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How to build a strong company culture when your team is working remotely

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By: Katriina Tahka (CEO at A Human Agency – AHA: www.a-ha.com.au)

Sitting in your home office, signing out of that morning zoom call, do you feel energised, part of a team, part of the business?

While remote working has extended beyond many people’s expectations, the reality is many employees are now feeling more disconnected from their business than ever before.

Remote working isn’t going to disappear once our vaccination markers are hit. Many businesses have downsized, with some getting rid of offices completely, and many employees are going to want to continue a form of hybrid working going forward. So ensuring your businesses culture is strong enough to transcend traditional work practices, and be felt by employees across a blended workspace is vital to your business.

Maintaining your culture remotely

The first step to maintaining your businesses culture while employees are working remotely is first being able to articulate your workplace culture. If you cannot articulate what the businesses culture is (or was pre-COVID), then you cannot maintain or build that culture. Take a look at your business’s values and mission statements, and formulate an ideal environment that you want to cultivate for your employees. Ask yourself: How do you want your employees to feel when they log off that zoom call? How do you want your employees to describe the business culture to their friends or family?

This concept has been utilised in many businesses with multiple and global offices and locations. Businesses with multiple offices need to ensure their culture is standardised across offices, and by ensuring values and mission is at the heart of their ideal culture, leaders are able to set the standard for how employees should feel like a part of the business.

A lack of continuity in culture across office locations can negatively impact the brand, and provide a bad experience for clients that interact with the businesses across these locations. It is also a key indicator for staff across different locations that maintaining a good culture isn’t a high priority for their specific location, and can result in a lack of retention and attraction.

Diverse Communication is key to culture

Throughout the past 18 months of hybrid and remote working, we have been bombarded with webinars and articles exclaiming the need to go above and beyond in order to maintain connection, culture and relationships with employees and teams. While this sentiment is absolutely true, we do need to ensure greater efforts are taken, we have to be aware that employees all have unique communication styles — a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. In fact, it could lead to higher levels of isolation and disengagement from many employees causing your businesses culture to falter.

Businesses need to recognise that many employees do not work well remotely, and prefer to work in face-to face-situations. While they have had to adapt, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they feel connected and a part of the culture.

Leaders need to proactively and creatively embed strategies to ensure their teams and employees are staying connected and aligned with the business. Utilising your businesses communications tools to connect with employees and noting what method works best with your team is crucial to maintaining those essential relationships and connection points that feed into the businesses culture.

Staying open to adapting to multiple forms of communications, from a phone call, a group chat, to a zoom call, ensures your employees have access to utilise forms of communications that best suit them. It’s as easy as having an open conversation with your team and finding understanding their preferences for collaboration and connection.

Increasing leader’s presence

We know in traditional office environments, leaders set the tone for the business culture, and are tasked in modelling the behaviour and values desired by the business. In remote working and hybrid environments, having access to these behaviours and interactions with senior leaders of the business is important in reinforcing the business culture and providing much needed access to leadership in isolating times.

Increasing the presence and communication of leaders on projects, meetings and ‘virtual socials’ allows space for employees to feel greater connection to the business, building the culture through modelled behaviour. This is especially essential for offices that are physically located in regional or remote communities as it adds a sense of priority and value and ensures that they stay connected to their city-based counter-parts.

A businesses culture needs to be tended to and maintained, otherwise it can rapidly decline. In online and remote work environments, we see vast increases in bullying and harassment complaints and toxic behaviour. This is due to the false sense of security people feel behind a keyboard or computer screen in combination with the lack of representative role-modelled behaviour from leaders.

By clearly articulating and reinforcing your business culture to your employees, diversifying and tailoring your communication methods to meet the needs of your employees and increasing ‘visibility’ of leaders and their leadership, employees are able to feel a sense of culture and belonging to the organisation. Connection is more than interaction, connection is made through good culture.

Author attribution:

Katriina Tahka (CEO at A Human Agency – AHA: www.a-ha.com.au)

Katrina is an HR guru with a special interest in business success through empowering teams. CEO + Founder of A-HA, Katriina is passionate about building inclusive workplaces where all people thrive and realise their full potential. Healthy teams with engaged people deliver both business and community success.

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