How to Create a Thriving Culture with Your Remote Tech Team
By Staff Writer, Marketing Team, CloudSphere
Building a successful culture in any workplace used to be fairly straightforward. From celebratory lunches and holiday parties to off-site team building retreats, there were a lot of things companies could do to build rapport and engage with one another.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. In 2020, employees around the world began working from home. Today, many of them have yet to return to the office.
This has greatly disrupted many HR strategies that used to support thriving workplace cultures. Welcome packages, walking coffee meetings, and in-person company events are just a few of the things that are no longer possible. This is especially true for businesses who are now leveraging remote work to hire talent across the globe.
HR departments in just about every industry have had to adapt, in particular when it comes to building a great company culture.
With employees located all over the world, the team at CloudSphere is no different. So, we decided to sit down with our HR Director, Ashley O’Malley, to ask her a few questions about what it takes to create a thriving remote culture in the tech industry.
Here’s what she had to say.
Q&A with Ashley O’Malley, HR Director at CloudSphere
CloudSphere: What has your experience with remote employment been over the last few years?
Ashley: My introduction to remote work began in March 2020 when I joined a real estate and recreation company based in Canada. Due to the pandemic, we had to swiftly adjust to remote work due to government restrictions classifying our roles as non-essential. This was done despite initial resistance due to the company’s slow adaptation to change and recent investment in a new office
While most of the Head Office support roles had the potential to work remotely, the company had never implemented such a practice in its history. As a result, transitioning to remote work posed significant challenges, particularly as the company heavily relied on paper-based processes and was in the midst of digital transformation projects in finance and HRIS.
From an HR perspective, keeping employees away from the office proved more difficult than eventually persuading them to return.
Subsequently, I joined a national insurance technology—insurtech—startup in Canada.
The pandemic-induced closure of Canada’s borders posed recruitment challenges, especially for tech positions. However, the startup’s remote work setup from the outset facilitated recruitment across the country.
With talent dispersing to remote areas or returning to their hometowns from major cities like Toronto and Vancouver, we capitalised on the availability of untapped talent in these regions.
Our commitment to a 100-percent-remote-work model distinguished us from competitors who were transitioning to hybrid or full in-office arrangements. Recognising that our team members thrived in a flexible work environment, we harnessed this competitive advantage to attract top talent.
In 2022, I relocated to Ireland and joined CloudSphere, a fully remote company. Managing a globally dispersed team spanning India, UK, France, Ireland, and the United States posed communication challenges, necessitating a comprehensive internal communication strategy.
To foster effective collaboration and camaraderie, we established regular meeting schedules, facilitated weekly CEO coffee chats, organised monthly all-hands meetings, and arranged in-person events such as face-to-face brainstorming sessions, off-site retreats, and team members traveling to different countries.
We have invested significant effort into cultivating a vibrant remote work culture, constantly exploring innovative approaches to motivate our teams and enhance communication among them.
How has the transition to remote and hybrid work changed company cultures and employee relationships?
Ashley: There has been a greater emphasis on flexibility and flexible work arrangements. Companies that previously had strict schedules and office-centric cultures have had to adapt to accommodate different time zones, work hours, and personal obligations. This has resulted in more autonomy for employees and a greater focus on work-life balance.
In the absence of traditional office spaces, companies have had to find alternative ways to foster social interactions among employees. Virtual team-building activities, online social gatherings, and digital watercooler chats have become popular means of maintaining employee engagement and building relationships.
Remote and hybrid work has also forced companies to place greater trust in their employees. Instead of relying on physical presence and supervision, managers have had to evaluate performance based on outcomes and deliverables.
This shift has resulted in a more outcome-driven work culture, where employees are given more autonomy and flexibility to complete their tasks. Trust and accountability have become crucial aspects of the employer-employee relationship.
On the flip side of companies placing greater trust in their team members, employees have had to establish new routines and set boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This shift has required a greater emphasis on time management, self-discipline, and setting realistic expectations.
