How to Maintain Your Workplace Culture When Everyone is Working Remotely
According to a recent survey by the University of Sydney Business School, 1 in 5 employees worked remotely on a regular basis pre-COVID, but 2020 has seen a massive jump in the number of people working temporarily – and unexpectedly – from home. And the predictions are that remote working will only increase in coming years, even in industries that have typically had an office base, such as financial services and the public sector.
Reliable high-speed internet, project management technologies, video conferencing apps and instant messaging mean that employees don’t need to be under the same roof to work together. But does remote working come at the expense of a strong workplace culture? How can people connect and feel part of an organisation when they are scattered around the country, or even around the globe?
Here are eight ways to maintain your workplace culture when all your people are working remotely.
1. Roll out the tech
If you’re after maximum involvement from your remote employees, provide them with the equipment and software they need to work effectively from home. With a little upfront planning, you can arrange to have laptops and phones delivered to individual locations. By providing how-to guides and remote IT support, your team members should soon be set up and ready to go. It’s a great way to demonstrate the value you place in your employees and can help to promote their engagement with the organisation.
2. Prioritise onboarding
Starting a new job can be a daunting time for many employees, especially when they are based remotely. You can help ease the way in for recent recruits by designing a comprehensive onboarding program. This could include virtual meetings with key players in the organisation and members of their team, for example. If you have several people joining at the same time, why not run the program for the cohort and encourage them to connect with each other in those all-important first few weeks.
3. Keep the updates coming
It can be easy for remote workers to feel a disconnect from the organisation’s mission and goals. Consider providing them with regular updates and reviews online or via virtual presentations, ideally with the participation of your senior management team. Involvement at the top of the organisation will help to foster a strong sense of shared purpose and belonging.
4. Set clear expectations
One reason remote work is so popular is the flexibility it affords employees; however, it has its pitfalls too. Individuals can easily work extended hours because they are always connected, and organisations can expect them to be available around the clock. By setting clear expectations around schedules, you’ll likely increase employee engagement and reduce the possibility of resentment and burnout.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Regular communication with employees is vital, and more so when they are working in isolation. Virtual team meetings can provide everyone with a forum for exchanging ideas and voicing concerns. Bear in mind, however, that some individuals may be reluctant to speak out, so encourage one-on-one check-ins and chats so that you can discuss and resolve issues sooner rather than later.
6. Show your appreciation
Who doesn’t love receiving a special card or gift once in a while? Remote working may rely on technology, but sometimes it’s best to do things the old-fashioned way. A personalised card sent by post on a team member’s birthday, or a branded gift to mark a major team achievement can make a real difference – and show individuals that you value them.
7. Don’t forget the fun!
Social interactions are an important part of working life – and they play a big part in reinforcing workplace culture too. Think of all the spontaneous water cooler chats you’ve had over the years! The good news is that you can encourage informal chat among your remote team. Some organisations have messaging apps especially for this purpose. Others organise fun virtual events, such as online lunch dates and icebreaker quizzes.
8. Meet up for real
Yes, in-person meetings are still a thing, even for remote teams. Obviously, the frequency depends on multiple factors such as individual locations, company budget and work commitments. But real-life meetings remain a great way to strengthen connections between individuals, and between individuals and the organisation they work for.
Maintaining a workplace culture is a challenge especially when team members are all working remotely. With thought, planning and ongoing commitment, however, it is possible to create an environment where every individual feels a sense of belonging and the motivation to contribute to the organisation’s values and mission.