Working from Home (WFH) and keeping company culture – Mary T. O’Sullivan

by Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“Without the happenstance interactions of the office, remote and hybrid work present a number of social challenges associated with team building and company culture.” – TechRepublic

Workers want remote work. They like WFH. Most companies have embraced this new post-pandemic reality and are satisfied with at least the hybrid model. There are many reasons to support remote work, however how does a company keep up its mission, vision, values, and goals with much of the workforce out of the office?

While there are many good reasons to work from home: productivity increases, carbon footprint is reduced, better work-life balance, a healthier lifestyle – some companies are worried that employees will drift away from the company culture and adapt a more disconnected work style not unlike “gig” workers, or feel abandoned completely, as if no one cares about them. The need to address culture issues – the company vision, mission, values, and goals resonates with many CEOs who support their remote and hybrid workforce.

Research has shown that the number one piece missing from remote work stems from poor communication among colleagues and management. Team collaboration and cooperation largely depend upon excellent communication in all modalities. In many cases, teams work together virtually via video conferencing and instant messaging such as Slack, where everyone can see everyone else’s responses in real time. Although nothing can fully replace face-to-face conversations, electronic devices and platforms offer teams the cohesiveness otherwise lost by working remotely.

For team leaders, it’s important that the usual rituals, beliefs, and norms stay in place. For instance, if team members eat lunch every day together, they should continue to do so virtually. If awards are given out at team meetings, all team members need to be invited whether in the office, or remote. Maybe a group of people likes to play Bridge or Trivial Pursuit at lunchtime. Remoteness is no reason to stop. One company actually asks their in-house workers to join meetings via video conferencing so that the remote employees don’t miss any remarks or comments made as asides. These asides often contain valuable information which otherwise go unheard by remote people.

With no management by walking around (MBWA), leaders who check in with employees regularly, via phone, text, or video, offering assistance with a personal problem, help with a technical issue, or just to say hello bridge that communication gap and reinforce the employees’ confidence in the company. When leaders show that they care, employees feel more empowered to give their best effort whether remote or not

According to Harvard Business Review, when meetings are held live with both on-site and off-site workers, the perception of isolation and remoteness is lessened, and the culture stays intact.  This recommendation does not support asynchronous communication – in other words, don’t record your meetings and tell everyone ahead of time. This way, everyone is on the same page, and the culture in reinforced through trust, communication, and collaboration.

Culture feeds on these values, and without them, remote workers could become part of the great resignation. When people feel underappreciated and unsatisfied, they look elsewhere. In the sage words of the great management guru, Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“Leaders must recognize that thriving in the new era of work depends on being open to new formulas for building and maintaining strong culture.” – Pamela Hinds

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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.