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How do you build culture in a remote-first work environment?
Working from home isn’t going away soon. But as remote-first becomes the new normal, how can startups create culture online while working effectively? Dance’s chief people officer and people industry expert Julia Carloff-Winklelmann shares her tips for startups navigating a competitive job market.

Hit record

Transitioning to a remote-first workplace doesn’t mean your entire company should spend all day on live video calls. “Make sure to implement a culture of asynchronous collaboration,” Julia advised.
Tools like Loom allow people to easily create a video of them talking through a presentation or project plan, allowing for feedback and intentional communication that can be received on a team member’s own time and pace, literally: viewers can rewind, speed up the playback and directly comment within the feed – which wouldn’t be possible during a traditional meeting.
Plus, enabling asynchronous communication tools creates a culture of documentation, which means team members are encouraged to organize projects clearly and practice mindfulness in reading and writing. 

Listen to learn

One of the reasons many choose to work in startups is their dynamic, constantly evolving nature. Ensure that your startup’s approach to people management, recruitment and retention are innovating at the same rate.
Being open to improvement is the first step to making any culture-building online successful. No matter your size and scale, it’s ok to iterate on your current culture building activities: just because something worked well in 2020 doesn’t mean it will be engaging in 2022. 
Don’t be afraid to ask your team members what they want and need in a culture, advised Julia. Tactics like regular employee surveys and recurring one-on-ones can help leaders create a culture people want to be a part of. 

Embrace vulnerability

Honest and genuine conversations are key for creating a culture that people want to engage in. Data from McKinsey shows that leaders who cultivate high awareness, exhibit vulnerability and demonstrate empathy are the best equipped to navigate tough business situations, such as navigating an evolving workplace. 
“Our leadership philosophy at Dance is to always make it clear that all feedback is welcome. Questions and feedback are welcome 1:1 and in each weekly all-hands meeting, or ‘All-Dance’ as we call them internally,” Julia added. 
Each of these weekly meetings combine an update on the business, as well as a lively Q&A session enabled through Slido. 
The discussions that arise from a transparency-first approach create some vulnerable conversations, but that kind of human connection is what builds culture in the first place, added Julia. By being able to have honest conversations about what has worked and what has challenged the business, Dance is able to build connections and improve our work.

In conclusion, the adage may go “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”..

...but at a remote-first, flexible startup, building culture should be the strategy. As reported in Forbes, “Companies with strong cultures have seen a 4x increase in revenue growth. Furthermore, companies that have appeared on Fortune’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list also see higher average annual returns, with cumulative returns as high as 495%.” 

Dance is hiring! Check out open roles. And for more about what it’s like to work at a growing ebike subscription company, check out this Q&A with one of our engineers and input from our interns on what it’s like to be a working student at Dance.

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