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Building a remote workplace culture

Izzy Turner
July 28, 2020

In the midst of new working models, companies, leaders, and HR teams now have the ultimate challenge in front of them, and that is sustaining or adopting a positive remote workplace culture. A million-dollar question: How does a remote team come together? Let’s explore how to build a remote work culture.

What is remote work culture?

While many companies think the ideal work culture is about having ping-pong tables, PlayStation 4, or happy hours, the real work culture is much more profound. Building a remote workplace culture requires much more than building shared experiences, and it requires a more in-depth effort. Although ping-pong tables are quite beneficial for a positive workplace, building a real work culture provides more benefits to companies and professionals.Gallup defines work culture broadly: "The way work gets done around here." After the pandemic definition should be rewritten like this: “The way work gets done from anywhere.”The biggest companies had been taking advantage of having their own organizational culture for many years. These companies hired top talents and made the best of their teams, and employees had the benefit of working in an environment built on trust and procedures.As remote work became the new norm with the pandemic, traditional understandings of company culture failed to meet the unique demands and challenges of workers. Many companies started looking at how to build culture in a remote work environment. The big question is: “How will companies change or adapt their organizational cultures in the post-pandemic era?” In other words, how can companies nurture a solid remote workplace culture?

How to build culture in a remote work environment

Woman meditating in front of computer enjoying healthy remote workplace culture

Physical and psychological safety above all else

Traditionally, most companies secure their employee’s physical well-being by switching to a remote-working model when it is feasible. However, most companies don’t have time to focus on their employee’s mental well-being yet. It is crucial for employees to feel appreciated and feel like they are part of the remote workplace culture.One of the biggest challenges that leaders or HR teams should consider is maintaining or supplementing human connection in remote settings. Google recently announced that the company would provide its employees a $1.000 work-from-home allowance.Allocating a budget for working home might be a small but effective way to appreciate your team’s hard work from home. With the budget, employees might consider designing a comfortable area at their home as their working environment.Companies that offer remote arrangements might also use their budgets to invest in new ways to create engagement within their teams as well as mental health and well-being initiatives to alleviate challenges of remote work isolation.

Communication is key

When asked what advice he had for leaders thinking into post-COVID-19 work cultures and the future, Edgar Schein advised: “Leaders must show that with complex, messy, systemic, interconnected problems like responding to the coronavirus or the next pandemic, collaboration must escalate as a central value in producing new, better and innovative adaptations.”The key to satisfying new expectations within a remote workplace culture context is to communicate to create your community. Encourage secure connections between employees and your company. Communicate frequently to understand their needs and troubles.It is all about communication. To hold people accountable, be open about your company’s values, and creating connections built on transparent information will get your work culture through upcoming years.

Developing leadership that has agile decision making capability

The importance of healthy management styles is undeniable for a strong remote culture. To improve remote workplace culture, leaders must be more transparent and inspiring when communicating. Ideal leaders should support team collaboration by improving remote communication. It’s easier for leaders to articulate shared goals and to create a sense of community when people work in an office environment. Or it is easier to spot the changes in the performance of employees. How to build a strong team at work when everybody is at home?Being just and inspiring while setting goals and keeping business on track is not easy. A post-COVID leader should have essential skills such as being open to change, creating shared leadership, encouraging secure connections between employees, defining core values, making space for the autonomy of each team member, and setting personal or team goals.According to Tracy Brower, “What’s new is leaders have become even more critical in shaping employee perception and engagement. Leaders matter to work culture because people tend to focus on leaders and draw conclusions about company culture based on their position and their choices. When companies recognize or promote leaders, they are endorsing that leader’s behaviors, values, and approaches—for better or worse.”

Remote workplace culture with leader offering mentorship via video call

Focus on talent

Remote hiring is a significant challenge for HR teams who are new to the concept. Since you lose most of the benefits of face to face communication while talking on screens, it is essential to understand what to do when hiring. Before asking “what you can bring to the team,” it is crucial to set new standards during the recruitment process.Remote communication might be challenging with a new team member. You can even have communication problems with a colleague you had a close relationship for years. It is vital to work with people who can be flexible and have the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.In the new normal, hiring based on company values and fit to the remote workplace culture has gained more importance. Before publishing a job advert, companies and HR teams should focus more on telling what their work culture requires and who makes a better teammate for their company.

Learning, measuring and reflecting

Last but not least, measuring and keeping track of the steps you have taken to maintain or improve your remote workplace culture is essential. By measuring through online surveys and other methods of feedback, you can see where you started and what improvements you have made.Never forget, those who have healthy, managed, constructive work cultures will discover a new resiliency that will help them recover faster from upcoming threats.

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