Company culture or a good salary. Which one do you choose? A recent study by jobs website Glassdoor revealed that most people believe a strong company culture will make them happier at work than earning a high salary.

I can see why people might have answered the survey question in this way. After all, faced with the prospect of spending every day in misery (but with a fat bank account) or being happy and fulfilled (but with a few less dinners out) -- I would choose happiness too. Most of us would.

However, I do not think you should have to choose. I believe that work should be both rewarded and rewarding. That means a salary that enables you to live well and take care of your family and also work in an environment that is flexible and positive. Ideally, you have the ability to grow and learn. You have the opportunity to take on new challenges and help others to do the same.

I have seen how this is possible firsthand with our team at Aha! -- we are one of the fastest-growing software companies in the U.S. We have built a unique culture based on our core values. We put people first, reject drama, and strive to exemplify traits like transparency and kindness every day. 

And of course, remote work plays an essential role in our ability to cultivate a happy and productive culture. The flexibility of remote work is at the core of our culture. We are a fully distributed company with nearly 100 teammates across the globe.

So if company culture rules, what are the ingredients for building a meaningful one with a remote team? Here is what we have found:

Transparency

Toxic co-workers tend to stick together and feed off of each other's negativity. But working remotely means that folks must adopt a clear and direct communication style in order to collaborate. This transparency tends to breed more equal relationships between co-workers and discourage bad behavior. Leaders set the tone -- no secrets, no drama, and no office cliques.

Health

Stressful commutes and a steady supply of office donuts will worsen anyone's mental and physical well-being. Not great ingredients for company culture either. A survey of over 3,000 employees revealed that 77 percent of respondents think a flexible or remote job would help them exercise more and eat more healthfully. And 86 percent said they would experience less stress. Our teammates often report that they have more time and freedom to work out and eat well.

Camaraderie

Is it possible to work alone -- far away from your co-workers -- and not feel lonely or isolated? The answer may surprise you. According to a survey of 19,000 global workers, 55% of remote employees said that they feel part of a team. The key to encouraging team spirit is to connect regularly. For example, we use Slack and video meetings to interact throughout the day and gather at an all-company meeting once a week.

Gratitude

You do not have to be in the same room as someone to express thanks. We have a channel for what we call "hatitude" -- a specific statement explaining why we are grateful for a co-worker and their contributions to the team. Pausing to give appreciation for small acts of kindness really does inspire even more positivity.

Happiness

Joy is an important component of a meaningful life. In fact, our reason for existing at Aha! is customer and employee happiness. When people are free to choose where in the world they want to work, they simply enjoy their day-to-day work more. They feel comfortable with their surroundings and have more time to spend with family.

These are some of the benefits of a positive remote work culture that I have witnessed. Of course, not every remote organization is a healthy one, and distributed teams are not immune to toxic behavior. But remote work has great potential to offer people a happier way of working and living. And is that not what culture is all about?

Published on: Jul 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.