Five Ways to Nurture Organizational Culture when Working Remote

Company culture is essential to the comfort and efficiency of any team. It can make employees feel connected, safe, and productive (or it can do the opposite). COVID-19 forced many employers to institute remote working policies; while it can be a challenge to cultivate culture while working remotely, it is no less important than when in-person. Here are some ways that you can work to create, cultivate, and nurture company culture with remote teams.

1. Understand the importance and value of virtual work.  Studies show that remote work, when managed effectively can create a space that encourages creativity, innovation, and increased productivity. As with anything, culture begins at the top. If you understand and communicate the value of remote work and the importance that each member brings to the team, your employees will reflect and accept that. The value you place on the work they contribute becomes the value that your employees place on their work as a part of the team and the work of others.

2. Understand the limitations of remote work.  Remote work has many benefits, but it also presents its own unique set of challenges. While some challenges, such as communication and a need for flexibility are universal, others may be specific to your team. Understand what these challenges are, keep the channels for communication open, and do your best to support your employees.

3. Become an expert conversationalist.  Culture can be a difficult thing to facilitate and nurture virtually, much of what we intend can get lost without facial expression and tone, making goal setting and management come across more harshly. Be aware of these risks and facilitate face-to-face or phone communication where you can (just don’t go overboard), whether it’s a one-on-one, or a team meeting, conversations where tone can be heard, rather than an email, may help decrease confusion on project goals and expectations, and allow employees to feel more connected and valued.

4. Create a social space.  Create a virtual space, through Slack, Zoom, Skype, Teams, etc. that allows employees to message, video chat, share photos/files, etc. and do your best to ensure that employees feel they can use this formally and informally. These tools can be great when collaborating on a project but can also provide a space for the much needed “water cooler talk”, allowing employees a place to vent or process expectations in an informal way. This staves off feelings of isolation, can help employees feel like part of the team, and facilitate organizational loyalty and job satisfaction.

5. Refine your goals and values.  COVID-19 has pushed us into unexpected realities and forced organizations across the country to consider things in ways they may not have before. Current culture, values, and goals must shift to fit the changing world and our new work environments. Look at your organizational goals, the goals of teams within your organization, and your goals as an employer. Be flexible and adapt where needed to best meet the needs of your employees and organization. Understand that organizational values and goals should reflect the current reality and be something that can change if needed.

Adapting company culture to fit a new environment can be challenging. No matter what changes you make remember to remain flexible, empathetic, and allow room for self-care – for yourself and your employees. Whether this comes through flexible work hours, no weekend emails, or providing EAPs, allowing for self-care can be essential in ensuring your employees feel supported and valued and your organization remains productive and successful.

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