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“What a toxic culture! I hope I never have to work in a place like that again!”

“That place had the most welcoming and collaborative culture I have ever experienced, it was a joy to work there.”

What was the best culture you ever worked in? What made it the best?

What is it that makes up the culture of a workplace or team? It is defined by workplace behaviors. The attitudes, how individuals and groups are treated, what is rewarded, reprimanded, recognized, and ignored all are elements of a culture. It is not just the people and the mix of their personalities. It is influenced by how they are led.

A little test. Write a couple of sentences about what you believe defines the culture of your team. Then have every team member anonymously do the same. Now you will have the definition of your culture. Better yet, you will have a direction on what you need to do about your culture; maintain it, tweak it, or overhaul it.

Do remote teams have a culture? Absolutely, just as an in-person environment does. Here are the elements I have seen leaders use that set a culture; 1) deliberately set the culture. If you do not one will develop and you might not be happy with it, 2) the culture of your team is defined by interpersonal interactions or the lack of them, 3) relationships need time and space to develop, and 4) reduce the distance between team members.



If you want a particular culture, state what you want and deliberately set out to establish it. Setting the standard through personal examples sets the tone. A culture of empathy, caring, and collaboration requires significant effort by the leader to establish. Will your team hold you up as the model of the culture? The example of the most empathetic, caring, and collaborative team member.


Ever experience a leader who lives by “…do what I say, not what I do?” I have and it created a team of cynics.



The type, frequency, and tone of personal interactions is the key element. In your remote team are the interactions all based on an agenda or is there social time? How can you build into the remote connections interpersonal time? This can be a challenge and will take creativity.


Time & Space

What are you doing to create the time and space for the desired interactions?  Adding time to the beginning and end of agendas may work well for your team. Other teams may need to replace typical in-person events such as hallway time or lunch breaks with a virtual open hour, lunchroom, or coffee for team members to check in with each other.


Reduce the Distance

In reality, this is the goal. Physical proximity does not automatically reduce the distance between team members.  I have had a client actually say she feels more connected in the remote environment. Why? Because as an introvert she was able to hide in the in-person environment. The change to remote forced her supervisors to pay closer attention to who is interacting and how often. New attention is focused on inputs from all team members. When in the office she was actually more remote.


What is the culture you are cultivating with your team? Is it deliberate or are you just letting it happen? Are you creating the time and space for interpersonal interaction, and have you been able to decrease the distance between team members so they are integral members of the team?


Remote work is here to stay and the research shows those that who implement it well are increasing productivity. What could the impact be on your organization if you were able to fully leverage all the positives?