Remote work is taking over the business world as offices adapt their business operations with the rise of COVID-19. One of the most crucial processes being affected is culture. Have you evaluated your company’s culture since employees started working remotely? Understanding organizational culture and how it fits into remote offices is critical to business success. Here’s how to build and protect a strong culture that can withstand distance while companies go remote.
The most important thing you have to remember is what culture isn’t. Culture isn’t the ping pong tables, fancy snacks, or other physical items in the office. Organizations who rely on that as their culture will find it crumbles very quick when employees don’t have access to those perks. Rather, culture is rooted in the values an organization holds and the beliefs that unifies a team.
Belay has a thought-provoking description of how they define culture:
“[Culture] is about the way your employees view and treat one another. It’s about the ways in which interpersonal conflicts are handled. It’s about how you celebrate successes, and how you overcome failures. It’s about how (and how often) your team communicates. It’s about how officers interact with junior employees. It’s about a shared commitment to reaching shared goals in a way that everyone has agreed upon.”
Put simply, culture is three things: the way we work, the way we think, and the way we lead. Those three things must become everyday habits practiced by every person in an organization. When an organization is unified around all three of those habits, its culture becomes a hard, corporate asset and functions as a significant competitive advantage.
Understanding organizational culture is understanding your employees and how they work together. So, when you take employees that are used to interacting with one another in-person and put them at a distance, it will take some guidance to adjust.
It is up to the leaders of an organization to implement culture and integrate it into daily company life. How does working remotely affect culture integration in your business? Is remote work a threat to your culture? If your office is adjusting to remote work, you will need to guide employees on how to bring work culture to their home. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, and without this feeling, employees working from home will feel lost, isolated, and disconnected. This, in turn, damages business results and productivity. Culture can counteract this disconnection and keep morale up to make working from home just as, if not more, effective. Certainly, in understanding organizational culture, you need to understand that guidance is key.
Leaders who communicate their culture clearly and inspiringly will go a long way in connecting remote employees. Having a manifesto that outlines exactly what the company values and believes in will lay the groundwork for building a remote culture. Understanding organizational culture will be easier with a document, but it takes more than words to enforce culture. Actions from our leaders speak volumes and set examples for employees to follow.
If the people in your organization work, think and lead in unison, your culture is functioning as a significant competitive advantage. Keeping this competitive advantage means the culture must be defined, measured, continuously improved and protected with intention. In today’s climate of remote work and unfamiliar business processes, keeping those shared everyday habits that define culture can be challenging. How do you know if your culture has been damaged by remote work? A damaged culture can affect almost every aspect of an organization, but it’s harder to spot when you aren’t at the office to physically see it. Take a step back and examine your culture weekly. Be unbiased in your evaluation.
How can you protect your culture from being damaged? In protecting your culture, be aware that there may be a bad apple in the bunch that’s causing the other apples in your company to spoil. One person can create a toxic atmosphere—even when apart—that will rot your culture to the core. You want to avoid culture rot at all costs, and if this person is causing distress, it’s best to address the situation as soon as possible.
Additionally, you’ll want to promote activities that emphasize company values and help your team feel connected. One way to do this is by hosting virtual team building activities. These will foster a sense of camaraderie. Another way to do this is by hosting a few in-person events each year. Remote workers still need face-to-face time every once in a while to truly get to know one another.
As you can see, understanding organizational culture takes digging to find what truly matters to your employees. Companies that fail to see how working remotely is affecting their culture will have a much harder time getting their culture back on track—even when the office returns to business as usual.
If you want to dive even deeper into culture, PeopleWorks is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our culture services.