How To Build A Strong Company Culture When You’re Virtual

In the past few weeks, many businesses have had to make changes in order to stay afloat. Many more will have to make such decisions in the weeks to follow. If COVID-19 has taught us in the business world anything, it’s that you’ve got to be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and pivot. One thing that should never change? The strong company culture that you’ve built over the years.

Even before the pandemic, ZenChange Marketing was completely, totally, 100% virtual. After things return to normal, we’ll continue to operate virtually, and our company culture will continue intact. I mention this because so many small businesses are now operating online. Lots of people are wondering, “How do you maintain a company culture with your employees when you aren’t even in the same building?”

Legitimate question. Before I answer it, I want to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of running your company in a virtual space. I’ve talked to my team about this a few different times, and here’s what I’ve found out about the advantages:

  • People like to be able to work where and when they are most productive.
  • Flexible schedules allow people to balance personal responsibilities with work.
  • Impromptu meetings interrupt productive workflow. (Yes, that meeting really could have been an email!)
  • The time saved not sitting in rush hour traffic is better spent on work or family time.

As you can see, going digital can do a lot to help your team members and your business. However, disadvantages also exist:

  • Working from home means missing out on the social aspect of the office.
  • Though family time is great, kids and partners don’t always respect work time.
  • It’s easy to get distracted at home, where the fridge and TV live.

There you have it—these are some of the challenges and advantages of letting your team members work from home.

Maybe now that you’ve seen what has happened with COVID-19, you’re considering transitioning into or starting a virtual company, too. Or maybe this crisis has shown you that you don’t actually need office space and in-person meetings with your team to keep things running and profitable.

Whatever your reason for moving your operations to an online-first platform, you need to know how to build and maintain a strong company culture. Here are some of the things I’ve found to work well.

Daily Calls and Weekly Video Meetings

As I mentioned above, working from home means missing a lot of the social component of work. Email and chat are great for conveying information, but they don’t really convey the humanity behind it. It can be difficult to discern tone through text. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

Over a year ago, we implemented daily team calls just so we could hear each other talk. During these meetings, we discuss our priorities for the day and mention any obstacles in our way so we can clear them up. These calls also help to solidify the start of the day and keep us on track with our tasks. Of course, we like to start these calls by just talking about what’s going on in the world and in our lives.

We also spend about an hour on Fridays going over various aspects of the business, whether it’s discussing our KPIs, our new clients or prospects, or something more fun, like how to boost creativity. It’s easy to forget that there are people behind those emails and chat messages. These regularly scheduled calls help us remember that we are a team and we care about each other.

Provide a Space for Fun, Relaxed Communication

Real-time communication is a real challenge for virtual companies. When you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk, you’ve got to find an alternative. Texting is cumbersome. With email, things can get lost in the shuffle. That’s why we use Slack to communicate throughout the day with each other. If there’s something that one team member needs from someone else, all they have to do is type a message and that person will be notified instantaneously.

All this is not to say that communication has to be all business. One way to bring fun into virtual reality is to create a space for it. In Slack, you can create different channels so that you can organize your messages by client or project. We created a channel that team members can use to post fun memes, interesting articles, and cute cat and dog videos, allowing us to step back from work every once in a while for a breather.

Ask Everyone on the Team to Contribute to Company Content Based on Their Skills

No matter what industry you’re in, you need to be creating content, especially if you operate as a virtual company. Talk to your team members. You might find that, in addition to being an excellent project manager, Sarah also like to shoot and edit video in her spare time. Or maybe your customer service representative, Derek, has a robust social media presence. You can use your team members’ skills to produce content that you can use to promote the business online.

It’s possible that your team members don’t have these types of skills, but you can still include them in photos and blog posts—you’ll never know unless you ask, though.

Ultimately, It’s up to You to Build a Strong Company Culture

As the founder of your business, the responsibility for creating and maintaining a strong company culture ultimately rests on you. You know how you want your team members to work together and what type of business you want to operate. Will you take the steps necessary to see it through?