How to Build Culture Through Remote Team Perks

How to Build Culture Through Remote Team Perks

This is a guest post by Miles Burke.

We all know that creating the right culture is very important to your success as a company.

Office-based teams have the benefit of face to face contact, and the team can be offered a wide range of perks that can help engage and motivate these employees further.

However when your team is remote, at home, across town or across the world, there can be challenges to providing employee perks, yet it is not an impossible mission.

Whilst providing perks on their own do not make a great company culture, they certainly help improve the morale and engagement of your team. Providing specific perks that encourage professional development, improving health and creating a productive workspace means that you are creating a happier, healthier and more productive team.

Here are 10 fantastic ways to build a positive culture that I encourage you to consider, and help make work just that little bit better for your remote team.

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Flexible hours

The reason many employees choose remote employment is for the flexibility in hours. Unless there is a specific customer-facing need to have your team work set hours, encourage them to work around other life commitments, such as taking children to school and the like.

For many roles, as long as the team member reaches a certain amount of hours per week, it really doesn’t matter what time of their day they do the work.

Book allowance

A great way to both encourage constant learning and increasing knowledge is to give your remote team access to a team book subscription account or an allowance each month or quarter to buy physical or electronic books.

See Hubstaff’s 5 Favorite Remote Working Books for a few great books worth reading.

Encourage social chat

If you are using a tool such as Slack or a video/audio team conference tool, perhaps set up a regular time for team members to chat about their week or month. This is a great time to also ask new employees to do a little talk about themselves; their hobbies, life and what makes them happy.

The more your team understand each other personally, the better the cohesion amongst the team; think of this is a ‘virtual watercooler’ in a sense.

Health club membership

Just because your remote team isn’t in one location doesn’t mean that you should care about their health. Offering a subsidy or full cost coverage of a health club or exercise classes is a great way to illustrate that you care about your team’s health.

For example, GitHub covers gym memberships for remote workers or fitness classes on site. They also offer meditation and massages.

Team retreats

A few times a year, Buffer gets their entire remote team together at a different location, to meet face to face. They cover all the expenses—flights, accommodation, most meals and fun activities. They have a great article on their blog about the motivations behind this, and why it works for them.

Whilst this is the most expensive suggestion in this list, it needn’t be so regular; perhaps an annual team gathering could be organized, and different team members get to host the team in their city or town.

Survey the team regularly

I may be biased, being the founder of 6Q employee survey software, however, I strongly believe that asking your team how they feel regularly goes a long way towards improving your culture. If you have a very small team, this could be informal and achieved by Slack or email, however, once you have a team larger than around 10 employees, having a more structured system in place is best.

There are plenty of systems out there, or you can use a free form builder, however, tools like ours allows you to track mood and sentiment over time, as well as encourage ongoing productive feedback cycles.

Co-working membership

It can get pretty lonely working on your own, even with all the options of communication available. Why not see if there is a co-working space near your remote employees home, that they can join and visit a day or two per week, to break the monotony of working from home.

For example, Automattic offers employees a home office and co-working allowance to ensure they all have the right environment for their work, no matter what the role.

Technology allowance

Remote employees tend to have their own equipment from the start, however giving them an opportunity to upgrade their working conditions can return better productivity and far more engaged remote team members.

For example, Formstack CEO, Chris Byers, says “We supply all of our employees with the tools they need to get their jobs done. All team members are provided a laptop and an electronics allowance.”

Positive recognition

Not everything needs to cost money. Sending regular messages of support and recognition is a great way to improve the engagement of your distributed team. This is also proven by science; the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology published a 2014 study, which found that gratitude increased self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance.

This gratitude and recognition can be a simple emailed personal thank you from managers or the CEO. This can provide a much-needed boost of happiness, which in turn, can make a difference to productivity.

Training allowance

We want to ensure our employees are constantly learning, and avoiding skill decay (the problem with skills that deteriorate over time, as technology surpasses skills). A training allowance is a great way to both combat this and encourage everyone to continue learning.

At distributed employer, Chargify, they have an unlimited training allowance. “Every Chargify employee is encouraged to seek out learning resources. We don’t have strict guidelines around this — basically “spend whatever you think is reasonable” on educational resources. You can buy books, take online courses, subscribe to a video service, etc.” says Kate Harvey, Content & Search Marketing Manager at Chargify.

Final words

I encourage you to look at various ways to build culture through remote team perks such as the ones above or create your own based on your experience with what drives motivation with your team.

Choosing perks that directly tie into encouraging professional development, means that your employees avoid skill decay, a big issue, particularly in the technology space. Whilst activities such as offering a book allowance, team retreats, and a training allowance seem like you are being generous, you are actually subtly encouraging constant improvement.

Flexible hours, social chat, health club membership, employee surveys and a simple thank you encourages better health and happiness, which has been proven to improve productivity, profits and reduces employee turnover, a costly exercise for many businesses.

If you are looking for other suggestions, a great method is to literally ask your remote employees what would make their work lives better. You’ll be often surprised at what the responses are!