Last week, we talked about finding a work-life balance while working remotely. But with a lot of offices not reopening until 2021 (or beyond!), it’s not just about making working from home bearable. It’s about making it work for your organisation – and that means building a remote company culture.
With economic upheaval and general uncertainty touching almost all industries, company culture might not feel like a priority. But it’s more important than salary for 56% of employees. And while the job market is currently a challenging one, hiring and retaining the best talent is crucial to your success.
A strong company culture makes advocates of your employees, and gives them the will to succeed even during these challenging times. Let’s face it – in the midst of a global pandemic, your people are going to need motivation to care about weekly sales figures.
‘Culture’ is about sharing. Sharing values, beliefs, ambitions, and motivations. And while it’s harder to promote that sense of connection through a laptop screen, it can be done.
How did you build and maintain your company culture before? A good place to start is to think about that, and work out how you need to tweak them to fit. If it revolved around daily huddles, social events, or ‘pizza Fridays’ then you’ll need to make some changes: but there are some basics to tackle first.
What does your company stand for? If you’re struggling to answer, it’s time to fix that. As an organisation you should have a clearly defined set of missions, goals, and values that everyone’s on board with. Your people need to know what they’re working towards, and who they’re representing.
This is even more important when everyone’s working remotely – in the office, branded posters or even the practical ways things work can create a sense of your culture. Not so much when you’re communicating from your spare room or kitchen table.
So after you’ve created your official list of values – taking insights from the most senior to the most junior team members – you need to shout about them. Not only should you share them with the team regularly, and interact them into your company-wide comms, but why not consider going public? Your culture should be so close to your outward-facing brand that it makes sense.
Remote working is vastly different to office life – so you have to set a foundation first. Your company culture, whether you recognise it or not, is intrinsically linked to space and place. So start with the basics:
Your employees are all set-up on laptops, so they’re remote-ready – right? Maybe not. It’s worth thinking carefully about what other equipment would make life easier. Headsets could ensure video calls run smoothly, and desks and desk chairs could ensure everyone has a proper place to get stuck into work. Long-term, for accessibility reasons, it’s even worth considering that you can’t assume everyone’s got a broadband connection.
Beyond practicalities, remote working also lacks the structure, and cadence, of office life. Your people need to be clear on when they’re expected to work, how they should flag if they’re unavailable, and what forms of communication they should use. Are you an email-only company, or are messaging tools like Slack your main way of keeping in touch? Do you have a video-on policy? Be as clear as possible by creating a written handbook of dos and don’ts.
With clarity about communication channels, you’ll be one step closer to staying connected – but don’t forget to find ways to chat. Work out how you can recreate those water cooler conversations, to build those bonds that people thrive on. Why not set up a casual channels to chat about what’s on TV, the football, share recipes, or anything else that people like to talk about. Don’t think of it as time-wasting – those moments of levity will make your people productive for the rest of the day.
Once you’ve covered the practicalities, it’s time to dig deeper. Encouraging an emotional engagement to work, despite being out of office, requires three key things: their manager’s trust, recognition of their hard work, and those little ‘added extras’.
Every manager has their own style, and way of doing things. Some are hands-on – liking to delegate tasks, have constant check-ins, and stringent reporting. Others are less so, giving their teams the space to get things done. A study found remote workers that are highly monitored struggle mentally – with 49% feeling frequently anxious. That’s not good for your company culture. You can help by reminding your managers of the business benefits of remote work, and encouraging a ‘lead by results’ mindset.
With no opportunities for usual feedback – from making someone a coffee to say ‘thanks’ for handling a task, to rounds of applause for positive outcomes or gong-ringing for sales made – you need to fill that gap. Congratulate and thank team members internally using company-wide emails or messages, encourage people to nominate others for a weekly shout-out, or even go public in giving kudos. A personal LinkedIn post from the senior team goes a long way.
If you want a company culture, you’re trying to go beyond being a group of people getting their paychecks on the same day. Remember the little added extras that brighten people’s day. If there were free snacks in the kitchen, why not send everyone a care package? If you’d hit the local for a wind-down every Friday, is there a fun way you can replicate that virtually? You’ll have to be inventive, but get everyone involved in the planning – it’ll be worth the effort.