Central to a company’s culture is the environment in which employees spend their workday. When members of an organization work together for 40 hours a week, building a shared culture happens naturally in the way employees interact with each other and with the work they do.
But how much of that culture is lost when telecommuting becomes the norm?
While working remotely has many benefits, the loss of culture can have an impact on everything from communication to engagement. In a new era of telecommuting, take proactive steps to protect your company culture even when your employees are separated by distance.
Promote your company’s core values
Core values are integral to company culture. They define what an organization believes in and its standards for operating in a certain way. Core values help every employee at every level understand how they should approach the work they do, from hiring to customer service. They build an understanding of what’s important for your company, whether it’s acting with integrity, striving for innovation or putting the customer first.
In the absence of building culture through day-to-day interactions and your physical work environment, take every opportunity to revisit your values and live them through your actions and communication. Focusing on your values can help your employees feel bonded by a common thread.
“Focusing on your values can help your employees feel bonded by a common thread.”
Communicate often — but don’t micromanage
Working from home sounds like a dream, so many employees may not be prepared for how isolating it can feel. With a fully remote workforce, team members don’t have the luxury of stopping by a colleague’s desk to ask a quick question or get a status update on a project. Plus, employees don’t get to participate in the “water cooler” chit-chat that breaks up the day with non-work conversation, which actually plays a role in boosting psychological health.
Frequent communication becomes critical to productivity as well as employee happiness and satisfaction. When transitioning to a virtual setup, encourage team members to go beyond email and pick up the phone (or video chat) to catch up on projects, deliverables and workflow — and make sure to spend a few minutes talking about non-work topics, too.
Beware the desire to micromanage, especially if your culture values honesty, open communication and transparency. Don’t feel the need to check in by phone more than once a day for updates if you wouldn’t normally do so.
Don’t forget to send emails and periodically schedule department-wide or office-wide check-ins to discuss updates, new clients, progress toward organizational objectives and other company news. Your employees need to feel like they know what’s going on, even when they’re away from the office.
It’s no coincidence that companies that regularly celebrate their colleagues’ good work often have a strong and positive internal culture. Employee recognition is tied to higher engagement, lower turnover, increased productivity and improved morale.
Remember to keep this culture of gratitude alive with your remote workforce. In lieu of buying an employee coffee for a job well done, send a Starbucks gift card. If your team worked hard to land a new client or launch a product, send a congratulatory email so everyone can share in their success.
In order to truly integrate gratitude into your culture, create a structured program that makes time for recognition and allows every employee to participate in giving kudos. The iQ 360 team allots time during our monthly agency meetings for employees to give a “shout-out” to colleagues that have gone above and beyond to help them.
Culture is just as important to telecommuting success as other factors like logistics or productivity. Keeping company culture front and center can ease the transition and help employees feel connected, even when working from a distance.
As iQ 360 begins its own period of extended telecommuting, we’ll be implementing these ideas to keep our own virtual office culture strong. If you have anything to add about your own experience and challenges maintaining organizational culture while working remotely, feel free to share with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll report our learnings — and yours — in a future post.