Additionally, companies have come to recognise the importance of supporting employees’ well-being and mental health in this new work environment.
CloudSphere team members are located globally. Has remote work made colleagues more or less connected in your opinion?
Ashley: On one hand, communication technology has enabled virtual interactions and collaboration, regardless of physical distance. Tools like video conferencing and instant messaging have facilitated project collaboration and team communication across different locations and time zones.
However, the absence of in-person interactions has posed challenges in building personal connections, especially for new hires trying to assimilate into the existing culture at CloudSphere.
To address these challenges, CloudSphere recognises the importance of fostering spontaneous discussions, coffee chats, face-to-face off-sites, and clear onboarding practices and guidelines for new hires. These initiatives have helped maintain camaraderie and strengthen connections among team members.
Additionally, as remote work has affected employees’ mental health, CloudSphere remains committed to supporting their well-being during this period of remote work and growth.
What have you personally found works in building a successful company culture? What is important?
Ashley: From my experience, there are a few things that can really help build a successful company culture.
One of the first things HR departments can focus on is creating clear values and a compelling mission. This helps guide your team and sets the tone for the company as a whole.
Strong leadership is also crucial. When management teams are ready and willing to lead by example and empower employees, company cultures really thrive. This also overlaps with fostering open and transparent communication, encouraging feedback and providing regular updates.
HR departments and leadership teams can also bolster their company culture by creating opportunities for continuous learning and development. Offering training and supporting employee growth can really help team members feel valued. Of course, this can also be done by recognising and appreciating employee contributions. Acknowledging individuals’ efforts and achievements typically help boost morale and motivation.
Finally, embracing diversity and inclusion is so important. This helps to create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued.
What advice would you give to other HR professionals looking to improve their remote company culture, especially in tech?
Ashley: If you’re wanting to improve your remote company culture, there are eight things that I’d recommend focusing on: foster belonging, prioritise communication, promote work-life balance, embrace remote collaboration tools, encourage continuous learning, recognise achievements, lead by example, and expand your talent pool.
- Foster Belonging
Establish initiatives for remote employees to connect and share experiences through virtual team-building activities, social gatherings, and online forums.
- Prioritise Communication
Ensure open and accessible channels for clear and transparent communication, including regular check-ins, virtual meetings, and responsive feedback mechanisms.
- Promote Work-Life Balance
Set expectations for a healthy work-life balance, encouraging self-care practices, and providing resources like virtual wellness programs and employee assistance.
- Embrace Remote Collaboration Tools
Invest in and promote reliable platforms for virtual meetings, project management, document sharing, and training, supporting employees’ proficiency in their use.
- Encourage Continuous Learning
Offer virtual training, webinars, and online resources to foster ongoing skill development and industry awareness for remote employees.
- Recognise Achievements
Implement recognition programs that celebrate milestones, outstanding performance, and contributions in a remote work environment through virtual awards, public appreciation, or thoughtful gestures.
- Lead by Example
HR professionals should exemplify effective remote work practices, communication, and inclusivity, while advocating for remote work policies that support team member well-being and engagement.
- Expand Your Talent Pool
The world is your oyster for talent. You can hire talent in almost any country by using an Employer of Record, which will manage the legal responsibilities of your employees who live abroad
Building a strong remote company culture takes time and ongoing effort. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your initiatives, seek feedback from team members, and adapt your strategies as needed. By prioritising connection, communication, well-being, and growth, you can help create a positive and thriving remote company culture in tech.
About Ashley O’Malley
As a seasoned employee success professional with over a decade of experience, Ashley derives her energy and passion from making employees successful.
Her role at CloudSphere provides comprehensive, high-quality, customer-focused HR support across a broad range of human resources’ activities, delivering on the HR and Business Strategy of CloudSphere. The role is highly commercial and operational and Ashley is responsible for the team member base across US, UK, Ireland, France, and India.
You can connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.
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