Culture Building with a Remote Team

 

There are two very hot workplace topics that we see coming up again & again in the world of recruitment.

Firstly, Company Culture.

How to build it, grow it, be purposeful about it, generally making sure it’s not crummy and toxic.

Secondly, Remote (or flexible) Working.

More and more candidates are after some level of flexibility around their working arrangements for a variety of reasons, and businesses recognise the economic sense behind reducing desks, square footage, and overheads.

So this got us to thinking: with an increasingly remote workforce, how can leaders retain a level of direction and purpose (we’re purposefully not using the word “control”) over their company culture? Are the two concepts diametrically opposed? Or is it still possible to nurture a positive culture whilst enabling a “work-from-anywhere” practice?  We sat down over a cuppa to ponder the conundrum of remote working vs culture building. After all; it’s what we do.

Question: Why is Culture such a hot topic, and why is it so important?

Ben Johnson Recruitment: As a Nation we are starting to acknowledge that Culture is every aspect of your business. You can buy and sell as many widgets as you want, but without the substance of a good culture, a sense of purpose or belonging, people quickly get disaffected and move on. Culture influences how your employees interact with each other, with your clients and partners and will inevitably have an impact on the bottom line.

When recruiting, it can be easy for organisations to project a certain image in order to attract talent, but new employees will suss out a toxic culture – and leave – very quickly. Having a happy and positive work environment results in more productive staff, a greater level of individual and corporate success and increased business growth.

Q: Why is remote working becoming so prevalent?

BJR:  There are two main reasons:

  1. Technology has enabled many people to work wherever they want to. Intelligent devices, paired with widely available WiFi in just about every café, shop or street corner has eliminated the need to be in one location for a set period.
  2. Now that we have that enabling technology, we are seeing an increasing demand from candidates for more flexibility. The reasons behind this are myriad – perhaps it’s about reaching a better level of work-life balance, maybe there are family commitments, or juggling a few different roles. Whatever the reason, the feedback we get from those who are enabled to work when and how they want is pretty unanimous. They are more productive than when they’re in a noisy office. The autonomy to choose where they work increases a sense of ownership and responsibility. They are measured on performance and productivity, not attendance or hours clocked in and out.

Q: Sounds like the perfect solution. What are the downsides?

BJR:  We don’t think there are many, however it doesn’t work for everyone. On a basic level there are plenty of roles that just don’t allow for remote working so it’s impractical to suggest that we should try and roll out a blanket approach. However, in cases where it can and should be possible, the only roadblocks we see are a lack of trust between managers and their teams, or a level of jealousy between employees (i.e. “how come he gets to work from home on a Wednesday and I don’t”). Clearly these are cultural issues in themselves and should be addressed before rolling out a remote working programme.

Q: OK. So if we can shift to a remote workforce, how do we also build a healthy culture?

BJR: It’s an interesting question. Naturally, one would assume that growing a healthy culture is easier if everyone is in one location: visibility, availability, natural “water cooler” conversations occur on a daily basis. However, we’ve seen time and again that because a team is in a single location, the culture gets taken for granted. Unwanted behaviours get tolerated, gossip grows. Sometimes just eye contact with team members and a quick “hi” becomes a poor substitute for purposeful connections. Remote working changes all that. Team members have to be purposeful about connecting, accountability, and progress. We see this shift as a major opportunity to grab culture by the proverbials and really build a team the way you want to.

Check out our next article for some practical pointers on how to build a healthy culture with a remote workforce.

 

 

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