Don’t forget workplace culture as part of your strategy
As we ease out of lockdown organisations are reimagining the future of work, re-assessing the relationship with the physical office. Being together facilitates the work itself, but also results in innovation, creativity, spark and sociability. Working remotely also has its benefits with employees feeling they have a better work life balance.
Realising the benefits of both, it is likely many will move to incorporating this new flexibility permanently. Before we dive back into the new future of working, whatever that ends up looking like, we need to look at getting the culture right.
What is workplace culture and why does it matter?
Workplace culture is the untangible environment that surrounds us. The values, belief systems, behaviours and attitudes that make up the ambiance that you work in. It is expressed in our daily interactions and exchanges with each other. On an individual level, the culture of a workplace contributes to an employee’s sense of well being, happiness, satisfaction and quality of life. From a business perspective, positive culture improves teamwork, drives engagement, employee retention and increases productivity and work efficiency. It is estimated that negative workplace cultures could be costing the economy up to £23.6 billion every year, and that is just in the UK.
How can remote working amplify negative culture?
Whilst remote working allows for more flexibility, and in many cases greater productivity, it can make people feel more isolated and disconnected. Working alone doesn’t facilitate spontaneity and creative spark in the same way that group working does and this is something that is hugely valuable to businesses. If the culture in the workplace doesn’t give people the emotional safety to make creative suggestions or challenge the status quo, this is likely to be heightened when working in isolation where you have less social support to draw on. People miss the social, emotional and inspirational aspects of what the office provides.
In addition to this, distance from colleagues can make it easier for communication to deteriorate. We lose the ability to pop to someone else’s desk or call over to a colleague when you remember a key bit of information you need to pass on. One of the ways that negative culture traits are more easily expressed is through online communication. In fact, distance, technology or even anonymity can make it hard for colleagues to understand one another; it can strip away tone and sentiment making conversations harder. It can be an easy vehicle that facilitates terse language, or condescending, disrespectful messages.
4 tips for re-defining workplace culture
As you are considering new ways of working, it is worth considering your workplace culture to ensure that they support one another.
1. Look at your brand values – are these relevant and engaging to a remote workforce?
A lot of organisations allow culture to occur naturally without directing it, and this is a mistake. With the pandemic forcing companies to revisit their values, now is the time to revisit your brand, check your values are still relevant and start thinking about how they apply to a remote workforce. Ask yourself whether your values were driving behaviours pre-COVID-19? Are they drivers of behaviour now? How can you ensure your people uphold those values?
2. Invite your employees to discuss your brand values – as well as their personal ones.
In order to maintain positivity at a distance, we need to start thinking in a more employee-centric way. Remote working reveals the gaps between the desired culture vs actual culture of an organisation. Organisations that are successful in fostering emotional connections between employees and brand will be better placed to overcome the challenges of a hybrid/remote working future. Start by having conversations with your teams, ask employees what their personal values are and see how they match up to the ones set for the business. The goal here is to build a sense of community with a shared purpose.
3. Make sure positivity permeates the digital space
We can’t just assume that working from home with all its benefits will automatically help people to be more positive at work. We must approach our digital interaction in the same way that we would a face-to-face conversation. The digital employee experience needs to leave them feeling seen, heard and valued. It needs to have a human feel about it, just like a real conversation would. This means:
- Promoting authentic connections with one another that are based in trust and transparency.
- Putting a heavy focus on the positives and taking time to celebrate achievements.
- Building a sense of community by reaching out to each other to say thank you or provide support.
4. Make sure that your rituals are not forgotten and remain accessible
Consider the positive moments that your employees used to share, the rituals that are a key part of your working culture. Have you managed to translate these into a remote experience? Are they easily accessible and can all team members be included? These routine practices help build working relationships, celebrate your collective successes, and create opportunities to share happy moments together. Sharing these highlights with each other helps to build that positive, emotional connection.
Through the pandemic we have experienced a seismic shift in how we think about workplace culture. Remote working has amplified weak spots in company culture; now is the time to seize the opportunity to change.
Organisations of the future should look to embrace a more employee centric and people focused culture rooted in strengthening human connections and developing a collective and inclusive narrative Culture is built in the collective. It isn’t one person’s responsibility, it is up to every individual to cultivate and contribute to a positive workplace culture.