How to Build a Consistent and Sustainable Remote Work Culture
Building a great culture is key to building a great company.
Many view culture as an intangible thing – but while working as a team, and collaborating to build and use products, it quickly translates into a tangible experience for employees and users alike. There are many key areas that, when clearly defined, can be embedded into each and every organization in a variety of ways.
Typically, in an office setting, there are many ways to display culture: the way people dress, the types of furniture and design in the space, and the occasional happy hour with your teammates. But in a remote work setting, defining culture can be much more challenging. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to translate the values of your company.
As a fully remote team, and one that’s rapidly approaching Dunbar’s number (150 team members), we at Whereby are working to reevaluate and redefine our values as a company – the things that define our culture.
After a few months of internal focus groups, surveys, and interviews with key members of our team we’ve officially defined our company culture with the Whereby ETHOS. We hope that sharing this ETHOS with you will help you define your own company culture, whether your team works from one office or your colleagues are spread out around the world.
Defining our culture and values: The Whereby ETHOS
At Whereby, we are:
Ethically ambitious: Our ethical commitments are continuous and tangible. We strive to be a company that raises the bar and makes its people proud.
Trust trust: We trust by default. This means assuming best intentions and giving people space and freedom from day one, not asking them to earn it.
Human first: We consider the whole human, beyond any one goal or moment. Doing so helps us support each other, and our customers, more meaningfully.
Outwit and outgrit: To create serious change, we have to dig deeper and think smarter. Grit, resilience and creativity are the hallmarks of the underestimated.
Selfishly diverse: Embracing diversity is a moral duty, but it’s also smart. We want the full spectrum of talent in our team. Every perspective strengthens us.
What led us here?
When a new team member joins our team, they start with a ‘full tank’ of trust. That means trusting their expertise and skills, their judgement, and their intentions.
ETHOS is a touchstone to return to as we grow and add more diverse voices and perspectives from around the world. Our values help us stay authentic to our core, evaluate new initiatives, and add depth to our strategies. And defining them on paper ensures our culture remains intact even as we grow.
Organizations are a living and breathing organism, so as our company grows the culture shifts as well. This is natural and promising as new people bring new perspectives to the team. It also makes narrowing down the values even more important.
When new people join our team, clear values and a well-defined culture are a crucial and simple way to ensure people align with our mission. These values also help our teams march toward the same goal – and on the same beat – no matter where they work.
More than a slogan: bringing our culture to life
How our values are reflected in our work will continue to evolve, but we’ve made good progress embedding the Whereby ETHOS into a range of policies, designs, and tools.
Our interviews were a natural place to start. We've expanded our interview questions and mapped them to our values. That way, each and every teammate who leads an interview is asking concrete questions that reflect our culture. It also means we can more objectively assess whether or not a candidate aligns with our values.
Reviewing and updating our internal policies was also a priority. The Whereby ETHOS offered a straightforward lens to assess existing policies and a solid starting point for developing new ones. Our vacation policies, benefits packages, and family leave policies are top of mind in supporting ethical ambitions, being human first and trusting our team to make decisions that work for them.
Our values help us pinpoint tools that help us outwit and outgrit to make our work better – whether that’s more efficient, more human, or more accurate. They also help us decide if platforms, tools, and partners align with our goals. We want to empower our team to meet and exceed their goals, but also want to align our organization with other companies that have similarly high standards.
We apply the ETHOS directly when developing our internal processes and tools. We launched our Progression Framework earlier this year to align the entire team on levels, skill sets, values, and more. Tools designed to guide team members through this process map to our values, helping team members assess their own performance and goals. And being transparent with our reviews ensures each and every team member understands where they’re at currently and what it takes to progress in their career at Whereby.
And finally, to reflect the Whereby ETHOS and build the values into our culture with intention, we regularly collect feedback to ensure that we’re tracking our values.
Because at the end of the day, culture is so much more than happy hours and office design. It’s created slowly and intentionally by providing ways for everyone to share their feedback, impact company decisions, and offer their expertise. Our values ensure every decision, from all hands meetings and events to quarterly feedback and reviews, are made with our shared values in mind. Working this way keeps our team culturally connected and aligned even while working remotely from around the world.