Remote Work vs Company’s Culture – How We Can Make It Work?
The challenging times are here. Most of the companies try to act fast and search for the best ways of transitioning into remote work in times of urgency. The appearance of COVID-19 has resulted in creating new policies and strategies, even at the world’s largest companies. CEOs, managers, team leaders, and all kinds of employees turned on a survival mode when it comes to both business and their private lives. It seems that cultivating the company’s culture has been set aside.
Remote work definitely can give people and businesses a chance to stay safe or at least safer. However, sooner or later, we all might start feeling not only socially detached but also detached from the culture of the company we are working for. When employees are no longer a team but individual units that are trying to survive, then there will be no one to push the business forward. So, right now, we need to learn how to cooperate closer than ever.
Even if it’s hard to predict another day and how a current situation will impact each business, companies can take care of spreading and cultivating their core values. How to save a company’s culture in times of remote work and global crisis?
Communication as the key element of remote work
Citing The Time Magazine “The coronavirus outbreak has become the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. (…) working from home is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity.”. Unfortunately, before 2020 remote work was still a developing trend, which, despite having many benefits, brought about as much doubt and anxiety. In turn, it is an experiment for which most companies haven’t been prepared for.
One of the most challenging aspects of remote work is setting up proper communication standards. It doesn’t matter at what level in the company structure you are; when you can’t see your colleagues, and you don’t know what they are doing, work motivation decreases over time. Employees are expected to stay productive 8h a day. Still, it’s hard to keep up with that when you feel that others might not be, even if remote work can actually increase productivity by excluding all the distractions.
Jeff Robins: There is no such thing as overcommunication in a remote environment. There are entire books that have been written to limit communication in a typical office space. (...) But, in a remote environment, this is how you know that people are around you. This is how you know that people are working, both as a manager and as staff, that you know that your managers see what you're doing. This is how we connect.More
Start treating Slack as a virtual office and run there, both work discussions, and non-work-related chit chats. Employees need those dedicated social spaces to go and interact where it’s not only about work. In such an online work-space, they can build those connections that form a better working relationship, so, later on, they feel comfortable providing feedback to one another about work.
Having a purpose while working remotely matters
In the Buffer’s State of Remote Work Report, both 2019 and 2020, appeared a question: What is your biggest struggle while working remotely? In 2019, 19% of people said it was loneliness, and 17% mentioned collaborating and/or communication. During one year these numbers increased, and in 2020, 20% of remote workers claim it’s loneliness and 20% struggle with collaborating and/or communication.
When we’re constantly sitting at home, it’s easy to start losing a sense of belonging. That’s why, as remote workers, we will need to feel that we are a part of something more than ever. What can help with that issue is understanding why this work, which we are doing, is important for the company. Team leaders, managers, even CEOs, and founders need to start providing some guidance on the core company’s values and the company’s purpose, so everybody knows the direction they should follow.
The word “remote” comes from Latin remotus ‘“removed’”, past participle of removere. It means “we are far apart.” Indeed, before we treated remote work as working from far away. As a possibility to organize work in a way that makes us more productive but also to work in the way we like. However, now, workers who have been sent home because of the pandemic might perceive remote work as being separated from their colleagues and workplace.
Kaylie Boogaerts, LaterPay: I think our biggest challenge would be keeping people aligned and connected. What I mean by aligned is making sure that everybody is working towards the same goals, and making sure that people know what the company goals are. Then connected is like from the very kind of from a people perspective. As in like making sure that people don’t feel isolated from the rest of the team, if they are working from home, for example, and they don’t have people physically sitting around them.More
Maintaining a company’s culture requires actions
Before taking any action, first and foremost, people who are leading the company need to figure out what their company’s culture is, or what they want it to be, and how they will live it. Remote employees need leaders who lead the teams by giving the right example, not bosses who only assign them tasks. If a company has set its values, but managers don’t live them, don’t talk about them, then the chances these values will translate to culture are quite small.
The next step might be measuring the sense of belonging of the remote team. Slido, as an example, uses surveys like an internal barometer. They send it out every second month, and one of the questions they ask everyone in the team is, “What is your sense of belonging? How much do you feel part of the team?” and they look very closely at that metric. At Slido, they understand that employees are the ones who have an impact when it comes to their customers, so they want people to feel like a team.
What causes people to stay around at a specific company is also a unique work experience. Offer your employees much autonomy. Let them decide what they work on, and how they work on it. Start tracking progress instead of hours spent on each task. Monitoring work progress instead of controlling time will allow you to assess employee efficiency better. Remote employees won’t feel the pressure that they need to prove they are present constantly.
Lead distributed team by being supportive
We were raised in a culture of winners and losers. It led to the creation in many companies, regardless of their size, of an alpha culture thing. People are expected only to share their triumphs and their wins. Employees hear they did a good job only when there is a significant achievement while they should hear that just because they were dedicated to working on a given project.
This caused that employees, in most cases, don’t say to their managers what’s really going on. They don’t mention that they are having difficulties. Now, in the time of expanding remote work, it is important to start encouraging people to touch difficult topics openly in order to help them. Companies need to create a culture and precedence. Feedback comes from strong foundational relationships.
Employees, especially those who work remotely, also need to feel that they are trusted and trustworthy. You can achieve that by allowing them a certain amount of autonomy. However, an essential part of managing people is to provide clear expectations, so they know what a good job looks like, and they’re clear on what they need to do. Provide some directions.
Also, give them all kinds of digital tools and explain how they are expected to use it. So, instead of being suspicious about whether they are working or not, you can simply check (daily, weekly, monthly) what they’ve done. It’s crucial to remember, “we’re all in this together.” Now employee management is about collaboration and support, and this leads to further company development.
The company’s culture changes when the team grows, and when the team switches the way of working. What you want to maintain when it comes to maintaining a culture, are good work practices. As humans, we like rituals, daily routines, and schedules. It makes our day organized.
That’s why it’s necessary to work out such practices now in terms of remote work. For a while, we might not be able to come back to the way the company used to operate before COVID-19. During this time, let’s try to make remote work even better than it was.
If you need more advice on remote work we encourage you to read other our articles, as for example, How to Design a Recruitment Process That Saves Weeks on Hiring Remote Developers. You can also reach out to us – ITCraftship.