After more than 12 months of remote working and a displaced workforce, increasingly, more organizations say some percentage of their employees will continue to work remotely, even post-pandemic. A December 2020 Pew Research Study on how COVID-19 affected workplace trends showed that 54% of individuals who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue remote work, even if only part-time.
Similar trends are predicted in Europe and Asia-Pacific markets. A Deloitte survey of European workers in 2020 noted, “Two in three employees expect to be working remotely more often even after the current exceptional circumstances end.” In light of this global, permanent shift to remote work, more organizations are developing plans to fully support their remote workforces through digital solutions and tools.
Building a culture aimed at remote work is essential for success. Digital tools that help create connections and collaborations are instrumental in building the systems necessary to support a remote workforce. Technologies to support and provide secure work processes and procedures for remote teams are also critical.
Fostering a Remote Work Culture
According to the Society of Human Resource Management, an organization’s culture “sets the context” for what an enterprise does. SHRM states that, “culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding.”
Culture is not merely about the organization itself. A strong culture incorporates both the corporate identity plus the identities of the individuals that make up its workforce. Culture is also about creating opportunities for team building, recognition of individual team members, and the ability to “be seen” in the organization. Organizations need to find ways to produce these opportunities for their remote workforces.
Role of Digital Tools in Building Culture
When the workforce is displaced, even temporarily, organizations have no choice but to rely on technology and digital tools to build culture. One of the main challenges of remote work, in general, is the lack of human contact and true face-to-face interaction.
“There is no replacement for seeing your colleagues face-to-face, even if it’s via a screen,” Lucidchart stated in a recent blog post. “Seeing and hearing others allows you to pick up on subtle cues like voice inflection and body language, helping you identify issues and connect with employees. It establishes trust and helps people feel like a part of the team.”
Corporate leadership, including HR team members, must be among those taking the lead in creating opportunities for personal interaction. Leaders need to answer the key question, “how do we make the digital tools work to meet the needs of our teams and individuals?” One way is making sure their teams are equipped with effective, high-quality digital tools.
Optimal tools for enhancing interactions include video, audio, and collaboration tools such as whiteboards, breakout rooms, and chat functions. These solutions are all part of the digital toolset that organizations need for optimized and accessible communication.
Some Strategies for Reinforcing and Enhancing Remote Culture
Once the correct tools are in place, teams and leaders must learn to promote opportunities for connection that replicate face-to-face communication. Here are some examples that work for organizations of any size:
- Schedule video conferences instead of phone calls.
- Have a “camera on” policy for video meetings and conferences so team members can “see” each other.
- Establish touchpoints for communications between teams and peers using messaging or chat functions.
It is typically more difficult for a new employee to adapt to a remote workplace than employees who experienced working together in person. HR can help acclimate new team members by introducing the organization’s remote practices during the hiring process and reinforce them during onboarding. Video conferencing and collaboration tools can enhance this process.
Even organizations with an exceptional in-person workplace culture can find ways to reinforce their existing cultural characteristics. An article discussing remote corporate culture in Harvard Business Review states that, “Although there are challenges, there are also promising experiments in motion at leading companies that show how to make organizations stronger and more resilient in a remote-first or hybrid future.”
An organization that wants to reinforce an agile, innovative culture, might schedule regular events that prompt creative engagement, such as improv activities or brainstorming sessions. Collaboration and video tools can work for these types of activities.
Forrester, meanwhile, reminds organizations to address “the human challenges of working from home — from loneliness to the challenges of remaining productive in the face of distractions, stress and anxiety, and competing obligations.” Building camaraderie and supportive relationships can help to alleviate some of these challenges. Digital video and collaboration tools can be used to run games, social events, employee recognition, and wellness or work-life balance activities.
By turning to digital tools and solutions, organizations can enhance their existing workplace culture while building new norms for their remote teams.
Learn how Lumicademy’s high-quality video and collaboration tools can build and boost a remote workplace culture and strategy for organizations of all sizes: /corporate-learning/