How to build a team culture with remote workers

When employees are all on-site it’s very easy for them to have a quick chat, ask a question, announce big wins and gather for team meetings. But how can you build team spirit and encourage collaboration when your people are working in the field or from home offices?

How to build a team culture with remote workers

It’s widely accepted that employees who focus on achieving goals as a team can produce much better results than those who work in isolation. Teamwork recognises individual strengths and applies them in the most effective way. Diversity within the team is seen as a valuable advantage – a wider skill set to draw upon in pursuit of the shared goal. Individuals no longer compete with each other. Instead, no-one is left to fail and everyone shares equally in the win.

Creating and maintaining a strong level of teamwork typically requires trust, communication, connection, awareness of each other’s strengths and open collaboration. Individuals need to feel safe putting their hand up when they’re struggling or want to suggest a better way to get the job done.

While it’s important that each individual has clearly-assigned tasks, the distribution of those tasks is best done and agreed to as a team. If someone ends up overloaded or out of their depth, a good team will quickly adjust the task list to ensure the shared goal is achieved.

The ingredients for building a team culture are the same whether your employees work remotely or share the same workplace. The main difference lies in how you give employees access to what’s required. Here are some examples to help you get started on developing strategies to suit your situation.


When employees are co-located it’s very easy for them to have a quick chat, ask a question, announce big wins, gather for team meetings and so on. The trick with remote workers is to move this online in ways that are effective and easy to use.

The Covid-19 pandemic raised remote working to unprecedented levels. With a substantially increased market to support them, online workplace tools rapidly grew in number and capability.

Going way beyond email and file sharing, many of today’s tools are designed for use at multiple levels, from organisation-wide messaging to one-on-one video conversations. They often allow permanent and temporary groups to be set up, so messages can be targeted to the right people. Some groups can be set as private, while others are open to anyone who’d like to look in. Unlike email groups, these online tools allow people who join later to see all of the group’s previous communications.

Online communication tools can have workflows added, so individuals are notified when their input is required as part of a standard process. They also allow everyone to quickly see how jobs are progressing and can automatically provide alerts when there are delays.

Remote employees often work at different times of the day. When conversations and important communications are recorded online, everyone can ‘hear’ what has been discussed and contribute at any time.

Online tools are a great way to allow self-management and flexibility, while keeping progress towards the team goal clearly visible to all. Managers can keep an eye on things whenever it suits and without interrupting anyone’s work.

Connection and inclusion

It’s important to enable social connection, not just work-related communications. Online tools can be used by employees to create interest groups, such as book, fitness, gardening or recipe clubs.

Celebrating major events through online team channels – i.e. birthdays, engagements, births and new qualifications – also helps people to connect. And it’s very easy for you to add a personal touch by sending a handwritten note with a small gift to an employee’s home.

Where possible, getting your team together in the same location from time to time stimulates deeper connections. It could be for something like a ‘family and house mates’ picnic at a popular spot in your city or region. Another idea is to volunteer together at a local charity, school or community group. If you have people in different regions, they can do a similar thing locally, then share photos and stories online.

Whatever you’re doing, it’s important that everyone feels included. This can require careful selection of event types, times and locations, including variations that allow every to participate. Even business-related events, like weekly online team meetings, may be best held at varying times. It’s also important to avoid periods when some people can’t attend, such as mid-afternoon if some employees have to collect children from school.

Awareness of strengths

One of the best ways to promote awareness of each other’s strengths is to encourage peer recognition. This can be as simple as creating a way to share shout-outs online.

As a manager, you may need to brush up on your own recognition skills then lead by example. It helps if everyone comes to understand that effective recognition should be frequent, prompt, personalised, inclusive and visible. It’s also a good idea to link recognition to team goals and your organisation’s values.

However, when team goals are reached it’s important to focus on the team as a whole and how they worked together. This is not a good time to recognise a few stand-out people, because individual recognition can quickly undermine future collaboration and teamwork.

Another idea is to invite each person to share a short bio in an online team directory. You can provide a loose template with headings – name, location (suburb/town), work experience, things people I work with have said I’m good at, things I’d like to learn more about, things about me that you probably don’t know – and so on. Involving your team in developing the idea and template topics encourages participation and supports a collaborative team ethic.


Trust comes from open and honest communication, care and support for each other, and people doing what they say they’ll do. We’ve already discussed the importance of fostering communication within remote teams. And we’ve also discussed assigning tasks as a team and encouraging people to speak up if they’re struggling to deliver on time.

One of the most important areas of trust is with you, their manager. Employees need to know you have their welfare and best interests at heart. It’s easier for remote workers to feel isolated, and it can be challenging for them to raise sensitive or personal issues with you when you’re not meeting face-to-face.

It’s important to schedule regular one-on-one informal catch-ups with each person in your team; ideally using a video call.  This is a chance to show you care about the whole person, not just work-related task completion. It’s an opportunity to encourage self-care by asking open-ended questions around how they’re feeling about their workload, role and being part of the team. You can ask how you could improve as their manager, and whether there are any challenges or roadblocks you could help resolve. It’s also important to discuss immediate and long-term professional development goals from time to time, especially how they could be achieved.

These are just some suggestions. You’ll have a good idea of what makes sense in your situation. The point is to create regular one-on-one time to connect, listen, show you care and provide support.


One of the advantages of having remote workers is the ability to widen the area you recruit from. This can make it easier to find highly-talented people for each of the core skill areas your team requires. It can also help you to build a team with a much wider range of backgrounds to draw on. When you’re solving problems and developing innovative solutions, the more diversity within your team the more ideas they’ll bring to the table.

Check out an easy way to show you care about your remote employees.