Company culture is a tricky thing. You can’t really measure it like your other business metrics – such as sell-through rate or sales revenue – but that doesn’t make it any less important. If you get it right, your business can thrive. There will be a greater sense of belonging, a defined framework of values, a space to collaborate – and your revenue will grow. However, get it wrong and you’ll have to deal with a misaligned team, high turnover rate, and no clear direction or identity.
Due to the recent mass shift to remote work, many companies have fundamentally changed the way they work – something that inherently impacts company culture. With an overabundance of synergy platforms, brainstorm sessions reduced to excel sheets, and tasks focused on maximizing productivity, identifying opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and togetherness becomes more complex.
Why should company culture remain a priority, even when operating remotely?
Staying connected in a remote world
At the start of the pandemic, the number one priority was ensuring business continuity. Remote work emerged to save the day but it goes without saying that its adoption was often rushed. Many companies implemented new platforms and hoped communication problems would resolve on their own. However, technology solutions yield the best results when accompanied by policies and best practices.
According to Slack data, newly remote workers tend to struggle with remote collaboration, as they are so accustomed to face-to-face communication and casual office chatter. They’re more likely to report slow, inefficient processes and communication – something that can ultimately mount up to bigger issues and negatively affect the sense of belonging and overall work satisfaction.
So, while we have seen an accelerated investment in processes, it’s important to bring the focus to people as well. When working from home, companies shouldn’t let employees’ jobs be reduced to their daily tasks, deliverables, and KPIs. Whether conducting training, giving shoutouts, or hosting knowledge-exchange workshops, companies should look to cultivate teamwork, collaboration, idea generation, and a sense of accomplishment.
Top-down won’t do you any favors
Even in an increasingly digital world, business is still first and foremost about people. It’s about sharing, learning, and growing together. Making sure that your team is well-aligned, embraces company values, and demonstrates them on a daily basis through the results of their work is key. That’s why understanding and promoting employee engagement, well-being productivity, and motivation goes a long way.
COVID-19 has made it clear that we need a different style of leadership: Now more than ever, we need one that is empathetic, democratic, and collaborative. Whether remote or not, collaboration can’t flourish in a bureaucratic and authoritative environment. That’s why businesses should be open to communication; don’t assume you understand how things have changed, ask your people.
How do you feel about the change? How has your experience been so far? What can we do to better support you? Questions like these allow you to show empathy, make your employees feel valued, and will also give you precious feedback. In turn, use the information to foster community, education, and relationship-building – this will bring long-term benefits to virtually every area of your business, from HR through to sales.
Company culture beyond COVID-19
The choices businesses make fundamentally affect the culture – and remote work is major proof of that. Even when the switch seems temporary, company culture is dynamic and can’t be put on hold. If you’re looking to build capable teams, there will always need to be some sense of proximity.
Find ways to thread collaborativeness into everyday work. Share your learnings (and encourage others to do the same!), update your team with the latest news, and provide an overall sense of leadership. Likewise, leverage virtual gatherings to provide diverse experiences: An office challenge, digital happy hour, or a spontaneous Google Meetup coffee break are all good ideas.
Many businesses have been talking about cutting down overhead by becoming fully remote and closing their offices. While we should be cautious about a hasty return to our workspaces and in-person meetings, abandoning these for good would be a mistake. An office is a place for collaboration like no other, and the hidden intangible is often worth the investment. Even if your team is dispersed all around the world, organizing a gathering – once it’s safe to travel again – is the best way to make everyone feel like a true team, not just a group of random professionals.
The ‘new normal’ has taught us many things – from hosting a creativity session with Miro to utilizing Slack statuses more effectively. But there’s perhaps even a bigger lesson: That your team – and the culture it lives every day – will always be worth nurturing.
Rohan Thambrahalli is the Founder and President of UpstartWorks. Thambrahalli has made it his goal to develop a culture that embodies the builder who delivers best-in-class value to customers and partners. UpstartWorks is Rohan’s greatest personal and professional achievement, it was his vision from the beginning to start a company that could provide vendors the reach, technology, scale, and capabilities to compete with the best brands in the world.