Improving Collaboration in a Remote Team

Remote work and remote culture can be tough. It does not simply happen and has to be fostered and grown within an organization. How can we as individuals contribute to a stronger remote culture prioritizing collaboration and communication?


I acknowledge that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to work environments. This article is not intended to change anyone’s mind about remote work, but rather to offer suggestions on how to cultivate a stronger remote culture.

I'll share a few practical actions that can enhance communication, collaboration, and engagement in a remote setting. Whether you’re a manager looking to support your team or an employee wanting to improve your remote work experience, these tips can help create a more cohesive and productive remote work environment.

Some of these will be direct actions we can take ourselves, and others would require collaboration with management and stakeholders.

My Background on Remote Work

I've spent most of my career working remotely. My first tech job was as a support agent in a call center, where I provided support for point-of-sale software designed for salons and spas. After about 18 months, I was promoted to Hosted Systems Administrator and started working hybrid, as I could handle after-hours updates, deployments, and repairs from home.

In 2015, I transitioned to fully remote work and have since worked from home as a software developer for four different organizations. This experience has not only sharpened my technical skills but also given me a deep appreciation for the benefits and challenges of remote work.

Remote Culture Must Be Grown

COVID didn't invent remote work, but it did force companies to adapt to it quickly. While some have since returned to the office or adopted hybrid models, others remain fully remote and are now grappling with how to make it work effectively.

Remote work is inherently different. Communication, collaboration, and even company events and perks are all affected. It's not something that will organically just happen; it requires people to actively champion a truly remote culture. Building this culture means rethinking how we connect, collaborate, and celebrate as a team, ensuring that everyone feels included and engaged, no matter where they are.

So what do we do then?

Fortunately, growth often happens from the bottom up. Even as individual contributors, there are steps we can take to improve the remote culture within our companies. The following list is not exhaustive but includes practices that I've personally found to have a significant impact.

1. Start Asking Questions in Public

Asking questions can still feel taboo in remote work environments.

Often, people ask if it's okay to pose a question or if anyone has experience with a certain technology, rather than just asking outright. They may also prefer to discuss issues in direct messages or private channels.

I get it—every team has that one person who's a seasoned expert in a particular skill or technology. But one thing often missing in remote work compared to in-office environments is the spontaneous conversations where someone rolls up their chair, turning a quick question into a roundtable discussion. Knowledge silos form much more easily in a remote setting.

While it's natural for team members working on shared functionality to discuss things among themselves, consider when a question might benefit from being asked to the whole group. This not only brings in multiple perspectives but also allows the entire team to engage and learn from the conversation.

If your team messaging service doesn't have an appropriate channel, ask an administrator to add one and start the trend with a question.

2. Foster "Irrelevant" Conversation

If your work Slack only has work-specific channels, coworkers are much less likely to casually interact.

I use "irrelevant" in quotes because the content doesn't have to be completely unrelated to work, although that's beneficial too. It could be as simple as creating an off-topic room. For larger teams, special interest or hobby groups can also be helpful to get people chatting.

These spaces give people a chance to bond and get to know their coworkers, recapturing some of those kitchen coffee break or water cooler chats. Due to the asynchronous nature of tools like Slack, people can still prioritize their time and manage work and communication obligations as they see fit in ways in-person communication doesn't typically allow for.

3. Team Building Events and Benefits

This is one of those things where it's hard to give completely generalized advice because of the different scopes of remote teams, geographical placement, So instead, I offer a few ideas:

Take a Coworker to Lunch

Don't let geographical distance be a deterrent. Make plans with a coworker to "get lunch" on a specific day and time. Order takeout or delivery and spend an hour eating lunch together and chatting. It can be challenging to avoid falling into the trap of talking about work during this time, but I encourage you to treat it like grabbing lunch with a friend you haven't seen in a while.

Sponsor Travel to Office

This tip is for leadership teams aiming to better support their hybrid teams, where some employees work in a physical office while others are fully remote.

Offer remote employees the opportunity to join the in-office team periodically. While the specifics will vary from company to company, the general idea is to cover travel and accommodation costs for remote team members to spend a few days or a week in the office, allowing them to get some face time with their coworkers.

However, manage your expectations. People who usually work remotely are accustomed to a different environment than a bustling office. Don’t expect visiting employees to be as productive as they are at home. Similarly, in-office team members might be more distracted. This is all fine. The benefits of fostering a team that feels engaged and cohesive will far outweigh the occasional slow week.

Spotify Playlist Swap

Start a thread once a month where everyone supplies a playlist of the music they have been listening to lately. You'll get to know your coworkers a little better, maybe discover a new favorite artist, or find out that you manager also has a burning passion for 2003 indie rock.

4. Study Groups or Certification Cohorts

The fact that this ended up as number four on my list is purely coincidental, but it’s actually one of my favorite suggestions.

You’ve likely heard the quote: “What if we invest in training our employees and they leave? What if we don’t, and they stay?” This is frequently attributed to Danish leadership consultant and speaker Peter Baeklund.

Programmers already feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep their skills up to date, often studying and practicing outside of work hours. Is your company planning on adopting a new technology? Try creating a study group where team members are given time each week to collectively learn it.

Is your company already heavily leveraging a particular technology? Create a cohort to get your entire team certified in it with team study and preparation.

This approach has numerous benefits because it:

  • Shows the team that management is invested in their continued development and improvement
  • Creates a culture of retention where employees are supported in their growth and potential
  • Breaks down knowledge silos between teams, providing a shared baseline and vocabulary
  • Offers more opportunities for the team to learn, collaborate, and gel together


In conclusion, building a strong remote culture takes intentional effort and thoughtful strategies. By encouraging open communication, creating spaces for casual interaction, organizing team-building events, and investing in continuous learning, we can create a more connected and engaged remote team. These practices not only boost productivity but also foster a supportive and cohesive work environment, benefiting everyone involved.