How to Maintain a Strong Remote Work Culture in a Post-Pandemic EraReading time 6min
Remote work is slowly becoming the everyday norm. With that, most leaders around the globe are considering how to build a powerful remote work culture that is meaningful to their remote and hybrid employees.
But, being so new to most corporations, remote work best practices aren’t always clear to those in leadership positions. This puts employee engagement (and retention) at risk.
As such, organizational leaders need to reconsider many aspects of the organization’s daily needs more than ever before. Top among them: how do we preserve and communicate our company culture?
Does Remote Working Impact Employees?
So yes, employees can now benefit from greater freedom and flexibility than ever imagined. This, in return, allows your workers to better prepare how they spend their time (and this freedom of choice leads to increased productivity).
To illustrate that, a study by Stanford of 16,000 workers over a period of 9 months found that working from home increased their productivity by 13% (and these are numbers we like reading).
But with many workers no longer meeting in person and having limited opportunities to interact, there are worries that company cultures may fall apart as a result. In fact, a ‘Return to Workplace’ survey by Deloitte revealed that the "number one concern of business leaders is maintaining company culture in a post-pandemic world".
Workers have had a taste of what it feels like to have extra time to spend with their loved ones at home or exercise during a 15-minute break (when they would have been commuting in the past).
The fact is that hybrid work is now expected to be the norm.
Is It Possible to Have a Strong Culture When Working Remotely?
Absolutely! And no, and we’re not talking about sad ‘Zoom happy hours’ or the rather innovative digital water coolers. Catering to social connections is, more than ever, a need that must be met if your company is aiming to join the ‘hybrid work revolution’.
One survey of 700 remote workers (who had all previously worked in offices) found that social connection was the thing people missed most about offices (sorry ping pong tables).
But despite the evident need, most companies haven’t figured out the best way to promote human connection in our ever-growing digital world. When trying to cater to these basic needs, such companies tend to compensate by offering vain employee benefits to keep their workers happy and calling it a day.
The Importance of a Strong Remote Work Culture
When your remote work culture is strong, employees experience a greater sense of belonging because they feel connected and seen (even if sitting totally alone at home).
Needless to say, a powerful remote work culture can:
- Help recruit and retain top talent
- Promote innovation and collaboration
- Maintain high productivity
- Support employees' wellbeing
How to Build a Remote Work Culture
Maintaining a healthy, motivated remote work culture is not always a walk in the park. To keep your employees happy and motivated while working remotely, a bit of proactive input will be needed from your side.
- Focus on culture intent
- Allow time for casual conversation
- Empower employee-led groups
- Promote your new norms
- Invest in proper communication tools
- Build trust
- Leverage employee feedback
- Don’t overlook regular 1-1s
- Recognize great work
Now let’s dive into each of these individually.
1. Focus on culture intent
What is your workplace ‘s main goal? What ideas can you put in place to achieve that goal remotely?
For example: If you used to host company parties to engage your workers, a virtual one probably won’t have the same effect. Rather, think about your goal (in this case, engage your employees) and think about how you could achieve that virtually (perhaps a trivia game?).
2. Allow time for casual conversation
Boost connectivity of virtual meetings by enabling your coworkers to share personal stories. This not only makes your employees feel valued and listened to, but also more aligned and connected with the organization as a whole.
3. Empower employee-led groups
These voluntary, employee-led organizations within a company are a wonderful way to promote connectivity between remote employees (e.g., groups for women, working parents, burnout, etc.). With this, workers that have similar interests and challenges can easily find each other.
4. Promote your new norms
A strong company culture starts from strong communication. Ensure employees are aware of the new activities and norms being put in place and can practice new remote work norms.
Communicate often to keep expectations clear. If needed, demonstrating the desired behaviors you want your employees to adopt can have great results.
5. Invest in proper communication tools
Adding on, do you have any centralized tool in place where your employees can easily connect with each other? Having one ensures teammates are aligned.
6. Build trust
There wouldn’t be remote work without trust and it’s wrong to assume that employees who work remotely are less productive. Trust your employees (unless they give you clear reasons not to) and avoid micromanaging.
How do you know if your employee is being productive or slacking? Focus on employee output rather than the amount of hours they spend online.
7. Leverage employee feedback
It’s a given that, to continuously grow, organizations need to listen to their employees’ feedback often. With remote work, listening to how your employees feel could make or break an organization–now more so than ever before.
When working remotely, it’s harder for managers to assess what’s working and what isn’t. In this case, your employees are your best source of feedback. Asking them directly will help you understand how they feel, be it via surveys or 1-1s.
Speaking of 1-1s…
8. Don’t overlook regular 1-1s
Face-to-face meetings between managers and employees are a great way to maintain a strong company culture because it signals that you care about individuals within the organization and within your team). These build important connections and establish a sense of trust.
In fact, 1-1s are a brilliant way to:
- Answer pending questions or concerns
- Get rid of bottlenecks
- Convey your expectations and how best to achieve them
9. Recognize great work
A strong remote company culture is one where employees feel valued, empowered, and heard. Recognizing positive results and progress is the best way for your employees’ to know you are happy with their performance.
This further motivates them to ‘keep up the hard work’ (i.e., maintain consistency in a remote environment).
Ready to Redefine Your Remote Work Culture?
These strategic initiatives will strengthen your organizational culture, while continuing to build collaboration and rapport with teammates (even when the collaboration is totally virtual).
By firmly communicating your vision with your leaders, your company culture and productivity will grow. The most successful companies that thrived throughout the pandemic were the ones that trusted their players and implemented flexible cultures.
That’s because this allowed their employees to have a greater work-life balance, which naturally made them happier and positively reflected on their everyday work.