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Strong opinions and shared thoughts on companies, culture and Work — by the makers and friends of Ninety.io

Company Culture | 3 MIN READ

Maintaining Company Culture with a Remote Workforce

Woman on a tablet video call

As companies reimagine where and how work will get done in our emerging COVID-19 economy, more leaders are seriously considering a permanent hybrid workplace that offers more flexibility for both employers and employees.

This thinking is influenced by the fact that 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company. The majority of employees agree, although 87% say the office is still important for collaborating with team members and building relationships, according to a 2021 survey conducted by PwC.

These findings indicate that the hybrid workplace of the future is likely to transform how office space is used, employee engagement, and even a company’s culture.

However, with strong leadership and good coaching, companies can absolutely create, maintain — and strengthen — their company culture, even when many or all team members Work From Anywhere (it’s what we’ve always done here at Ninety). And while there are many techniques, tools, and processes companies can use to accomplish this (which we will get into in coming articles), they all rely on building a solid foundation based on one thing: Trust.

Trust: The Key to a Strong Company Culture

Ultimately, the vast majority want to belong to what we call a High Trust Company (HTC's), a place where people feel like they are an important and appreciated member of a team that does meaningful work. People who work in HTC's feel respected and cared for. They agree on the values they hold, they believe that their product and/or services make the world better, and they believe in the direction the company is moving.

Building a level of high trust requires enlightened leaders who understand long-term success requires transparency, authenticity, and care. If your company has reached this level of trust, maintaining it in a hybrid or total Work From Anywhere (WFA) environment will require the nurturing of your WFA workforce.

Transparency in Communication

Transparency requires clear, honest, and thoughtful communication among all team members, remote workers included. Everyone contributes, and their contributions are valued. It’s easy in video conferences to let the extroverts dominate the conversation. Mindful leaders pay close attention to these dynamics and deliberately make space for quieter team members to contribute.

It’s also a good idea to keep a variety of channels open — from email and text to a variety of Slack channels — for different forms of communication. For example, establish agreements with your WFA colleagues around where serious conversations about business issues take place, where casual conversations and team huddles occur, and where people can simply chat around the “virtual water cooler.”

Communicate honestly and often through multiple channels to team members about the direction of the organization, its values, and important events and milestones. A single email may be overlooked and it’s easy to misinterpret text, so include the key messages you need to communicate in video conferences, a newsletter, one-on-one conversations, and whatever channels are important to your organization.

Creating a Humane Environment

In a HTC, people know that their team members and the organization as a whole not only care about them as human beings but also treat them accordingly. There are a number of ways to accomplish this in a hybrid setting.

For example, many organizations have experienced success in setting aside time once a week on conference calls to express gratitude to one another, which you can do during the headlines portion of a meeting. This is not the same as offering shout-outs for great work. There’s a subtle but important difference. Shout-outs are valuable and recognize individual accomplishments. Gratitude emphasizes relationships by publicly demonstrating how much someone values another in a personal way.

Leaders can demonstrate humanity by respecting team members’ time and not asking them to work at all hours of the day. Working from anywhere, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and family or personal time. Encourage team members to make the transition at a reasonable hour. Don’t re-engage them after a certain time of the day except in extreme emergencies. No one should feel eternally on-call.

Also, build trust by giving trust. Provide team members with guidance. Make sure they know that if they run into a problem, you will be there to coach them through it. Come to an agreement about what team members’ end-products should look like. Once team members understand their tasks, give them room to complete them with minimal interference.

Colleagues Who Care

Building bonds in a WFA company requires thought and planning. Having dedicated channels for non-work chats can help and there are additional opportunities:

  • Set up book clubs, cooking classes, yoga or virtual board game sessions over lunch.
  • Designate time for colleagues to meet one-on-one via video conference to get to know one another. Provide them with a structure for getting the conversation started, such as icebreaker questions.
  • Re-create in-office perks like free snacks or a happy hour on Friday afternoons.
  • Send personalized gifts to employees on their birthdays like custom specialty foods or gift certificates for a therapeutic massage. Services that deliver monthly packages of specialty foods or gift certificates for a therapeutic massage sent on employees’ birthdays are concrete ways to demonstrate that the organization values its team members.

Once it’s safe to do so, try to bring the entire team together for fun and work in a special location at least once a year. A Work From Anywhere model can forge strong connections between team members, but there’s still nothing like live, face-to-face interaction.

Get creative and listen to ideas from the entire team. So long as company leaders take the right approach and make a conscious, careful effort to build and maintain a high-trust culture, it doesn’t matter where team members are located. The key is to build and maintain trust.

Be Extraordinarily Productive, Humane and Resilient

We know you have many choices of products to help you build a great company. At Ninety.io, our passion is to help you and your company become extraordinarily productive, humane and resilient in the transition to WFA.

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