Some business owners worry that their company culture might unravel when everyone’s working remotely, but there are ways to uphold a corporate ethos and keep staff on the same page.
By William Furney, content marketing manager, Reachology
Just like people, no two companies or organisations are the same, and it’s their corporate culture — as with personalities — that sets firms apart from each other. But with many companies still operating fully or partly remotely, what happens to the shared values that everyone generally adheres to when they’re all in the same place and physically working together?
Does a company’s unique culture go out the window the longer employees are absent from the workplace and working remotely, and does it put a company at risk of falling apart at its core? Is this business glue that binds everyone together as they work towards common goals and helps propel a company forward going to eventually dissolve as offices and other places of work remain mostly empty amid the ongoing pandemic — and will everyone lose their sense of corporate collectiveness and worth?
In this post, we’ll take a look at corporate culture and its value to companies, and how firms can maintain their ethos while some or all of their staff are working remotely.
What exactly is company culture?
We said at the outset that corporate culture is individualistic and so, just like the way people live in various towns, cities and countries, the culture of any one company is what keeps everyone together with a shared vision of how things should be done, how to treat other people and how to use the office or other workplace culture — such as in a factory — to get ahead. Devised, incorporated and communicated well, company culture can make employees of even the largest of enterprises feel like they’re part of a great, big family.
Looking at the example of Netflix, for instance, we can see that the global streaming giant has built its culture around these values: judgment, communication, curiosity, courage, passion, selflessness, innovation, inclusion, integrity and impact. And while it might be easy to dismiss such corporate-speak and hard to work out how those elements translate into actual day-to-day work, the American firm tells its more than 9,400 staff that what makes it “special” is how it encourages everyone to:
- Make decisions on their own, and not wait for someone, like a manager, to make them.
- Openly share information.
- Be candid.
“Our core philosophy is people over process. More specifically, we have great people working together as a dream team. With this approach, we are a more flexible, fun, stimulating, creative, collaborative and successful organisation,” says Netflix. The American entertainment company, which is worth around $25 billion, operates what it calls a “no rules culture” designed to foster inclusivity, as this quote from its CEO says:
If you’re not sure what your company culture is, or are interviewing for a job at a different firm, you can do some digging to find out what its values are and how you’re expected to behave, work and communicate. A company’s website is a good place to start hunting for clues — particularly the About page, where the company culture might be laid out for all to see.
Other places to have a snoop include work-review sites like Glassdoor, where current and former employees divulge their experiences of working at companies, and general searching online as well as asking anyone you know who works at a company you’re interested in what it’s like there.
Overall, company culture is a vital — and fundamental — element of how a firm operates. It allows for the development of an enterprise where everyone feels part of what the company is trying to achieve: growth and to overtake rivals. Staff are often happier, and more productive, as they’re in sync with the owner and management’s philosophy and feel part of a collective endeavour, which may be in contrast to independent contractors who work for a company but don’t generally adhere to its culture.
How to uphold company culture while working remotely
As with much of life, whether personal or professional, ensuring company culture is alive and benefiting everyone comes down to two fundamentals: information and communication. If people working remotely don’t have sufficient of either, they will most likely feel cut off and not part of the greater effort. It’s possible that, over time, employees, starved of cultural elements, might become indifferent to a company’s objectives and start to look at jobs elsewhere.
In ensuring staff are getting what they need, in terms of corporate information, culture and company targets, many firms like to have an intranet — a closed form of the internet that’s only available to people in a particular organisation and not the public.
This kind of private network may have a poor image as a dul and clunky internal web space, but it doesn’t have to be like that. An intranet only works if everyone participates, and employees can contribute content like blogs and people can leave comments. Tools and services like Blink, Claromentis and others can help; and they can be used for:
- Announcing company developments.
- Publishing content, relating to the organisation and its employees.
- Storing and easily retrieving information.
- Feeding back and collaboration.
- Messaging, on some platforms.
Clearly a lot of work is required on behalf of a department running an intranet and publishing material such as blogs; some firms get external assistance, in the form of digital PR services to help them with their content and strategies. It can remove some of the burden and heavy workload involved in maintaining corporate culture, and free up staff so they can focus on other areas of their work.
Real-time communications — whether video, voice or messaging — are another essential part of feeling connected to fellow employees, management and their entire company, no matter where you are: down the road, in the next city or halfway around the world.
The pandemic has taught us that we don’t need to be in the same room to collaborate and work well, as Zoom and other videoconferencing tools let us meet and speak to colleagues everywhere. And sometimes messaging platforms like Slack are far more beneficial than knocking on someone’s office door and waiting to speak to them, or holding for ages on the phone: message now and get the answer you need in a flash, allowing you to get on with your work.
Companies can also help make their employees feel part of their culture by having regular performance reviews that are aligned with the corporate ethos and goals, and inviting staff to provide ideas and comments — good or bad — via surveys or a confidential dropbox, so that everyone is contributing to the organisation’s success. Fun events, like video-based games and activities, are another way to spark a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Managers can also introduce remote work guidelines that include different ways to think about the new world of working, including flexibility and that the end goal is more important than the getting there, so there’s no need to be chained to your desk when you can possibly get your work done in less time, and better.
By adopting these measures and ensuring content and communications are top-notch, firms don’t have to worry that staff who are working remotely are in any way left out.
Looking for guidance on your company culture and how to uphold it in a work-from-home environment? Request a free initial consultation from leading digital PR agency Reachology now.