3 ways to craft a culture of collaboration in remote work models



by Heather O’Shea


According to Upwork, around 32.6 million Americans will work remotely in 2025, approximately 22% of the total workforce. Another study by Buffer says that a whopping 98% of people want to work remotely, at least part of the time. When you look at the numbers, it is easy to see that remote work overall—in some shape or form—is on the rise.

This trend is not just a response to recent global circumstances but also reflects the evolving nature of work itself. Advancements in technology that allow us to stay connected, plus a greater emphasis on work/life balance, have made new working models the object of our desire. There are a few workplace golden rules leaders need to remember, no matter what your work model may be.

Maintaining community in remote work models

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of leading teams in various set-ups, from single-location teams to those spread across different geographies and even fully remote teams. In reflecting on these experiences, one constant stands out: The importance of fostering a culture centered around authenticity, empathy and community.

Currently, my team is 100% remote. In this situation, people don’t necessarily get to know each other by walking around a physical location, so messaging platforms like Slack become our “break room” or “water cooler” to build and foster a sense of community. We come up with fun topics to discuss and share photos from our various locations that give everyone a view into our lives. What’s great about being based around the country is that we have such a rich diversity in how we live our lives and the events happening around us, so it’s always fascinating to participate in those discussions.

At my company, “playful” is one of our core values, and we are always coming up with ways to fulfill this value in a virtual workspace. We have a team meeting every week and often have team members give us a presentation on their lives and hobbies so we all get to know each other better and build more playfulness into our everyday interactions. Additionally, we organize birthday parties, games and celebrations regularly. As we do this, we are seeing more team members across the organization connecting more organically and even gathering in person to socialize with those who live in close proximity.

Identifying your own company values and bringing elements into your team’s workday to support those values is essential for fostering a sense of belonging and connection. Encourage open communication, celebrate achievements and prioritize team bonding activities. Whether it’s virtual coffee breaks, online gaming sessions or themed events, find creative ways to infuse fun and camaraderie into your remote work culture.

Remember, building a strong remote team is not just about the work; it’s about cultivating relationships, supporting one another and creating a shared sense of purpose. By embracing remote work and nurturing a positive team culture, you can empower your team to thrive in any environment, regardless of physical distance.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Our business is highly collaborative, and working asynchronously across time zones can be challenging without frequent communication. Consistent, transparent communication is central to remote leadership and helps set the stage for how team members should engage across projects. Since my company went to a completely remote model four years ago, our leadership team will definitely agree that it has certainly been a learning experience—and we haven’t always gotten it right. The good news is that we’ve picked up a few strategies along the way.

We are always seeking feedback on how we are communicating with employees and refining our approach. Mainly, we’re trying to be increasingly thoughtful about the forums in which we communicate. A few examples include: sharing business updates over video conference in our team meetings; taking detailed notes in every meeting so team members can reference back and stay up to speed (even if they aren’t able to attend); collecting end-of-day updates from every project owner with all of the tasks individuals are working on, and scheduling messages to send at appropriate times in order to be thoughtful of people’s working hours and time zones.

While opening communication avenues is critical in a remote work environment, being thoughtful about those avenues is also a big consideration. No one wants to spend their entire day attending meeting after meeting, so finding ways that they can get caught up on their own time can be a big help. Leadership needs to be readily accessible and available to build strong communication channels and relationships.

Building trust and accountability

Leaders have a strong role to play in any work environment, but especially in a remote one. When no one is in the office together, a high level of trust is part of everyday life. Leaders can build trust and accountability among team members by doing just that: trusting them and holding them accountable. This starts with good hires, of course, and finding people who are passionate and take pride in their work. Building a team means finding people who truly want your company to succeed, and that starts with leadership. It’s our role as leaders to invest in our employees, coach them and provide them the opportunities to learn and grow.

For example, we expect all of our team members to have full, robust lives. We hope this is even more possible now that they have more flexibility in planning their day, along with the fact that they no longer have to commute or “scan their badge” at a location simply because it’s a requirement. We have chosen to foster a collaborative community where we rely on and trust each other to produce great results and build an amazing company together. This starts with leaders showing up for their team and setting that example.

As the traditional workplace undergoes a profound transformation, embracing remote work may no longer be a choice. The good news is that, if done right, remote work models can foster productivity and efficiency while promoting inclusivity, sustainability and employee wellbeing.


Source:  HRExecutive

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