When the COVID-19 pandemic caught the entire world in its diseased group, companies worldwide had to make the drastic shift to working from home (WFH) in order to keep their businesses and, consequently, the global economy afloat.
As the transition to WFH is being made, there is the question on whether it is possible to build a strong company culture in a fully remote or hybrid workplace. How can a company build a culture with employees not present in the office, but scattered in various geographic locations?
Defining WFH or Remote Work Culture
Builtin.com defines “company culture” as “a set of shared values, ethics, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterize an organization…It’s the way people feel about the work they do, the values they believe in, where they see the company going, and what they’re doing to get it there.”
Now, because of the pandemic, we also have “remote work culture” or “WFH culture” which can be considered a part of company culture. It is the company’s digital culture which allows for the forging of virtual connections among the members of the organization based on their shared goals, interests, priorities, and experiences. Same as the bigger company culture, remote culture is geared towards the accomplishment of the organization’s mission and goals.
The Importance of WFH Culture
Building a remote culture is important in strengthening the main company culture especially during these COVID-19 times.
For one, it prevents employees from developing feelings of isolation and loneliness while they are working remotely. Forging connections with bosses and colleagues help in developing camaraderie and a sense of unity, so that remote employees are more inclined to check-in frequently and even participate in informal conversations.
Next, remote culture builds up long-term relationships, not only within the company but also with clients and other individuals and businesses that the company deals with. These relationships built through diligent networking indirectly increase the employee’s eagerness to meet these people face-to-face virtually and later on-site, especially when quarantine lockdowns ease up.
Last but not least, remote culture helps in setting up the company’s future success. Already, WFH has produced a number of benefits to employers, in particular increased productivity and greater efficiency. It should be no surprise, therefore, that major companies like Twitter and Facebook are already transitioning to fully remote or hybrid set-ups for their employees.
However, for a remote culture to be truly successful, it must meet three main elements:
- The technology must be in place so that WFH employees stay connected.
- While there is the employee expectation for flexible schedules and freedom to manage their work, employers should prioritize face-to-face meetings through Zoom other teleconferencing. But these meetings should not be held frequently so that the employee does not feel being micromanaged or not trusted by their employer.
- The growth mindset should be an integral part of both company and WFH cultures, with employees being given equal opportunities for growth, learning new skills, and promotion no matter where they are located.
How to Build a Strong WFH Culture
To strengthen your company culture, you need to build a strong WFH culture within especially if you have remote employees. Here are the main tips on how to accomplish this goal.
1) Create a WFH policy
A WFH policy is a document that specifically and explicitly defines what a company expects from their WFH employees. If you are making such a policy for the first time, always start the document with your company’s mission and goals, so that your remote workers will work in that direction.
From here, you should specify the following times:
- How many hours the employee needs to be online per day
- Require employees’ availability in a particular time zone on certain days (important for Zoom meetings, chats, or calls)
- If the remote employee has the freedom to choose their work schedule
- How often do they need to go to the office and on what days (true for hybrid workplaces)
- If the remote employee will be given a stipend for setting up their work station at home
2) Foster an environment of trust
Make it a company practice to communicate all major decisions to your employees, especially your remote workers. Your remote employees also need to be kept informed on what is happening in the main office. This will show them that you trust them to accomplish the work that needs to be done. As mentioned earlier, avoid micromanaging your WFH employees and checking on them frequently. Instead, focus on their output and not the number of hours that they are working online.
3) Prioritize face-to-face meetings
It is not sufficient to curb isolation and loneliness in your remote workers through chat, text, phone calls, or emails. What they need is actual face-to-face human contact. Have your managers hold regular one-on-one meetings with remote employees. While this can be done through Zoom and other teleconferencing apps, if your company is in a hybrid set-up, you can arrange for in-person informal social gatherings.
4) Provide the right tools for remote work
With connections being vital in a remote culture, you not only need to provide the right tools and software for your WFH employees; these tools and software have to be maintained and kept upgraded. Consult with tech support on the creation of a digital workplace platform for your company.
5) Be receptive to feedback
Managing remote workers is not an easy task. In this regard, it is important that both you and your WFH employees should have a feedback reporting system and, more importantly, be receptive to any suggestions or criticisms. Determine what factors are working and which aren’t, so that changes can be made accordingly. Some challenges that WFH workers encounter and may need help with include distractions at home to difficulties in communicating with remote teammates.
In conclusion, yes, it is possible to build a strong company culture while working from home. The key steps we have mentioned above will help you in forging a strong WFH culture with employees aligned toward achieving both their and your company’s goals.