Saturday, July 20, 2024

Remote work culture: Is company culture dying?

Shared beliefs, attitudes and characteristics.

These are the three main components that create company culture, and while their meaning remains the same, the methods have become vastly different.

It’s evident that remote workers and hybrid teams enjoy the benefits of work-life balance but the common fear that business leaders are facing is dying company culture. Almost every company was built off the standard office space where employees work next to each other, chat at the water cooler and enjoy drinks on a Friday night.

Having a remote doesn’t have to be the end of building culture and remote employees can still build rapport amongst each other.

How does remote work culture affect the company?

It’s no surprise that reduced interactions in person can affect team culture, but what matters is understanding the extent of it. From a manager’s perspective, we can assume they are worried about their remote teams’ productivity and trust becomes a factor we’re all uneasy about discussing.

  • Is my team still working as hard from home?
  • Are they slacking off?
  • Do they feel engaged at the office with their team?

Time spent

The average office worker sees their co-worker around 40 hours a week.

That’s more time than some people spend with their partners and friends.

Psychological research reveals that we need at least six hours per week with people to foster and maintain a relationship. Now, this research was conducted in the context of a romantic relationship, but if we can take anything from it as a workforce, we understand that team bonding and culture don’t require 40 hours of interaction.

In fact, reducing the hours will encourage feelings of wanting to catch up with your co-workers and develop more conversation than meaningless small talk. At the very minimum, a remote workforce can still develop a healthy company culture as long as the work model is hybrid.

But what happens when a business transitions to completely remote?

The numbers don’t side with remote work

Studies vary, but on average either half or two-thirds of employees working remotely struggle to connect with their colleagues. The lack of physical presence keeps work relationships stale and video calls typically don’t suffice.

In fact, Zoom burnout is also a phenomenon experienced by the average remote team and it increases eye fatigue. Another unsaid feeling about video calls that remote teams experience is that it’s ‘forced’.

Percent of remote employees experiencing burnout

Remote companies push their teams to schedule non-work related video calls at the end of work days to promote a strong culture. It effectively becomes a forced date with colleagues to ensure remote team culture isn’t the downfall of seamless communication for work and overall job satisfaction.

Zoom calls certainly don’t make the list of best team-building activities.

Limited learning opportunities

How often do employees ask their co-workers a question regarding a process, software or any work-related question? While remote workers can still send a message over Microsoft Teams, it’s the questions that need a comprehensive explanation that become a headache.

Scheduling a video call, screen sharing and ensuring there are no technological challenges along the way can be stressful. It also takes more time when compared to assisting in person, and people are far more likely to build their rapport through physical interaction.

Distortion of company values

Every company has core values and its employees play a pivotal role in their success.

If remote workers don’t feel connected to the overarching missions of the company and can’t see what link they are in the chain, then you’ve got a failing company culture. From here on there is a cycle of reduced job satisfaction, a weak team culture and all of this can lead to quiet or loud quitting.

Can remote team culture be salvaged?

The steps for saving remote work team culture begin from the moment you onboard a new team member.

Start before they log in

Employees should have access to all essential resources before they even log in to begin their work. Encourage your team to send welcoming messages and host a video call to introduce them on their first day – the first impression counts and it holds more value in a remote setting.

Make sure they’re equipped with all the technology and access details needed so their journey is seamless. Depending on the role, remote work can be challenging and team leaders can assure new members by showing their support from the beginning.

Support their professional journey

The professional journey isn’t straight forward in a remote setting and might require additional support.

Managers should make themselves available for dialogue and build confidence amongst their teams to reach out for help if needed. Remote companies should also allocate a budget for online courses and upskill their employees.

This creates a company culture where employees feel valued and know there is a path forward for them regardless of their working remotely.

Team activity can still exist

It’s important to gauge how the team feels.

If they’re sociable then meeting up once a month for dinner can be a great way to keep remote employees feeling connected. There are always opportunities for building a strong remote work culture and all it takes is some creativity.

Companies often host events that employees take part of and remote businesses just need to adapt them for a virtual setting. For example, some companies hold online game competitions once a year which is a great method for building banter and keeping conversations entertaining.

Point out the wins

All team meetings should be productive but they can also feed into remote employees’ sense of accomplishment.

Your team is spread throughout the city, country and potentially the globe. It’s paramount to remind them of how important they are by appreciating their results and sharing them amongst your team.

Healthy work-life balance

Remote workers can easily lose track of time and work beyond their expected hours. The Australian Financial Review found a 70% ‘insidious’ increase in remote workers doing overtime.

This can be a reflection of their commitment, but the steep increase is an indication of an inability to mentally switch off once the clock hits 5 p.m.

Notice someone replying to emails and staying online for too long? A quick message encouraging them to clock off can go a long way in promoting employee morale and longevity.

Which is better?

On the surface level, we can confidently say that team culture can be better built by working in the office as opposed to fully remote.

A completely remote company will navigate more challenges and have to put in more effort than its counterpart, but it’s still possible. Whereas the hybrid work model can still create a company culture without struggling.

Hybrid has enough hours to create meaningful connections with colleagues without spending too much time. Managers will be the one’s at the forefront of this dilemma and it’s up to them to make their current work model propser.

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Amy Menzies

Amy Menzies

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