As more employers embrace work-from-home policies for staff, the question of building a cohesive company culture hangs in the balance. Within the walls of a company’s building, employers can carefully cultivate company culture. However, as those employees work from the comfort of their own homes, they have less direct interaction with their workmates.
How then can a business ensure that company culture is ingrained into their staff’s work attitude? To explore this question, we consulted 16 members of Forbes Business Development Council for some strategic approaches for building a sustainable company culture with a remote workforce. Here’s what they recommend.
1. Reinforce Business Values
An organization’s values should permeate all of its activities, whether performed onsite or remotely. Consequently, leaders establishing protocols for remote work accommodations must creatively embed mechanisms reinforcing the culture within these protocols. Use of modern technologies to maintain person-to-person interactions and monitor performance quality and productivity should be considered. – Nathan Ives, DataGlance, Inc.
2. Be Intentional
Being in an office can hide a leader’s lack of intentionality. It’s easier to stay connected when you can see someone at their desk and be reminded you need to take a second to connect. Putting things on the calendar, creating to-dos or reminders, pulse surveys, adjustments to performance review topics, etc., is necessary to staying intentional with keeping people connected. – Mark Kosoglow, Outreach
3. Recognize And Celebrate
I think leaders should develop a program on how they celebrate with their employees. Leaders should think of engaging ways to recognize birthdays, work anniversaries and special accomplishments. Remote employees often feel like they are on an island. However, recognizing and celebrating virtually with remote employees will make them feel more valued and connected. – Matthew Rolnick, Yaymaker
4. Show Empathy And Share Hope
There are two phases. One is empathy, where it’s important to be aware of how others are feeling. Don’t stay in this phase too long as it can lead to apathy. One should move quickly to sharing hope. I believe vision and the ability to communicate vision is critically important. Being seen to care is important, but without hope and inspiration, one becomes a manager and not a leader. – Marcus Jewell, Juniper Networks INC
5. Establish And Respect Boundaries
We’ve all seen our everyday lives and routines upended, causing new levels of stress. Establishing and respecting new boundaries is a key way to sustain culture in a remote environment. At IBM, we’ve done this through the adoption of the IBM Work From Home COVID-19 Pledge, signed by thousands of employees. This pledge has been a helpful reminder to put people first and to focus on our well-being. – Rakhi Voria, IBM
6. Phase Out Poor Behaviors
Finding the balance between adapting to the new normal and maintaining the good from before is key, but recognize this as an opportunity to phase out poor cultural behaviors. Look at what interactions occurred before within teams and see what makes sense to go online with, but don’t force everything there! This means you aren’t forcing something awkward and adding value to your team. – Hugo Harris, PwC Australia
7. Establish New Communication Cadences
Establish new communications cadences with all employees. In an office environment, managers and peers can just stop by to say hello or check on an employee. This will not happen naturally in a remote environment. Remote work means more intentional communications. Ensure you have the right communication platforms in place to allow communications across your employee base, such as chat platforms. – Bobby Matthews, Skybridge Americas, Inc.
8. Build A Warrior Ethos
Warrior ethos is important in developing the character to survive during difficult times and unexpected changes. Success is not a straight line. There are high and low points. Whether it’s a 30-mile ruck march or a five-day operation, you know it isn’t a sprint and it isn’t a marathon, but instead it’s a series of both. This will help you build a culture that hits one milestone after another. – John Berry, Berry Law Firm
9. Establish A ‘Buddy’ System
Our approach has been to pair each person with a new “buddy” every week. Each week, we create a business-related challenge for each pair to work together on how to best solve or answer it. Working toward a common goal in a competitive environment results in the camaraderie one would expect from a high-performance team, which helps sustain our culture. – Beau Barnhart, Secure One Capital Corporation
10. Honor The Everyday Victories
The days of quarantine seem to string together in endless monotony. Everyday victories and empathies help connect teams in a disconnected time. Our team has increased our sharing of photos, stories and quarantine creativities as a way to raise spirits and build community. Often taken for granted, these touch points are a critical productivity component in these challenging times. – Melanie Hicks, MGT of America
11. Organize ‘Grassroots’ Events
Sometimes “corporate-sponsored” functions can seem a bit sterile. Identifying folks in the organization and supporting them with ideas or funds to hold fun virtual events (with live video) is the best way to create an authentic feel. This ultimately helps foster culture, camaraderie and trust. – Ryan Northington, Simplus
12. Create A Virtual Speaker Series
Every summer we have had interns, we have had a speaker series. It has been a highlight for interns and employees alike and has helped build and sustain company culture. While we cannot bring speakers or interns into our office this summer, we will be hosting the speaker series virtually. Other companies should follow suit and invite compelling speakers your team will benefit from and enjoy. – Adam Mendler, The Veloz Group
13. Center On Semi-Synchronous Communication
Communication is critical during remote work, but too many organizations settle on asynchronous (email) and synchronous (phone, web meetings) channels. Coach leaders to consistently use one-on-one semi-synchronous communication (chat)—regularly check in, but set a slow dialogue cadence that demonstrates concern and connection without urgency or disruption. Everyone wants connection, but without extra emails and web meetings. – Douglas McDowell, SentryOne
14. Connect People And Purpose
One thing that good leaders always do is make sure everyone understands their part in the greater whole. Especially when working remotely, it’s important to keep people engaged and remind them that their work matters. When employees understand how their work impacts the big picture, they’re more likely to buy into the culture and stay motivated, even when working from home. – Alexander Divinsky, RMG Media
15. Focus On Building Community
One of the biggest struggles in a remote environment is the ability to build community, which is the glue that brings a team together. With use of technology, build a virtual location where employees can talk about business and nonwork topics. Also, build in-person relationships. Meeting in person, even once a year, helps build real relationships that can then be maintained remotely. – Sarah Knapp, Spruce Technology