How do you build cultural cohesion in fully remote teams?

One of the most frequent questions we get as a fully remote business is how we build cultural cohesion. A big advantage we have is that we did not just accidentally fall into being a remote business. We purposefully choose to be a fully remote agency when we launched in 2017 as a location-agnostic employer. We choose this path so that we could provide talent the greatest opportunities regardless of location, and so that we could build a fully integrated multinational PR agency that works as one across borders. The main benefit of being purposefully remote is that it made us very intentional about how we look to build culture. Remote working may have been a practical enabler of our pan-European model, but it only works in practice if our employees feel like they are part of one team. 
There are five main ways we are intentional about how we build cultural cohesion as a fully remote team:

1. Intentional meetings and mindful use of technology 

One of the main ways that we thrive as a remote team is by being very intentional about how we plan and make the most of in person meetings. Physical meetings are always optional for our employees, with great consideration given to their families and personal situations and this ensures that our moments together are intentional and with a real purpose. For us, creating a healthy and flexible culture has perhaps been easier because it has never felt like an imposition. At Tyto, our employees are part of the decision-making process, and that is key. We plan thoughtfully, and we listen.  

We also engage in a smart forward-looking use of technology, and a mindful and deliberate approach to communications and the use of tools. Tyto Labs, our research and development arm, focuses on exploring new technologies and the team ensured that all our employees receive an Oculus VR Headset when joining Tyto. This has been an important tool for us to engage and collaborate during the pandemic. We found that VR brought us closer together when we couldn’t meet up. We use all the digital and virtual tools available to us to connect in a meaningful and efficient way, whilst also being very conscious of the importance of switching off.   

 2. Transparency and openness

In connection with the previous point, maintaining open lines of communication is especially important for a cohesive and strong remote work culture. We practice this at all levels in our company and ensure that all our employees, from consultants to managers and partners, have access to the documentation and resources to do their jobs well and feel confident in the process. We encourage open Slack channels and threads, and we’re always open for a coffee chat, a one-on-one or specific feedback on a company document such as our client services charter, which we have been perfecting together for the past weeks.  

At Tyto, we share financials openly with the team and our hiring, incentive and review policies are always open for access and improvement. Our current strategy for the agency around Mindful Growth was developed as a whole team through a series of remote sessions in which we found three focus areas, from a people-first perspective: the wellbeing of our staff, their personal growth, and our DE&I initiatives. All these purposeful actions around communications and collaboration have helped to make everyone feel like one cohesive team working towards a shared goal. 

 3. Our Passport Scheme 

We are a fully remote team, but we value our facetime together. We recently introduced the Passport Scheme, aimed to encourage mindful growth, and foster borderless thinking through collaboration and inspiration. The scheme allows and encourages team members to travel and see their colleagues and clients across the world. It is a separate, not work-related travel budget for them to feel inspired by their colleagues, by a new city or an art exhibition, or by a new culture. 

4. The Tyto Hackweek

This year we reinstated our bi-annual Hackweek, meeting up with those that felt comfortable or able to travel again. We gathered in Rome and brought together the (now bigger and growing) team for the first time since 2019 to get to know each other and have purposeful conversations about the future of our business. We had the opportunity to work and have fun together, side by side. We even took team-building activities to the next level and made pasta from scratch together by the river Tiber.  

Our internal Hackweek meetings are one of the most important parts of our business, an opportunity to gather with intention, and during these couple of days we take the time to reflect on where we are and where we would like to go. I can’t stress enough how important these moments spent with each other are, and we already feel energised to plan the next one. 

5. Group trainings

We have always been firm believers in the power of training, and we encourage our employees to participate in any courses that they consider important in their area of expertise, as we are constantly challenging ourselves to deliver better work. This is one reason we provide all employees with access to an individual training allowance.

However, training as a shared experience is an incredibly powerful way to build culture and drive purposeful change in a company. It binds us together, it shows what we can bring to the table as a team, and it highlights our strengths and allows us to work through our weaknesses.  

For our Rome Hackweek, we participated in Gabriela Lungu’s creativity training, which was extremely helpful for us to think about our most recent creative successes and focus on the craft of ideas that have helped us grow our business so quickly over the past four and half years. We are, as Gabriela said, constantly looking for that AWE Factor: ideas that are Award Winning and Effective.  

With these five straightforward strategies we have managed to bring together professionals who are excellent at what they do, but one could say the biggest underlying asset is the level of kindness and thoughtfulness that the whole team has brought to the table, and this is even more evident when we are face-to-face. For us, all these together have been the recipe for success in creating our cohesive and united culture in a world of remote working.

In the case of all five of these strategies the common factor is importance of working incredibly hard on how we communicate and collaborate as a team, and to work especially hard at creating rich and meaningful shared in person experiences. Herein lies the inner hidden advantage of being a fully remote team, what at first seems like an obstacle to building culture turbo charges its growth because your business depends upon being very intentional and committed to it.