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9 Steps for Creating and Maintaining Company Work Culture While Everyone is Working Remotely
Much of the workforce has switched to remote work during 2020. With that change, there have been many positive results. Perhaps most significantly, many businesses have reported an increase in productivity. Likewise, remote workers, generally, have said they prefer working remotely and would prefer to keep doing so, to one degree or another, after workers return to the office.
However, there have also been downsides to this grand experiment with remote work. Workers report that loneliness is one of the largest side effects of not being in the office. At the same time, HR professionals and business leaders are having their own problems. They’re finding that creating and maintaining company culture is even more difficult than before. After all, it stands to reason that employees would have a difficult time understanding a company’s culture when colleagues don’t share office space and can’t see each other face to face. That becomes even more difficult for a newly-hired employee.
With that in mind, company culture is still very important, and, as it turns out, a healthy and positive company culture can thrive and prosper for companies that are working remotely. Like working in an office together, it requires effort, and it needs to be actively cultivated. However, the effort is worth it. For businesses that create and maintain a good company culture, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow awaits.
So, how can you create and maintain your company’s culture when all of your workers are working remotely? Read on to find out.
Make sure everyone knows the company’s mission, vision, and goals
This can take the form of a mission statement, a list of company values, or a living constitution for your business. What form it takes isn’t important. What is important is that this information is clearly and concisely communicated to your employees. Simply putting this information down “on paper” will communicate to your employees what is important about your company, what you are trying to achieve, and what they should be striving for.
Establish trust and safety
Whether working together or remotely, a healthy company culture thrives on trust and mental safety. This means employees understand that they can say what is on their mind without the fear of retaliation, rejection, or embarrassment. This starts at the top with the company leadership. Leaders need to project empathy and understanding while also showing that it’s OK to make mistakes.
Craft your remote work policy
It should be clearly understood by everyone in the company what remote work means for your business. Do you have a flexible schedule policy that allows employees to work whenever they want, or do you have core hours everybody needs to maintain? Is your company remote-first or just remote sometimes? Do you use asynchronous communication? The answers to these questions matter less than making sure everyone understands and has clear expectations.
Guarantee equality between remote workers and in-office employees
If you have workers still in the office while others are working remotely, you need to make it very clear that there are no favorites. Promotions have to be just as available to remote workers as they are to employees that are in the office. Important conversations and all virtual meetings should be recorded so they are available to everyone. Which brings us to . . .
Define how collaboration and communication works
While this is important to establish throughout the company, it’s also important to allow individual teams some flexibility. Establish a weekly meeting for individual teams and a less frequent, company-wide meeting for everyone. Ensure that your employees are getting all the information they need, but don’t go overboard with these meetings because they can be as exhausting as those that occurred in the office. Create boundaries so people know they have the opportunity to deeply focus on work without immediately responding to every single message they receive.
Alter your hiring and recruitment process
The soft skills that are needed for remote work are different than the skills that thrive in an in-office environment. Look for those potential employees who don’t need direction, can express empathy, and who can communicate effectively right off the bat. You can give your company culture an immense boost by hiring employees who have the right skills already built-in to be efficient while remotely working.
Change your onboarding
New hires will have the most difficulty assimilating the company culture. You need to “hold their hand” as they get to know your business and their colleagues. Check in with them frequently to see how they are adjusting. Set up a virtual coffee group specifically for new hires so that they can bond and discuss common issues they are facing. Mentorship should be prioritized. Assign new employees a mentor that will help them understand the business and their role, and to navigate company idiosyncrasies.
Ensure that everybody gets to know each other
This is one of the most difficult things to accomplish when everybody is working remotely. However, it’s also one of the most crucial. Workers that know each other and who are emotionally connected work better together. Hold virtual events, like coffees, lunches, or simple “water-cooler” conversations, so people have a chance to meet and get to know each other by talking about non-work related matters. Allow space for individual connections by randomly assigning employees to meet one-on-one. Finally, plan a company-wide retreat, party, or meal. By connecting employees with each other, they’ll also be bonding with the company at the same time.
Use surveys to measure how much employee engagement you’re getting. That’s one of the first warning signs of a poor company culture. Gather anonymous feedback and, even more important, respond to it. By doing so, your employees will feel like their voice matters, and that if there is a problem across the company, it’ll get fixed. Managers and leaders should check in on workers frequently and proactively solicit individual feedback that can be addressed personally.
Company culture has often been overlooked or just treated as a buzzword. Don’t make that mistake. While your company’s culture has always been important, it’s even more so when working remotely. It’ll take dedication and effort, but the rewards can be profound. Increased productivity, greater retention, and even better recruitment will follow a positive company culture. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on the way to creating a company culture that excels under remote work.