Remote work will probably be around for the foreseeable future. As offices begin to reopen, the question on our minds is: Do we actually want to return to the traditional office? And if not, what happens to culture when people are working from home? Here are our secrets to remote corporate culture success.
Corporate culture is a top down initiative that requires action and support from leadership. While our heads may be filled with uncertainty and swimming with questions like “is this the end of the head office, and will we see smaller regional hot seats with subcultures of their own?,” we can safely assume that having the flexibility of working from home is here to stay. Inclusive leadership is about finding ways to leverage the wealth of insights, knowledge, and perspectives in an open trusting and diverse workplace that no longer has physical walls. It is therefore important for companies to shift their thinking regarding building their employee experience and company culture around the future of flexible work.
Secret #1: Understand The Value Of Telecommuting
The best place to start is by understanding the value of working from home. Agile work has been found to increase employee satisfaction. It facilitates better work-life balance, reduces travel time and expenses. Research by Global Workplace Analytics indicates that 80% of employees consider it a job perk over higher pay. A recent survey by CNBC found that employees who are able to telecommute are happier. Furthermore, remote work contributes to employee empowerment as people need to be more independent and self-directed.
For organizations, flexible work options result in reduced attrition and unscheduled absences both of which are costly for companies. It also widens the talent pool as physical distance is no longer an obstacle. Companies need to see working from home as an asset to leverage: savings – including on real-estate and equipment; higher employee retention and loyalty; higher productivity and output.
The last few months have certainly put to rest any further doubt and fear around the productivity of remote employees. Employees report being better able to focus and complete tasks without too many office related interruptions or distractions. It has also been found to increase collaboration and cut down on unnecessary meetings. Time spent online together is limited and thus more effective and has a higher level of quality.
It is important to recognize that working from home does have a downside: Working autonomously is not every employee’s core strength; the impact on corporate culture and communication.
Company Culture is defined as a common set of values, goals, practices, and attitudes that characterizes an organization or group of people. Corporate culture constructs are usually driven in a physical environment. Without a physical space, these aspects are often diluted.
A strong Corporate culture provides a sense of connection and belonging among employees even when they are not sharing a physical space every day. Culture-driven communication can assist to counter feelings of isolation, as well as offer support to those who need more guidance towards being able to achieve work goals more independently.
Sectret #2: The Generation Gap
While the impact of different generations on employee experience (EX) in general is a topic on its own, it is important to consider these differences when adapting your company to remote work. A study by The National Research Group provides some great insight into how different generations are adopting the working from home trend and what concerns they have.
In short, generation Z (18-24 year olds) report feeling the least productive despite being tech natives. As this generation are generally the newbies in the workplace, the office setting provides much needed structure and stability. Their concerns are about potential lack of communication and society becoming more isolated. For them, the office provides the social connectivity they crave.
For Generation X (40-54 year olds) and millennials (25-39 year olds), their work and life experience leaves them feeling more confident in their abilities to work independently and their concerns are around the financial implications of the pandemic due to having experienced recessions in the past. They enjoy the convenience and flexibility that remote work allows for balancing family responsibilities.
Your corporate culture needs to include values that accommodate these differing needs and concerns to ensure that all employees are left feeling supported, engaged and motivated.
Secret #3: Define, Refine And Express Culture And Values.
With an understanding of the benefits of remote work and an appreciation for the generation gap differentiated experience, companies can relook at their corporate culture and values.
Corporate culture is a vehicle for employee satisfaction. Now that employees are working more remotely, companies need to rethink their values and their methods of imparting and infiltrating their culture. Any aspects of your culture tied to a physical space needs to be reconsidered.
Without an office, you need to find new ways of transmitting your company values. Consider including your company values on your website and in your internal newsletter. An internal company email or newsletter can be a great way to nominate and recognize employees that exude company values.
When considering your company values, place importance or value on outputs rather than measure inputs. This will encourage and enable employees to thrive, develop greater accountability and work independently.
Secret # 4: Communication And Connection
Remember that remote work means most of your communication and meeting opportunities will be digital. You need to have clearly defined ideas about accepted tone, method, and content for both work and non-work related communications. You may also want to consider best practice standards such as scheduling regular virtual team meetings and whether or not cameras need to be on or off. Bear in mind that your decisions need to ensure work continuity and collaboration with the goal of achieving work objectives.
Communication is all about connection. One of the biggest challenges employees face with remote work is experiencing feelings of isolation and disconnect. It is important to set a high value on open communication and feedback, and encourage regular check-ins with staff.
Companies also need to find ways to allow for the virtual watercooler chats and encourage impromptu engagements. These informal moments of connection between employees reminds us that our team members are in fact people. It helps get to know each other on a more personal level, develop trust and reduces feelings of working alone. Informal conversations often lead to innovative breakthroughs.
Social “get-togethers” and other organized fun days such as office birthdays or “wear red to work Fridays” need to be recreated virtually. These activities and physical touch base meetings are important for overall employee wellbeing and will in turn contribute to heightened sense of belonging, creativity and productivity.
Secret #5: Tools And Technology
As more people opt to remain working from home, collaboration over online platforms has become the new norm.
A key ingredient to ensuring success of a remote corporate culture and overall employee wellbeing and productivity is to ensure your company has the right set of tools and technology in place to bridge remote work barriers.
Your corporate culture should set expectations and standardize this process while considering how the different generations among your employees adapt to a more digital connection and communication process.
Companies need to consider questions such as, do we need our cameras on and off for meetings. With cameras off the whole time, there is no guarantee that you are connecting effectively with your teams. Using leadership and workshop styles that encourage contribution from employees is one way around the camera off disengagement.
There are a myriad of effective tools available. The important thing is to find the most suitable option and ensure all your employees are competently trained to optimize their experience and achieve desired outcomes.
A remote workforce also means that many of your connections with your customers will also be digital. While these ideas will help you develop a strategic, focused corporate culture that enhances employee experience and well-being, it will in turn assist your employees at offering your clients the best, seamless Customer Experience (CX).
Authour: Yael Benjamin at Interact RDT