Owing to the massive shift to remote work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional office landscape as we know it has been changing for some time now. However, the degree to which this change is occurring is open to debate. There are certain large companies asking employees to continue working from home for a few months more. Consequently, many people prefer to work from their local coffee shop or a nearby co-working space as they feel these places provide an ideal work environment.
While some CFOs are planning to vacate office premises and permanently move some part of their workforce to remote working, there are some company leaders who are still a little skeptical about the decision. And the reason being, infrastructural barriers that interfere with the ability to manage the employees from distant work centres.
Strengthening Company Culture While Remote Working
Culture is what holistically and mysteriously guides employee actions and interactions in the workplace. Even in the present digital age, there is no substitute for co-presence when problem-solving, creativity and communication are called for. Though remote working isn’t a new phenomenon, the benefits that face-to-face interactions provide for employee wellbeing and corporate culture are clear.
This raises a pertinent question about what really makes up an ideal work environment. The work-from-home routine has led to always-on and always-available expectations from employers across various industries. Majority employees have accepted this reality, especially the young tech-savvy ones. In return, all they ask for is a greater leeway in where and how they work.
At the same time, the importance of the environment in producing high quality creative work cannot be discounted. For instance, the recently spawned digital nomads are globetrotting workers who thrive amongst changing landscapes. However, having said that, remote work is not for all organizations and all individuals.
Some challenges that companies are facing in maintaining their culture include:
- Alignment to company's ethics and vision doesn't happen organically
- Team camaraderie is not the same as before
- Cross-functional collaboration is also showing some variations. As understanding the skills sets of different individuals, value to add, personalities and kind of person they are not known.
- Trust takes longer to develop
- Ownership & the feeling of belonging to an organization takes longer to kick in
- Building bonds & driving conversations that aren't just transactional doesn't happen frequently
At the end of the day, culture isn’t a place. Culture is a mindset. Some ways in which companies can sustain their culture are:
Define Culture Drivers
Organizations must know more than how to describe their culture. They need to have well-defined culture drivers in the workplace – values, beliefs, structures, professional traditions, unwritten rules and behaviours to be observed – which create the culture and employee experience. These culture drivers can either improve or hinder employee performance. Only when the organizations have identified what drives their culture can they protect them and implement the same amongst their workforce.
Have Critical Technology in Place
There are dozens of proven digital platforms that can support an organization’s efforts towards inter-office collaboration and remote work. There are platforms for project management (Asana), communication (Slack), document sharing on cloud (Google Docs) and other business functions. With these tech platforms in place, organizations can ensure real-time collaboration, automate mundane admin tasks so that team members can focus on more important work, and virtually do away with in-person project management.
Coach Remote Employees
To ensure that employees continue to be productive from home just like they are in office, it’s necessary that organisations train them when the occasion arises. They need to be shown how to do things for them to execute tasks well on their own. Companies can develop routines that can help with sustaining work/life balance for employees and set up home workstations which would best suit their style. Equally important is to coach remote managers as leadership roles are even more challenging when the team is working from different locations.
Establish regular check-ins
Organisations must create a weekly ritual to regroup as a team or have individual meetings with direct reports of their work. This will help remote workers to stay updated on the happenings within the company. Managers too will be able to know how their team members are faring, both on deliverables and in general. And this needs to be done on video conferencing for it to have more positive results.
The limited options available today are making it difficult and challenging for organizations to optimize the benefits and mitigate risks for remotely working teams. Therefore, companies need to preserve what is validated to make official culture high-performing. Data-driven interventions will further enhance employee experience and create a culture so strong that it can survive in any work environment.