Over the last two years, the workforce has changed more than anyone could have predicted. Where and how we work has undergone a serious transformation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and — as more and more companies are embracing hybrid or distributed work models — having a strong culture is more critical than ever.

But building culture for distributed teams requires intentionality. Business leaders can’t rely on proximity to carry the load, which means it’s important to understand how to effectively create and maintain a strong company culture if you want to keep your employees engaged, reduce turnover, increase productivity, and help your organization thrive in today’s increasingly hybrid world.

Follow these five tips to build a strong culture for your distributed team.

Prioritize clear and open communication.

Communication is a vital part of establishing a strong culture, regardless of the work model your organization chooses to use. However, leading a distributed team requires leaders to double down on opening clear lines of communication.

With less face-to-face interaction, it’s important to make sure your team members understand the best methods of communication — including ways to express any challenges or issues that may arise — while fostering an environment where they feel safe, supported, and encouraged to speak up.

Don’t micromanage.

When it comes to working with distributed teams, it’s understandable to be worried about whether or not your employees are getting the job done. But it’s important to remember that micromanaging can do more harm than help.

“To better support remote workers and improve the employee experience, it is important that they feel that they are trusted rather than being controlled,” says Ed Cravo, Co-founder and Head of Marketing at Groundbreaker. “If you know you have hired the right people, take the next step, give them some breathing room and believe that they will follow through with their tasks.”

Lead by example.

The problem with toxic work environments is they can sneak up on you unannounced. Regardless of your best intentions, saying you want to build a strong company culture is much different than living it.

“Leaders often describe the culture they want, and then behave differently, so the culture never becomes a reality. If you want to build a culture, role model it,” explains ​​Steph Sanderson, Director and Business Consultant with ​​Innovate & Thrive Co.

“First, work out what it looks like for you in your role, and demonstrate it. When your team sees you taking it seriously, they will take it seriously and it will slowly spread around the organization at a much deeper level.”

Create space for change.

If we learned anything from the last two years, it’s that change is inevitable — and that there is power in pivoting. Companies that embrace change rather than shunning it are far more likely to survive any obstacles that may arise. That nimbleness can pay dividends down the line.

When it comes to creating a strong company culture for distributed teams, allowing space for change isn’t just about preparing for the unknown. It’s about building a better working environment that fosters innovation, adaptability, and responsiveness in order to benefit both your employees and your bottom line.