Every HR professional knows that positive company culture is vital to maintaining a loyal, happy staff. But when all or some of your staff work remotely, how can you build a welcoming, upbeat environment?

Creating a community that your employees can invest in is a much bigger challenge when employees are spread all over the globe.

With 24 of my 29 staff working remotely from all over the world, I’ve worked hard to create a virtual office we can all appreciate. Here are my tips for creating a company culture that extends across oceans.

Create an Online Community for Work and Play

Communication is everything. It happens on many micro-levels when people share a space: conversations by the water cooler, body language, casual commiseration, social lunches.

For a remote staff, there has to be a substitute for this physical interaction. One way to minimize the distance is with an enterprise collaboration platform. Try an ongoing Skype chat or other virtual chat room, which allows employees to instant message the entire group.

The dialogue that takes shape is for both fun and work, so it helps build camaraderie while serving a key business function. Make it clear that the space is playful, not only work-based.

Trust your staff to be able to make professional decisions about what is appropriate, even in a casual setting.

Include Staff in Key Decisions

Inclusion is a major part of building camaraderie. Next time you are faced with a decision that affects your company, consult your team.

These are the people you hired — hopefully you trust them enough to solicit their opinions. Not only do you get differing perspectives and support in your decision-making process, but this also imbues your staff with confidence.

Furthermore, it shows you’re willing to work with your team to reach a mutually satisfying solution, as you want your employees to do with one another. Encouraging collaboration and including employees on key decisions helps them feel invested in the company and more proud of their work.

Meet Up When Possible

While getting your entire staff together might never be possible, make the effort when you can.

Twelve of my employees telecommute for the Philippines. As remote workers, some of my Filipino staff even worked on the same island but had never met one another.

In a grand effort to infuse company pride in my remote workforce, I decided to fly to the Philippines once a year and take my employees and their families on an all-expenses-paid vacation.

Not only do my employees enjoy an incredible company perk, but they also have remarkable teamwork because they have met and learned from each other.

Many companies with remote employees host an annual retreat to introduce everyone and encourage collaboration.

While a full vacation might not always be possible, even just meeting up for a lunch or happy hour with the staff in a neighboring town or state shows that you are making the effort, which will be appreciated.

Be Available

This might seem obvious, but as the boss, when you don’t have a door to knock on, it is important that you’re available to communicate via the online channels.

Make sure your staff knows they can come to you with questions and concerns. Encourage them to contact you and one another.

Especially when you bring someone new onto the team, make it clear that the company has a culture of inclusion and communication. Think of it as a metaphorical “open-door policy.”

Create (and Maintain) Traditions

Traditions are the root of culture. Create a tradition for your team.

It doesn’t have to be major: maybe you send out a newsletter every month highlighting a staff member, or maybe you send out an annual card or gift for the holidays. Even the smallest traditions remind staff that they are part of a community and increase those warm, fuzzy feelings of inclusion that comprise a positive company culture.

Staff members who like their jobs and know their teammates are more likely to stick around and work hard for your company. Take these steps to create a positive company culture and ensure you have a satisfied, devoted staff for years to come.