Company Culture in a Remote World
If your company culture were a person, what kind of person would it be?
It would be you. You’re the reason it exists. Company culture grows from your interactions with others. Each tiny action – a kind word, an empathetic head nod – adds to the thought pattern that drives and molds company culture.
Whether you’re looking to accept a job offer from a new employer, or you’ve just started a new job, one of the most crucial aspects of your professional life will be company culture. Your office’s environment or “vibe” is so influential that it can make (or break) your job experience. It’ll, therefore, either result in long-term employment or in the worst circumstances, your rapid retreat back into the job market.
When you think about culture, you probably think about your company values. But where exactly do these values come from? The answer is simple. They don’t exist in a vacuum; they originate with people.
So what is company culture, anyway?
To put it simply, culture is the way you do things around the office. It’s the way we talk in our meetings, where people stand during discussions, who gets coffee for whom, how we make decisions, and whether everyone keeps their desk neat, or if it’s acceptable to have a little clutter sometimes. When your company culture is functioning well, things just seem to work.
Company culture is about having fun while working. There are a lot of ways to do things, but how you do it is just as important as what you do. It’s about creating an environment that promotes transparency and mutual respect. A place where we come together to share our ideas.
All in all, culture is the fabric upon which an organization’s functions and roles are weaved. It is the set of implicit and explicit rules that shape how we behave, think, and feel. And that is exactly what makes it so important.
How remote work changed company culture
Today, thanks to advances in online communication & collaboration tools, remote work is becoming increasingly common across a variety of industries. The number of individuals working from home in the United States has more than doubled in the past 15 years.
With the massive shift to remote work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional office landscape has been evolving for some time now.
There are a staggering number of benefits that come from working remotely, and most companies are now catching on. Since the onset of the work from home era, employees have reaped numerous benefits. Flexibility, avoiding long commutes (which significantly impacted job satisfaction), and maintaining a distraction-free workplace are all just the tip of the iceberg.
Businesses as well, in turn, have saved on office management costs—a major win in wealthy markets like New York City and London—and can now source top talent internationally. However, with benefits come downsides; and remote work is no exception to that.
In this case, it’s the extinction of a company’s most precious asset: its company culture.
With charity events, business conferences, happy hours, meetings, or pretty much anything that brought people together being moved to the confines of a screen, maintaining company culture can be difficult. Even in the current digital age, nothing can substitute the real-life co-presence of people when collaboration, creativity, and communication are called for.
The pros and cons
In light of remote working, a few things have become abundantly clear.
The first being, face-to-face interactions hugely benefit both employees and a company’s corporate culture. In-office interactions foster better workplace relationships between people, thus resulting in a more engaged and motivated workforce.
When employees adopt corporate values, they are more likely to engage in their work, and engagement is essential in today’s workplace. One study also found that companies with high engagement have higher profitability, productivity, and customer loyalty than their rivals. Companies with high turnover rates are often plagued by low employee engagement, which often leads to them attracting talent from the bottom crate of the barrel.
While work-from-home policies pride themselves on being convenient and less demanding, they affect the development of company culture in a variety of ways. For starters, employees who work remotely tend to feel disconnected from the core cultural components of their company. All those Zoom meetings are bound to take a toll on you, right? It’s just harder forming relationships with other employees over a screen. Ultimately, a remote working environment doesn’t foster relationships with coworkers to the same degree as an office environment does. Humans are social creatures, and working without seeing anyone can lead them towards burnout. High spirits are tough to express virtually, and even more so when you’re working with a dispersed team across different locations.
Despite an initially hesitant transition into a hybrid work model, it is now evident that remote work culture is here to stay. A study conducted by Future Forum surveyed knowledge workers across six major countries. The study found that a vast majority of workers value flexibility — only 16% want to be fully remote, and just 12% want to work in the office five days a week. A clear majority of 72% want the option of working within a hybrid remote-office model. They’re keen to avoid the long commute and have a better work-life balance, even if it’s at the expense of losing time with other employees at the office.
As remote work culture adapts to change, ensure that you involve and inform everyone. After all, your cultural reputation precedes you, so improve it as much as you can!