related. You want the two to fit somewhat together.

You can have the best intentions about what your company culture should look like, but if the people don’t fit in, it probably won’t work.

Ask yourself what type of people do I want to work with?

I did an entire presentation about hiring remote workers at Hubud this week.

In case you missed it, here are some cliff notes you can apply to most remote positions:

  • Hire people with a track-record of action taking. There won’t always be someone telling you “do this, now do that”. It’s important they’re able to find their own solutions, prioritize their work and get things done.
  • Hire people with a growth mindset. People who are eager to learn and keep improving, not matter what they’re doing. They often ask lots of questions and look for ways to improve their work independently.
  • Hire people who think win/win. Not only do they want to learn and improve themselves, they want everyone in the team to follow. They’re happy to share what they learn with the team, so everyone benefits.
  • Hire people with a strong intrinsic motivation. Do they have a strong reason to keep working with you, even if the going gets tough? This is especially important when hiring for very independent positions.
  • Hire people suited for remote work. Social interaction is naturally limited in remote workplaces. This means that people in remote teams must be OK with this and have their own support systems outside of the workplace too.

The exact skillset they need will vary depending on your company.

The right tools for communication

Since your workplace is virtual, the tools you use matter.

A message feels more personal than an email. A call feels more personal than a message. If you attach a gif or emoji to a message, it feels more real than just a dot.

We only use a few different tools:

  • Slack. You’ve probably already heard of Slack, which we use as our main communication tool internally. Slack is great, because intuitive, much more personal than an email, and more professional than using WhatsApp or Messenger. You can send messages, have calls, and even set reminders and integrate the Slackbot with other programs.
  • WorkNavigation (WN). A system we created to keep track of everything from self-invoicing and task management to company announcements and content creation guidelines.
  • Trello. Some team members like using Trello to organize their work.
  • E-mail. Most of the external communication happens through email.

Rewarding output and results vs hours worked

We want to create a culture of action and win/win situations.

You might have heard that in a regular office job, it’s not uncommon to work just 3 hours during an 8-hour workday.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter how many hours you work.

What matters are the results of your work, which is often correlated to the amount of work you get done.

With us, you get paid in a few different ways:

  • Tasks – The amount of work you do
  • Profit share – The results your work creates
  • Bonuses – Level based monthly loyalty bonus
  • Milestones – As you reach pre-determined milestones, bonuses are released

We don’t have a task called busy work. Tasks we do have include content writing, link building, refurbish page and SEO title.

These tasks are output based.

You don’t necessarily need to have profit share and milestones for everyone in your team. These things work well with our business model and company structure but might not work in yours.

But it can still be useful to reward people based on output, not just hours worked.

A few examples:

  • Writers. Reward your writers based on the amount of new articles they create per month, as well as the length and quality of them.
  • Account manager. Reward your account managers based on the amount of accounts they manage and the satisfaction level of the clients.
  • Customer support. Reward your customer support staff based on the amount of new tickets they answered this month and the satisfaction of the customers.
  • Sales. Reward your salespeople based on the amount and size of sales they close (fairly obvious).

For higher level staff, it’s useful to also reward them based on the results they bring to the table.

If they’re responsible for a certain region, you can give them a percentage of the profit on a monthly or quarterly basis.

There are many ways to do this, and in the end it’s all about creating a win/win situation that inspires action.

Mentoring or buddy system

In a remote team, it’s easy for people to feel left outside, especially when they’re new in the company or haven’t worked remotely before.

People often question themselves in the beginning – am I working on the right thing? Am I about to be fired? What am I even doing?

Loneliness might even creep up on you, if you’re used to having people around you.

Note: During the hiring process, you should screen for whether the candidate is suited for remote work or not… but that’s for another blog post.

This is where a mentoring or buddy system comes in handy.

At Financer.com, each new hire is assigned a team leader. The team leader acts as a mentor and teacher, which not only helps in terms of growth and productivity, but also connection to the company.

Team leaders and the people they lead interact on a weekly and often daily basis.

An alternative to this is a buddy system, where each week you message another person in the team and connect about something different than work life.

Other things to do with a fresh hire:

  • Have them introduce themselves on Slack and/or in your weekly call.
  • Encourage existing team members to message new ones.
  • Encourage them to ask questions.
  • Set the expectations early on.

Meeting up in person – Work retreats

Work retreats… They’re simply awesome.

Check out this video from our last work retreat in Cyprus:

The cool thing about work retreats, is that they don’t necessarily need to be glamourous (even though glamorous is cool too). They can be done anywhere.

Rent out an Airbnb in a city of your choice or a villa on the countryside.

It doesn’t really matter.

Hubud actually offers company retreats as a service – check it out here.

What do to during a work retreat

  • Teambuilding – Go hiking, diving, play boardgames and all those other things you usually can’t do in a remote team.
  • Skillshares – Let everyone share things they’ve learned with the rest of the team.
  • Official meetups – Can be a team dinner or something similar.
  • Coworking – Now that you’re in the same spot, work in the same room!
  • Fun – Go to restaurants, have drinks, relax together in the pool.

The important thing is that you’re able to build that feel of togetherness in the team. That will help your team stick with your company for a long time.

It will also make your own life more fulfilling.

Peer to peer learning

Peer to peer learning is an important part of our culture. Like at Hubud, we also believe that everyone has something of value to share.

This can be done through guides posted on our internal blog, skillshares via calls, presentations at work retreats or simply through Slack messages.

The team leading system is part of peer to peer learning and we also do contests with money prices for the best contributions.

Now it’s your turn

The possibilities are endless when it comes to remote company culture. You can do it in exactly the way that you want to.

I hope you found the ideas in this blog post helpful.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or want to learn more.

See you around Hubud!

– Paw


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