SwagUp September 12, 2022 7 min read

How to Build a Strong Remote Company Culture | SwagUp

Two people in business attire fist bump after creating a positive company culture at work

Embroker partners with a variety of leading companies to bring you the best content and freshest ideas. Think the disruptors, the game-changers, the industry experts. SwagUp is a startup on a mission to rethink creating and using company products to encourage organizational values and teamwork. Here, the SwagUp team shares their thoughts on company culture.

They say the best-performing companies have the best culture. It’s what drives a company forward and brings them together to rally around the mission. Without culture, it can be challenging to get everyone rowing together. It also seems that these companies that have amazing cultures came with a ton of on-site amenities like ping pong tables, chefs, in-office gyms, and lounge areas.

Oftentimes, these perks get mislabeled as culture, but culture isn’t defined by the extracurricular things you offer at your workplace; it’s the values everyone agrees to be true. Now fast forward to remote work, with no access to all the fun in-office activities, and you realize that culture relies on much more than perks. 

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Building culture can be just smoke and mirrors if you only focus on the fun stuff without really looking at what is at the root that makes a company thrive. Building a culture in person was already hard enough. Now try building a company culture in a remote workplace, throw in different time zones, and add people who may (or may not ever) meet. It requires a different set of needs to make up for the lack of in-person interaction.

Sure, you can set up a bunch of Zoom meetings for people to meet, but we all know video burnout is real. So how does one truly build a company culture for remote workers successfully? Well, first let’s understand what defines a good culture. 

What Makes a Great Company Culture? 

Two men in business attire exiting chat bubbles agreeing upon a positive company culture

We already discussed culture not being the amenities you offer. These perks are complementary and should be reflective of the culture you are building but it does not define it. At the end of the day, employees typically do not leave a company due to the popcorn machine being empty or not getting enough PTO time. Employees resign from companies because of bad cultures and negative atmospheres. 

Creating a positive culture starts from the top. It’s the company’s mission and how the values are practiced every day to get closer to achieving it. What makes working at a company exciting and uplifting is knowing that everyone is collectively aligned with what they are trying to build. In other words, they problem-solve together. They believe in the same values and the same mission.

It’s’ part of their overall ethos. When you are working with people that share that common thread, it creates a magical culture. Employees want to build with people they have fun building with and share the same passion to solve a problem. As you can see culture isn’t built on perks, fun phrases, or even swag, but these are resourceful tools to help get you there; if utilized correctly. 

How To Create a Strong Company Culture 

Woman at peace meditating because she has a strong company culture

Start With Your Mission 

The foundation of your company’s culture is a direct reflection of the company’s mission. Your company mission statement should be a defined stance on what your company strives to achieve. If your company is wavering on what the mission is, your culture will be impacted. Having a solid foundation will help attract talent that believes in the problem your company is trying to solve. 

While in-person this might be easier to do by having it written on the walls and entrances of the office; with company culture in remote environments, you have to get creative. Ensure that your mission is used and discussed frequently; it should be included in your website, job descriptions, and onboarding process. Additionally, it should also set the tone for the values that you create and the overall mindset you strive for your employees to embody. The mission should also be celebrated.

When teams or individual contributors do something that gets the company closer to achieving the mission, it should be acknowledged and championed. Teams should also be constructed to have projects and/or goals that align with the company’s mission. If your team isn’t obsessed with it, then your culture will morph into something else. 

Practice Your Values 

Company values are key to enforcing a great culture but they are only meaningful if actually practiced. Otherwise, are they really values or just something nice to put on your website? For example, Meta has a company value to “move fast and break things”. When you first read it you think of a typical startup mentality to do this, but Meta actually does practice this and celebrates it as part of the culture. Failures are celebrated at Meta and discussed as ways to see how they can do better. So moving fast and breaking things, allows for a culture to do exactly that without being punished for failure. 

Over Communicate 

Another way of practicing your values is through open, honest, and transparent communication at all levels of the business. Remote environments make it challenging to ensure everyone is on board and understands everything going on in the company. Having company all-hands helps with this, but they have to be towards driving the mission.

If the company all-hands don’t paint a clear path and goal to work toward, these meetings aren’t going to be as beneficial. Avoid the day-to-day updates and keep these meetings high level. Make these meetings engaging, allow for people to submit questions in advance, or have different members of a team present. The key is to ensure everyone understands what is needed and the path to get there. 

Aside from having company-wide meetings, it is important to have other team members communicate with each other. One fun thing we do here at SwagUp to cultivate company culture is by utilizing an app added to your Slack channel called Donut, it randomly selects employees to meet for 15-30 mins.

Another idea is to allow open meetings from different teams so members can learn about what they are up to. Some companies will even create virtual groups like a book club, LGBTQ groups, or groups for parents within the company. The more different sectors of the business get to know each other and form bonds the better it can help enable a strong working environment remotely. 

Create Measurable Actions & Rewards 

What brings a company together is having a common interest in the mission; getting a measurable metric that everyone can rally around is a great culture builder.  Southwest Airlines, for example, has a metric called “Time In The Sky”, it is a trackable goal that everyone in the company can impact through services, sales, marketing, and even operating roles.

The more customers spend in the air, the higher revenue the company saw and longer customer retention/loyalty. Creating a company-wide metric makes things exciting and calls for some friendly competition for teams to get creative on how they can impact those numbers. The numbers should be celebrated and shared openly throughout the company. Whether it’s a weekly email or a company-wide slack message, the key is it’s something everyone can see  and have access to. 

Utilize Swag For Company Awareness

Simply giving swag doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good culture, but it does help enable it. Think about when you were young and your parents signed you up for the little league, it didn’t feel real until you got the jersey with your last name on it. Swag creates a bond within the company of “I belong” here. It makes it extra special if you incorporate your mission and values into the swag.

Try to think beyond just putting your company logo on a shirt. Are there phrases that are internal that you want to incorporate in  the swag? Are they messages you want people to instill? When companies are primarily remote there is not the opportunity and the luxury of absorbing the company logo and mission around the office. Swag can help fill in that gap. 

Onboarding Swag Packs 

Use swag for any new hires that are onboarded to welcome them to the team. When you’re remote you can’t tour them around the office to make them feel embraced. Sending a new hire welcome swag pack is a great way to do that for remote employees. 

Virtual Hackathon Swag 

Creating company-wide hackathons for remote employees is a great way to bring everyone together and  build culture. It allows employees to connect with members from other departments, on a single mission to solve a problem. Inevitably, these team members will form bonds around other common threads during this time and will lean on each other going forward – creating special friendships that are invaluable. 

Scavenger Hunt Swag Packs 

Gift swag to your remote team that will get them excited. Promote a company wide scavenger hunt using the swag items in the pack and then have them report back with images or stories about how their adventure went. 

Employees are at the heart of how Embroker operates. Embroker is a digitally native and remote company that keeps a strong company culture across teams. With three values at its core, Embroker employees embrace the values of creating magic, all in, and pack first. 

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