With 12 percent of employees working fully remotely and 28 percent with hybrid work arrangements, maintaining a strong company culture where workers feel connected and engaged can be challenging. In fact, more than 66 percent of CEOs and 62 percent of CHROs believe it’s the most significant talent management challenge associated with remote work. In addition, 71 percent of senior HR leaders and 62 percent of senior business leaders agree there is a likely proximity bias against remote and hybrid workers.
Corporate culture is not just about the values and behaviors of your organization as a whole but also about the sense of belonging that team members feel within the company, and 90 percent of executives feel culture and connection are lacking for their remote team members. “Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the decline in the percentage of engaged employees was evident across all three groups—exclusively remote, hybrid, and exclusively on-site—but highest for employees who are exclusively remote. The decline was especially evident on engagement elements relating to clarity of expectations, materials and equipment, recognition, development, and connection to the organization’s mission or purpose,” a Gallup workplace study found. Here are ways your organization can counteract this decline and maintain your company culture.
- Focus on building trust: Only 12 percent of leaders are confident that their hybrid workers are productive, causing productivity paranoia. However, 87 percent of employees report that they are productive at work. Trusting employees to work independently and providing autonomy can positively affect your workplace and culture—including improved morale, increased productivity, and more innovative solutions.
- Establish clear communication channels: Communication is essential in any workplace and becomes even more critical in a remote work environment. Ninety-eight percent of employees disengage when they don’t receive feedback, and 65 percent desire more feedback. Establish clear communication channels such as chat apps, video conferencing tools, and project management software to keep everyone connected and informed.
- Encourage open communication: When employees don’t feel comfortable giving feedback to organizational leaders, retention rates decrease by 16 percent. Encourage team members to share their ideas and concerns through regular pulse surveys and open communication channels. Conduct stay interviews to understand your workers’ needs, identify areas requiring improvement, and ensure they feel heard and valued.
- Schedule regular check-ins: Regular check-ins with team members keep everyone on the same page and provide an opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns. Forty-three percent of remote workers feel excluded in group meetings, so make time for one-on-one check-ins. Research has found an increased likelihood of anxiety and depression symptoms associated with fully remote (40 percent) and hybrid (38 percent) work when compared to in-person (35 percent). Managers should ask each employee how they are doing, how comfortable they feel with their current workload, and if they need help prioritizing.
- Foster a sense of community: Remote work can be isolating—without opportunities for spontaneous, in-person interactions like water cooler and break room conversations—and 70 percent of employees feel they don’t get to socialize enough at work. Those with close work friends are 80 percent more likely to feel a strong sense of belonging to their company than those without close work friends (63 percent). Therefore, providing opportunities for virtual socialization—including virtual coffee breaks, team-building activities, group challenges, or online games—is essential. Create a virtual space, like a chat channel, where employees can socialize and connect informally. These activities will help team members connect, maintain a sense of community, and build stronger relationships.
- Promote a shared sense of purpose: Fifty-eight percent of leaders feel that aligning their new hires with the corporate mission is a top priority. Reinforce the company’s mission, values, and goals through regular communication, training sessions, and team meetings. Ensure all employees understand the company’s mission and values and how their work contributes to its success.
- Celebrate successes and milestones: When asked what their employer could do to improve their level of engagement, 58 percent of employees said, “give recognition.” Celebrating achievements and milestones is essential to building a positive company culture and boosting morale. Whether it’s a significant project milestone or a team member’s birthday, taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate these events will help keep everyone engaged, energized, and motivated. This can be done through virtual celebrations, sending gifts or cards, or even just a simple message of congratulations.
- Provide opportunities for professional development: Providing opportunities for professional development—such as training programs, online courses, and mentorship programs—will help team members grow and develop their skills. However, 59 percent of employees are worried about being excluded from important team meetings and projects when they are not consistently in the office. Ensure that offsite workers know of available resources and projects to help them feel more connected to the organization and motivated to contribute to its success.
- Create a positive work environment: Ensure team members have the tools and resources to work effectively—including comfortable chairs, proper lighting, reliable technology, and an adequate workspace. Often companies provide their remote workers with hardware (64 percent), a desk and/or chair (40 percent), and internet service (28 percent).
Related: The State of Remote Work in 2023
Remote workers can feel isolated and disconnected from your company’s culture and values. This can be especially true for new employees who have not had the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues and develop a sense of belonging within the company. To encourage remote team members to raise concerns, leaders should create an open and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. In addition, they should actively listen to and work collaboratively with employees to find solutions that address remote workplace issues to maintain a strong corporate culture.
This blog was written by Director of Client Delivery Brian Schultz.