As nearly half the entire workforce has shifted to working remotely, one question has been on everyone’s mind: Is remote work here to stay? For now, we have an answer. Yes—in some capacity. Companies like Twitter and Facebook have announced permanent remote work plans while other companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have opted for more flexible work options. Though remote work has been synonymous with work from home during the pandemic, in the future, it is likely to be people working from satellite offices or coffee shops. Hybrid models mean some workers are remote while others are not, or it could mean some employees come into the office for a portion of the work week. In an analysis across nine countries and 800 different jobs, consulting firm Mckinsey reported that “hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic, mostly for a highly educated, well-paid minority of the workforce.”
For the millions of remote workers in 2020, the advantages were clear. Shorter commute times. More flexibility. Pajamas. For companies, remote work offers a widened talent pool, massive savings on commercial real estate, and increased worker productivity.
However, as remote work looks more permanent in many of our futures, it presents a new set of challenges. In a 2019 survey by Buffer on 2,500 remote workers, they found that the two greatest struggles were staying unplugged and feeling lonely. In a Wall Street Journal interview with Netflix Co-CEO, Reed Hastings, scoffed at the idea of permanent, remote work, noting that remote work made “debating ideas harder.” These findings reflect some of the failures that happened in Yahoo’s remote work experiment in 2013. When workers lose that sense of belonging, common purpose, the culture deteriorates.
How can we maintain our culture? How will we increase camaraderie?
Maintaining company culture across distributed teams requires efforts and most importantly, communication. Communicating often and communicating early can bring people together and keep distributed teams on the same page.
define and emphasize the values
The values of the company outlast any product or offering. Make the values clear from the beginning to your employees and show the values in action. This gives team members a shared sense of purpose. In addition to sharing the values, it’s important to create a culture of trust between remote workers. A study by Gallup recommended posing these questions to your employees.
What can we count on each other for?
What is our team’s purpose?
What is the reputation we aspire to have?
What do we need to do differently to achieve that reputation and fulfill our purpose?
2. engage your remote workers in creative ways
For remote workers and hybrid workers, there are far fewer chance interactions while getting coffee or opportunities to grab lunch together. In 2020, this resulted in the virtual event industry skyrocketing. With that boom, so has Zoom fatigue.
Garden Streets has found that hands-on creative events can bring people from across the country together while limiting Zoom fatigue. Because teams are physically building something, they may be on Zoom, but you are doing something in-person and tactile together. In addition, these events leave a keepsake, whether that be a succulent terrarium, origami model or bonsai plant that can remind all team members of their experiences.
Other options to bring remote team members together over non-work related matters are having virtual coffee breaks and cocktail hours, playing guessing games and trivia, and creating channels on your communication that are designated for fun.
3. consistency, consistency, and consistency.
Showing and repeating the values is key for the company’s approach to remote work and culture building. Keeping an events calendar that creates habit for gathering around non-work related topics provide regular shared experiences.
Many teams have realized that having frequent team-building and virtual events is key to reaping the full benefits. An analogy for team building is dieting; a crash diet (or event) is not as effective as a consistent and sustainable program. Fortunately, there are many programming calendars to make planning virtual events easier.
It is looking more and more like remote and hybrid models of work will outlast the pandemic. Maintaining company culture across distributed teams requires efforts and most importantly, communication. Communicating often and communicating early can bring people together and keep distributed teams on the same page.