Remote Work & Culture

Earlier this year, due to the COVID pandemic, a large portion of the workforce suddenly and unexpectedly went remote. Leaders and organizations of all sizes and across the world are currently experiencing an unprecedented disruption of the traditional working norms. And it is pretty clear that things will not revert back to what they were any time soon, if ever.

When companies first transitioned to a remote workforce, they did so quickly and without a lot of thought to any type of plan other than making sure their people had the technology and tools to complete their work.

However, as the remote work has continued, very few have shifted to think about how this might impact their company culture as teams continue to work from home. Terminal recently released its inaugural Remote Leadership Report and found that “45% of leaders without a long-term remote  work strategy say their culture is okay for now, but [is] not optimized for the long term.”

Company culture is one of the most important things leaders and human resources professionals are challenged with because it affects how the organization’s employees and customers perceive them—and this significantly determines how successful the business will be. Since remote teams are physically distanced, even if they all reside in the same area, building a culture becomes a more significant challenge. Still, the need is even greater without in-person interactions to build culture.

Organizations need to start thinking about remote work in the long term and create some processes to be intentional in building and maintaining a positive workforce culture. Here are a few thoughts for consideration when thinking through focus areas of long-term remote work planning;

  • Build trust and psychological safety for employees by creating a culture that encourages people to speak up and make mistakes.
  • Ensure the organizational and/or departmental values, mission, and goals are clearly communicated, shown through actions, and reinforced.
  • Pay specific attention to onboarding practices and processes.
  • Be specific about work and working time expectations with each team member. Clearly establish goals and performance expectations.
  • Establish regular communication points. Set regular meeting times for individuals and groups.
  • Gather feedback on how things are going and take action from the feedback. This is new for both leaders and employees, so there will be opportunities for improvement along the way.

Building a remote culture requires a more concerted effort than in the office. Organizations need to have a specific vision for their culture and create it through their hiring decisions, the goals they set, and how their team communicates.