In general, organizations spend considerable time and money in building a positive work culture for their employees at their physical workplace. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a remote working environment for organizations all across the globe. Such a massive shift in the work environment has altered the dynamics of the workplace as remote working employees can get isolated and lose touch with their organization’s work culture. Therefore, companies may need to craft inventive ways to help them imbibe the same.
Organizational work culture for remote teams
First of all, remote working is not a new concept and many successful organizations have worked with 100% remote workforce. Such remote working companies, although few in numbers, have managed to create a thriving work culture. However, for organizations not used to the remote working norms, the challenge is to not only get used to the changes around them, but also preserve a work culture that was built inside company offices.
Although it is not an easy task, it is still possible to help remote employees imbibe the organizational work culture successfully. Let us look at some of the ways in which organizations can build a positive work culture in a remote workforce –
Adoption of digital technology for a real-time connection
Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic has struck the world in a digital era. This means that organizations can keep their communication thriving in spite of the restrictions due to social distancing. There are several digital communication tools such as smartphones, project management platforms, VPN access, chat messengers, enterprise collaboration platforms etc through which employees can stay connected with each other and with their leaders. Companies are investing in centralised interfaces where all the workforce can stay connected. For example, instant messaging platform Slack can provide an organization with a space where employees can share files and create channels on different topics. IBM has already adopted Slack to power its chat communications for its 3,50,000 employees in India and abroad.
Digital technology like video calling can also play a significant role in helping employees stay aligned with organizational work culture. Video calling can help employees replicate the office workspace experience of face-to-face interactions with their colleagues. This can aid in extending the office environment to home workspaces. Because of the obvious advantage that it provides companies, video calling tools such as Slack and Skype are being utilised by them for regular face-to-face interactions between their employees.
Drawing inspiration from leadership
During times of distress, a company’s leadership can serve as an example and motivate the employees. With a pandemic on the rise, there is no saying when things will begin to fall back into place. Until then, employees will have to work-from-home. At this time, organizational leaders can regularly communicate with their employees through podcasts, WhatsApp, and emails, etc. They can share tips for working from home with the employees and also share their own experience with them. With heads of companies leading from the front, it will create a sense of belonging and team spirit among the employees. Co-founders of mobile advertising platform, InMobi are connecting with their employees by giving them a sneak peek into their home workspaces as well as sharing with them videos on different topics of relevance.
Focusing on employee engagement and well-being to combat loneliness
In an office environment, employees can find plenty of opportunities to socialise with each other. In between coffee breaks, employees often get together and engage in fun banter. However, when they are working in a remote setting, employees might miss this type of social interaction. Therefore, organizations may create virtual opportunities for their workforce to informally engage with one other. For example, Flipkart’s ‘digital chai break’ sessions are informal virtual meetings to keep them engaged and in good spirits.
Also, companies can utilise existing chat messenger platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack within the company to encourage employees to talk to one another or bond over common areas of interests such as films, fitness, etc. Offering them online sessions with experts on topics like fitness, mental health or virtual cooking classes are great stress busters and speak volumes about an organization’s work culture.
Establishing virtual platforms to align employees with organizational values
Companies like Bajaj Group, Amazon, and Mahindra have gone a step ahead and offered their employees an opportunity for virtual volunteering. Virtual volunteering is when employees can contribute to a cause using digital means like a phone or an internet connection. This type of employee engagement benefits not just the employees, but also the social organizations they volunteer for. For example, employees can help in CSR projects to prepare educational material for children who need it or devise a marketing plan for an NGO trying to raise funds for a project. Virtual volunteering is a great way to keep employees connected with the values of the organization and imbibe its work culture.
Create a transparent work atmosphere with frequent feedback
Transparency with employees has always been a prerequisite for a thriving work culture. For a remote team, it is even more important to ensure that employees feel that the organization is transparent with them. Transparency begins with open channels of communication and regular updates to the team on matters of significance to them. For example, keeping the project-related files, schedules, and tasks open for all the employees to access instils a sense of responsibility in them. It tells them that the organization provides them with equal opportunities to perform well. The company behind the social media scheduling app Buffer has an openly disclosed salary and equity formula that all their employees can see. This level of transparency leads to trust and loyalty among employees.
Similarly, transparency should be maintained while giving feedback to employees and receiving their feedback for the company. It will help the company spot any issues early on and implement good practices at work.
By taking advantage of digital technology and an action plan that covers the above mentioned elements, any organization can create a positive work culture for its remote workers. A remote workforce that has imbibed the organization’s work culture will be aligned with its values and goals. This can lead to better employee satisfaction, higher retention, and an enhanced image for the organization.