maintain team spirit

Setting and maintaining a healthy company culture is important for any business. Here at Slash, we understand this, and take proactive steps to ensure our company culture is strong and healthy. Now given today’s remote work environment, and being a remote first company, naturally new challenges arise. Thankfully, none of these new challenges are insurmountable, rather they simply require a fresh viewpoint on how best to address them.

For example, physical distance can cause emotional distance between team members as each person’s work environment is different and not acknowledging this causes misunderstanding and potentially conflict. Slash began as a hybrid remote and office work company that has now gone fully remote. Along the way we’ve picked up on a few things that work well and herein we’d like to share our five favorite ways to maintain team spirit & culture while working remotely.

Hire thoughtfully in maintain team spirit

Everyone wants to work with good people, right? However, the catch comes in defining “good people” when recruiting. There are an abundant number of good people in this world, but just because someone is a good person does not mean they’re suited for your company. Naturally companies aim to hire the most competent and skilled people for the job, ones who can add the most value to the organization. Certainly it’s not a bad approach as it’s worked for ages, but remote working mixes things up a bit.

Aim to hire people who also fit with and add value to your company culture. The prevailing mentality that one’s work mates are like extended community persists to this day. When everyone is working remotely, meeting online while at home with their personal life in the immediate background, the sense of community grows stronger. Therefore, endeavoring to hire people who share your company culture and values helps in contributing to the company’s long-term success.

For a simple example, hiring someone who can add the value of building lasting relationships will make a huge impact on how people are encouraged to be themselves in their work and with each other. Each new staff member hired becomes a champion of the company culture, in a sense like a brand ambassador. So look for those recruits whose culture and values line up with your company’s to ensure your company’s culture and team spirit continue to thrive even when working 100% remotely.

Build trust

Trust and the part it plays cannot be overstated here. Trust is important in every relationship, whether personal or professional. Employers engage in a contract with employees to render certain services; the employer trusts the employee to complete the job and the employee trusts the employer to uphold their end of the bargain by paying for said work. Though in a traditional work environment, as there is much oversight and hands on management, trust ironically or perhaps instinctively takes a back seat. Everyone does their job as they’re doing it while on the clock at the office for all to see.

Well not here and now in the brave new world of remote working. There is no clock and unless meeting online, no one can visually verify you’re working. The managers are not there to visually watch the employees working so trust must be afforded as micromanaging never goes well for either party. It is imperative that everyone is able to trust one another, and this point needs to be a foundational aspect for the company culture. Slash has found there is no better way to create this fundamental foundation within the company culture than  for the leaders to lead by example. Everyone at Slash in all positions & roles leads by example and extends trust to everyone, empowering each member of the company to do their job confidently knowing the company trusts them to do exactly that. We all treat one another with trust and respect, operating in a hierarchy free environment leading to more freedom and creativity!

Promote collaboration & transparency

Collaboration and transparency, both key points in Agile, are also key to your remote working company culture. Working remotely can cause “lone wolf syndrome,” if that’s a thing I suppose but you get our point. Working alone can make people feel as though they are on an island all by themselves. Therefore, to counteract this feeling, be sure to employ the right tools for interactive communication between team members and generally everyone within the company.

Here at Slash we make a point to acknowledge our employees for the individuals they are, but also our company culture aims to promote the group effort as well. Therein lies the balance we strive to achieve in incorporating some aspects of collectivistic thought. Collaboration, pair programming, technical sharing sessions, regular team meetings, daily standups and more all aid in maintaining the team spirit and culture we cultivate here at Slash. A virtual workplace where the individual thrives as an integral part of the team effort to succeed and build great products for our clients.

Foster positive relationships

Relationships are key as we mentioned above in discussing trust, and building & maintaining said relationships takes more effort when you are not physically in the same space as the other person. Of course you have regular meetings and daily standups, but don’t discredit the value of an informal or unplanned check-in. Consider that full remote work tends to lead employees to working all the time which can in turn lead to loneliness or burnout; without an office, there’s no longer a water cooler to gather around and vent or just chat with coworkers. This can, and often does have considerable negative effects; one being disengagement from one’s company.

At Slash, we have found that one of the best ways to combat loneliness and burnout are through relationship building by prioritizing regular social interactions via informal communication throughout the workday, week and month. As well, taking time at the beginning of each team meeting, one on one, to genuinely find out how people are doing goes a long way to build and strengthen relationships. Other helpful activities like internal interviews, regular AMAs, remembering team members birthdays, anniversaries and important national days are simple yet very effective. Our People Operations team has a goal to genuinely chat with at least 3~5 team members a day to ensure they understand though we may not be working in the same space, they are in our thoughts and we value their contribution and effort!

Maintain a strong feedback cycle

Our final point is focused on maintaining a strong feedback cycle which can further bolster your team spirit and company culture when employees are working fully remotely. We like to consider this the feedback and kudos section. Feedback is something everyone is aware of in life; nowadays it’s every we look. Yet, we include kudos as it’s a powerful tool and motivator more than ever before when your employees are isolated, working alone from home. The simple gesture of a pat on the back has become not so simple to deliver.

So how do we adjust for this? At Slash, organized remote retrospectives create an atmosphere of chance for discussion and feedback therein for teams. These retrospectives, a part of Scrum, give team members the opportunity to learn and improve from each project milestone. The key point is the learning as a team which acts as a catalyst for change and generates action. The team can properly review and discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, what needs improvement and so on.

However, herein lies the time to hand out kudos and it all starts with the team leaders. As we mentioned above, our leaders at Slash always lead by example, creating trust and strong bonds with team members. The team leaders during retrospectives also need to acknowledge and offer praise for exceptional work; intuitively encouraging other members to praise one another, boosting team spirit and creating a positive environment that also bolsters transparency. Everyone appreciates having their efforts acknowledged so be sure not to overlook this aspect.

You can begin to see how these points are intricately entwined with one another. Though you may still be thinking, “Wow, that all sounds great, but isn’t it a little much? Do we have to hold our employees’ hands to that degree?” Well the easy answer is no, you don’t. However, if creating and maintaining a positive and healthy company culture with a strong team spirit is important to your organization, then yes. The benefits outweigh the cost by a long shot, but understand that this is a long-term commitment rather than a flash in the pan. You’re essentially growing an acorn into a mighty oak, and this takes time but will result in something truly amazing to behold!

Maria Agustin
Maria Agustin
People Operations
Maria Agustin is the Head of People Operations at Slash. She’s also the Co-founder of Pratisara Bumi Foundation, which runs leadership and entrepreneurship education programs in Indonesia. Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, she’s worked in social innovation, startups and economic empowerment. In 2016, she started managing one of the top coworking spaces in Asia, and that’s when she began to focus on location-independent entrepreneur community building from around the world, the future of work culture, and people. She’s a community leader for one of the world’s well-known venture capitals, Techstars, in Asia Pacific and she has organised Startup Weekend Bali six times; as well, she is a design sprint facilitator at 1000 Startup Digital Indonesia.
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