When it comes to highly performing companies, there is one thing the vast majority have in common: a strong company culture. Culture refers to the shared values, behaviors, and norms that a group shares. Often, this is used to describe specific societies or countries. But companies have unique cultures as well, and these often determine their level of success. This is why business leaders invest heavily in maintaining company culture to facilitate higher levels of performance. But since the pandemic, these same leaders face new challenges. Increasingly, they must figure out how to preserve company culture and remote work at the same time.
According to a recent poll conducted by Bold Business, working-from-home is rapidly becoming institutionalized throughout the world. In fact, 93 percent of workers do not wish to return to the office. Instead, they prefer either remote work or some type of hybrid model. Companies that wish to excel in this new environment will need to make this transition in order to attract the best talent. At the same time, however, they must also develop strategies in maintaining company culture. This that can achieve a strong company culture and remote work environments will appeal to a modern workforce. And they will be the ones best positioned to excel. (Read more about Bold Business’ exclusive survey results and an in-depth analysis by CEO Ed Kopko in this important Bold story!)
“We’re in an era where people have tasted a different way of working, a different way of connecting with the people they cohabitate with, a reduced level of stress from the reduction of commutes, saving more money. And because they’ve tasted this, they’re demanding it, they want it.” – Tsedal Neeley, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Company Culture Is Not Office Culture
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of workers performed a majority of their tasks in an office. In-person meetings, water cooler chats, and a variety of other office activities defined the culture for these businesses. Employees shared beliefs about the dos and don’ts in the office, and corporate values were reinforced through policies, processes, and routines. But something changes when everyone began working from home. There was no longer a shared office environment for maintaining company culture. And for some businesses, changes in company culture and remote work influences occurred simultaneously.
It’s important to note that office culture and company culture are not necessarily the same. Indeed, when all workers went into the office, the two terms might have been interchangeable. But that is no longer the case. Working from home has invited many new influences into the workplace. Zoom meetings often include images of coworkers’ pets or children occasionally interrupting interactions. Office backgrounds tend to highlight more personal aspects of people’s lives as well. These effects as well as remote interactions continue to define culture even though the office may no longer exist. Thus, businesses must be aware of company culture and remote work influences in this new work environment.
“We’ve seen this as an opportunity to make executives more approachable, show our own vulnerability, and transform the culture into one that more explicitly values individuals and individuality.” – Brian Elliott, Executive Lead of the Future Forum, a Slack consortium
Elements of Company Culture
Interestingly, the same elements that comprised office culture continue to determine company culture. Therefore, business leaders must appreciate these elements of company culture and remote work effects on them. Maintaining company culture requires ensuring these elements continue to reflect company priorities and goals. Certainly, new strategies may be needed to achieve this in hybrid and working-from-home models. But by focusing on these core areas, businesses can continue to create positive and productive environments.
Communications and collaborations are among some of the most important elements of company culture. Ensuring open dialogue, respectfulness, and effective interactions continue to take place is essential. This supports other elements of company culture, like innovation, agility and dynamic resilience. Investments in activities that promote inclusion and provide support for productivity and wellness also important. And finally, maintaining company culture by aligning company mission and values with remote work functions is also encouraged. Attention to these aspects of company culture and remote work activities can go a long way toward performance success.
“In order for remote-hybrid to work, people have to change their performance metric, and trust employees, and let go of control, and allow empowered autonomous employees to achieve organizational goals.” – Tsedal Neeley
New Metrics for Company Culture and Remote Work Environments
Given that hybrid and remote work settings invite new influences, it’s clear that office-based strategies will no longer be effective. Maintaining company culture requires a paradigm shift in some instances. For example, instead of clocking office time or sales calls’ numbers, companies may instead monitor closed sales or new clients. Customer satisfaction levels and resource utilization may be other areas to track. These types of metrics are referred to as system metrics, which will replace direct observation of employees. These are more likely to lead to a high-performance company culture and remote work model success.
In addition to the use of new metrics, bold businesses are employing other strategies for maintaining company culture. For instance, Infosys prides itself on an employee-first company culture. Thus, it chartered flights for its employees early in the pandemic who were stranded away from home. Alibaba, which prioritizes a sense of community in the workplace, also made changes after the pandemic. It replaced its in-person annual celebration party with an online quilting event to promote personal bonding. Finally, IBM utilized platforms like Slack to further inclusion and innovation values. Using this platform, IBM employees created signups to aid colleagues with special needs during the pandemic. These are some ways companies can still focus on company culture and remote work benefits.
Aligning Mission, Values, and Remote Work Activities
Naturally, every company will need to consider how best to pursue company culture and remote work processes. The key for each, however, will be to make sure the company mission and values underlie the activities they choose. This will require both creativity and innovation at times. And maintaining company culture as hybrid work environments evolve will likely present some challenges. Regardless, companies recognizing the need to change will be best positioned to thrive. Office or no office, company culture will live on, and business leaders must continue to cultivate one that generates success.