HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Remote Employees and Maintaining Organizational Culture

Most businesses that plunged headfirst into remote work due to the pandemic have found that it’s actually quite straightforward and doesn’t reduce productivity as they had feared.

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However, there are some concerns with remote work for the long term:

  • Recruitment isn’t the same via video, no matter how much we want it to be. That’s not to say it can’t work, but there are downsides.
  • Collaboration can be stifled when people don’t interact with one another directly or spontaneously. Zoom can’t replace the random conversations that come up in person. This can negatively impact innovation in the long term. It can also decrease the organization’s ability to effectively solve problems when there’s less visibility between people.
  • Organizational culture is more difficult—though not impossible!—to craft and maintain.

These are just a few examples of some of the concerns for organizations that are wondering whether having a mostly remote workforce is sustainable. Clearly, it can be done—there’s no shortage of examples of companies that already function exceptionally well with a fully remote staff—but it also cannot be argued that there’s zero risk or downside to mitigate.

Let’s take a look at the final point above: crafting and maintaining organizational culture.

Ways to Craft and Maintain Organizational Culture Remotely

While it may be more difficult to form a cohesive culture when the entire team is geographically dispersed, it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips for organizations trying to achieve this.

  • Have a clear mission and vision and clear company values. Communicate these throughout the organization. This is the foundation for the culture.
  • Don’t forget about team events just because the team isn’t together. For example, the team could have a group yoga session (video optional!) or a group training session on a topic that is relevant to the industry. These types of events can help show employees what the organization values, such as employee wellness in the yoga example or employee development in the training example.
  • Keep benefits on offer that reflect the company’s goals, vision, and mission. For example, if the organization values community involvement, perhaps a benefit is extra paid time off (PTO) for volunteer activities.
  • Find ways to publicly show appreciation and recognize hard work so everyone’s achievements are recognized by the team. This can help team members appreciate one another.
  • Think through and implement ways for new team members to get to know others on the team despite not being in the same place. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this goal, so it’s important to find one that makes sense for your organizational culture overall.
  • Ensure there’s consistency in the training provided. Having clear policies and procedures can be the foundation for the organizational culture. In fact, the types of things that are focused on and promoted in training will be a strong signal to employees about what the organization values. Think through the training and employee development programs with this in mind.

What else would you suggest for this list? What has your organization done to ensure the organizational culture remains strong while employees are dispersed?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

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