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It’s fair to say that there’s nothing quite like lockdown orders to remind us that company culture is not confined to an office. As Forbes points out, the physical objects synonymous with culture, like gourmet coffee bars and ping pong tables, are only ‘expressions or channels of culture’. They are not the culture itself. True organisation culture is based on the core values that unify a workforce. And, thankfully, these transcend the need for an office.
By adhering and adjusting to a few key principles, you can bolster your company’s chance to maintain a desired culture, even when working remotely.
Redefining your company culture
Having set values can really harness the direction your culture takes. But as Gallup reported, 60% of employees cannot fully agree that they know what their company stands for. This is a problem.
Even if you do have a strong set of ethics and beliefs in place already, remote work may compound these. So at minimum, it’s important to revisit your definition of culture. It’s a fundamental first step. After all, before you can protect your culture, you have to know what drives it. Look at your values and structures, your goals and behaviours and see how they relate to remote workers. Are these actionable goals that can unite personnel? It may take some tweaking and revision, but forging a shared way of doing things is the bedrock of company culture.
When teams are distributed, being up-front about everything can make a huge difference in fostering a strong culture. According to Forbes, an ‘open book approach’ has the power to create a high level of trust. No-one wants to feel like someone is looking over their shoulder all day. Reimagine what success looks like. Establish clear goals and OKRs so remote employees can confidently work towards targets. It can also give you an opportunity to ensure that the focus of tasks aligns with the prescribed company culture. It ultimately can empower your staff and make them feel included in the business as a whole. Everyone is on the same page, building towards the right outcomes.
Connect and communicate
Unity is built on communication. Bear that in mind as you take a look at this recent survey that discovered that one of the biggest struggles for remote workers is loneliness. Continued connection with your employees is paramount to maintaining good culture. While there may be no birthday cakes in the canteen or chats in the corridors, there are still so many avenues to promote communication. For more informal conversations, set up Slack channels for example. Encourage group lunches and host virtual company get-togethers. But don’t forget about the little things either. Ensure managers are regularly reaching-out to their team, checking-in to make sure they’re getting on okay. It may seem frivolous, but it binds us together. There is always a fear of isolation with remote work, but a renewed onus on communication is actually refreshing. The old luxury of proximity often inhibited connectedness. Virtual can absolutely revitalise this.
Bring empathy online
It seems rather wooly to say, but focusing on basic humanity is a sure-fire way to create positive culture, no matter the distance. While people have been remote working for years, there is something so fundamentally different about this time. Conditions are not ideal for many and stress is constantly percolating, so why add to it? Make sure your employees feel comfortable at work. Champion them to do their best. Listen to their concerns. Share success stories. Recognise hard work but understand the pitfalls. True culture is about inclusivity, so if your employees feel appreciated, it can pay dividends in terms of engagement.
Maintaining a positive company culture is a fundamental mission, regardless of the move towards remote working. We know the benefits – increased morale, job satisfaction, lower attrition and improved productivity. But it’s a new way of working for many. We have to engage our understanding and think outside the office. The fundamentals and desired outcomes are the same, the only thing that’s changed is the application. And with 94% of executives believing that a strong company culture is integral to success, it’s definitely worth adapting.