The pandemic has changed how we work irretrievably. It’s unlikely we’ll ever experience the Monday to Friday, 9-5 office culture ever again.  Remote and hybrid working has become the norm. Of course, employees have welcomed the flexibility of at-home working, while employers have enjoyed the freedom to hire that remote work enables.

However, as with any change, there are features of hybrid and 100% remote working models that are not so advantageous.

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Remote working can affect company culture.

Company culture is critical. For employees, it’s the company culture of an organisation that makes it a nice (or not so nice) place to work. Desirable company culture is prized; an inclusive environment, full of motivated and productive colleagues united to achieve a common goal. For employers, a rich company culture is a breeding ground for success and profitability. A team who has bought into your vision, who live and breathe shared values is more productive and invested in the long-term success of your business.

So in a world where your workforce is blended between home and the office, how can you create a company culture that is able to mimic that of on-site working?

Fostering company culture in a hybrid age is possible – it just takes a bit more effort.

Here are some ways you can support company culture in a world of distributed teams.

How can I create a positive company culture for my remote teams?

Don’t micromanage.

Any great company culture begins with trust.  Hybrid working makes this a little harder, but as a leader, if you have bought into the remote model, you need to show that you trust your team.  Pandemic remote workers are long into their stride by now. Time management, self-motivation, and a diligent attitude to work are deeply embedded in the soft-skills locker.

Show your team you trust them by checking in but not micro-managing their every move with unnecessary zoom meetings and emails.

Welcome asynchronous communication.

Much of what goes on in traditional office collaboration is synchronous; it happens in real-time and with direct responses to the ideas of others. For example, chats around the microwave or desk to desk conversations. The remote alternative to these micro-interactions is chat threads, for example.  Be aware that the constant ‘chatter’ will limit the productivity of remote workers; notifications, pings, and pop-ups halt the real-time work.

Instead, you may like to encourage asynchronous working. A model where your team shares a goal but work on it independently, not simultaneously.  Instead of video calling to discuss a proposal, you may like to throw it out as a cloud-based document and ask people to leave their thoughts when it’s convenient.

Be aware of morale.

In particular, it’s been proven that 100% remote workers are more at risk of experiencing burnout. As a leader, you need to keep on top of the well-being of your remote team.  Signs your remote workers may be struggling include

  • A dip in performance or output.
  • Missed deadlines
  • A lack of participation in work meetings or a drop in contact levels
  • Evidence of work at strange out-of-office hours. Very early or late emails, for example.

If you should spot these, make sure that you reach out quickly. Remind them you have an ‘open door’ policy so that the culture remains supportive and inclusive.

Monitor proximity bias.

Proximity bias is the unintentional bias of managers towards staff they are near.  When considering a hybrid team, it could mean that it’s the onsite workers who get the perks and benefits. For example, opportunities on interesting projects, salary raises, early finishes, and Friday drinks.

You can see how this bias would quickly affect morale and create a toxic culture if it goes unchecked.  Leaders may like to think about quality rather than quantity when it comes to work and rewards. Compensate the actual work, not just the time you see your team at their desk.

A man takes part in a remote interview at his laptop. He has on a headset and is holding some notes.

Connect (and disconnect) with tech.

Every bricks-and-mortar workspace has an area where colleagues congregate, chat, and get to know each other.  Remote working has voided this space.  Office chit-chat is a great way for colleagues to build friendships; spontaneous conversation is not supported by remote working.

Therefore it’s vital for leaders to create these spaces virtually.  For example, could you create a Zoom or Teams meeting in which any ‘work’ topics are off the table? Anything but work chat is acceptable…games, quizzes, activities, or just a chance for colleagues to catch up.

But! Remember the dangers of burn-out.

Remember that remote workers do not have the same shut-off procedures as onsite workers. They don’t have the commute to signal the end of the day. Your company ethos and culture must make it clear that a clear start and end of the day routine is encouraged.

Company culture and remote working. The takeaways.

  • Creating a company culture that is supportive of remote workers is essential.
  • Tech will help you foster a culture that is inclusive of your remote team.
  • Keep communication lines open.
  • Allow remote employees to get into a productive workflow. Encourage asynchronous communication.
  • Beware of remote employee burnout. Tired and stressed teams have a negative effect on company culture.
  • Uphold the morale of remote teams by celebrating their successes.
  • Offer as many opportunities to remote teams as you do to onsite colleagues.
  • Trust your remote team. They’re experts by now!

How are you readjusting to your team working more remotely? Need some tips to keep your remote workers happy? Read our recent blog.

Do you need help recruiting for remote tech, digital or data roles?  We can help. Get in touch today!

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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