In a turn of events that could never have been predicted in March of 2020, more than 80% of employers now plan to allow their team members to work from home at least part of the time in perpetuity. While this is great news for most employees, 92% of whom want to work remotely anywhere from 1-3 days per month all the way up to 5 days per week, it represents a significant change from the old ways of doing things. Prior to the pandemic, 75% of workers had never worked from home so workplace culture revolved around the office. Accordingly, the question now becomes, how do you build workplace culture where there is no physical workplace?
Ultimately, the reality is that workplace culture was never actually about the office to begin with, so many of the same tactics that worked in the old world of work will work in the new one. The problem is that many organizations were looking to build workplace culture through ineffective mechanisms in the past, and having employees organically building real culture in the office is the only thing that saved them. Now that that safety net has been removed, companies will have to do a better job of actually taking the necessary steps to drive an authentic workplace culture, rather than simply defaulting to superficial efforts. In this article we’ve outlined some of the key strategies companies can employ to ensure a great employee experience no matter where team members work.
Why culture matters even more for remote workers
The pandemic has drastically altered circumstances for most employees, so for this post we looked back to 2019 for statistics on the aspects of remote work that are most challenging for employees who are not in the office. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019, the biggest challenge remote workers face is unplugging after work. Approximately 22% of respondents cited this as being a struggle, and a lot of this ties into culture. If there is an expectation to be ‘always on’, employee wellbeing and the bottom line will suffer. Findings suggest that the expectation to be working 24/7 makes workers 40% less productive, and 1/3 less engaged.
The next biggest bucket of what remote workers struggle with, at 19%, is loneliness. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s lifespan by 15 years, the same as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day. If your company culture only exists in the office for those team members who happen to be in that day, you’re risking severe health outcomes for your workforce. It’s crucial for the wellbeing of your hybrid and remote employees that you strive to transition your culture to support sufficient interactions to keep every worker socially engaged.
The last bucket is collaborating and/or communicating at 17%. While some of this comes down to what tools your company equips employees with and how they use them, it also draws back to your workplace culture in many respects. If your culture doesn’t prioritize collaboration/communication and discourages open and honest conversations, your remote workers will likely fall behind on projects as they’re kept out of the loop. Similarly, without strong connections between departments, your business units won’t be able to work as parts of a cohesive whole, especially with workers scattered across the globe, significantly limiting your company’s prospects of success.
4 keys to driving workplace culture no matter where employees work
Driving workplace culture without a workplace may seem like a counterintuitive concept for those accustomed to relying on happy hours and holiday parties to boost engagement. Luckily, culture actually has very little to do with events and much more to do with how your company treats employees and how employees treat one another. Below are four key tips for ensuring your workplace culture thrives in, out, and beyond the workplace, to support all employees.
- Prioritize respect. Respect is a crucial component of workplace culture even if none of your employees work from home. Building respect into your all of your interactions and initiatives ensures that every employee will feel valued and appreciated. Nothing kills a workplace culture faster than people not feeling respected. This can come in many forms including respecting employees’ time by not sending unnecessary requests after hours, respecting employees’ effort by acknowledging them for a job well done, and respecting employees’ backgrounds and opinions by striving to build an inclusive environment. Train managers on respect to ensure this crucial component of a healthy workplace culture is modeled from the top, and incorporate it into your communication strategy by being transparent and consistent with employees at every opportunity.
- Make space for whole people. Recognizing that your employees aren’t just drones there to do your company’s bidding will go a long way towards helping build a workplace culture that works for all employees, regardless of location or workspace. This includes ensuring employees are supported in their lives outside of work so they don’t have to spend business hours feeling anxious about things like healthcare, childcare, etc. Design your benefits package to meet employee needs so they can focus fully on their work during their scheduled hours. On that note, don’t expect employees to work around the clock, or saddle them with unmanageable responsibilities. Creating the conditions for employees to burn out is a surefire way to set your workplace culture up to fail, so be sure to manage expectations about when employees should be working and when it’s not urgent to answer right away. Enabling employees to make time for the other things in their lives will ensure they can give their all when they’re working and will help your culture soar.
- Invest in making your values a reality. In addition to the items above, it’s also crucially important to practice what you preach. Without being in the office, it’s easy for employees to become disconnected from your company’s core values and lose attachment to the organization as a whole. It’s critical that you work to infuse your values throughout all projects and processes. Your company values are what binds your employees together as a team so if ‘everyone’s voice matters’ is one of your values, make sure that calls and meetings aren’t disadvantaging remote workers. If one meeting attendee is remote, consider requiring that the entire meeting be held virtually. Ensuring that your values are carried out in everything that you do will guarantee that your workplace culture translates seamlessly between all offices, whether home or corporate.
- Keep employees connected. Last but certainly not least, employees are the driving force behind your workplace culture, whether or not they work in an office. If you don’t take steps to keep your employees engaged and connected with each other, your culture will be nonexistent at best, damagingly negative at worst. It’s crucial to give employees a dedicated way to stay connected and build camaraderie separate from all the work stress. Without a ‘water cooler’ space that spans across in-office and remote employees, your workplace culture won’t have a space to exist. Ensure that employees have a convenient way to build genuine connections with each other including exploring digital tools that can help.
Building a positive workplace culture is difficult enough as it is, and the transition to hybrid and remote work has only exacerbated those challenges. Rather than try to make up ground later on, it’s important that you prioritize your workplace culture from day one of your hybrid work setup. If you’re looking for tools to help ensure that you can fulfill the steps listed above and develop a thriving workplace culture for all employees whether on-site or remote, we hope you’ll give Workrowd a look. We’ve got a full suite of tools to build and support company culture for every employee, no matter their setup or schedule. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.