Team Culture in Remote Teams

Published: October 20, 2020

We now have to challenge the assumption that team culture requires teammates to be in the same space. We have to question whether the Zoom screen barrier prevents true connection. We have to decide whether working from home means we have to wait until ‘things get back to normal’ before, well, things get back to normal. In the classic denial stage of grief, it somehow feels better to believe that conference rooms, auditoriums and shared workspaces will someday fill back up with teammates. When that miracle happens, we can get back to life as we knew it before the loss. Think again.

Many leaders aren’t waiting for the bad dream to be over. They are forging ahead to strengthen company culture with whatever tools and methods are available in today’s circumstances. A project management firm recently partnered with a client to stage a blind pizza-identification contest where teammates were invited to name ingredients using only scent and tastebuds. A municipal engineering firm recently launched an online career development training platform as an investment in their employees. An accounting firm recently entered a ‘Top Small Workplace’ competition that will eventually buttress recruitment and strengthen retention. An early childhood human services agency recently commissioned the composition of a ‘company song’ using mission themes from employees for lyrics.

There are examples galore. Leadership teams, marketing specialists and human resources departments are pressing their creativity buttons. Different times call for different measures. There’s no need to wait for employees to return to the workplace so old morale-building activities can be resurrected. Many of us may not be returning to the workplace.

Begin by asking the question, “How can we invest in workplace culture when teammates no longer interact in common space?” Once the limitations of pandemic-related barriers are shed, open up a brainstorming session. No rules. No bad ideas. No judgement. Just the creative process. See what shakes out. Pick a tactic and convert insight to action.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.