Can Remote/Hybrid Work Kill Corporate Culture?
Moving away from physical location to shared principles
March 2020 swept over life like a damp towel, suffocating life as we knew it—and the brunt of it was felt by corporations. If their employees weren’t in the office, how would they continue to thrive and profit? It’s now two years later and, although the pandemic is still very much a thing, we’ve found ways to do just that. But the lack of consistency—or total absence—in the office is not a death knell for workplace culture. Robert Half, CEO of an employee placement firm, has written an article detailing ways that managers can keep the corporate culture alive and foster a unified workplace.
What Is Corporate/Workplace Culture?
It probably sounds self-explanatory but, admittedly, I Googled “corporate culture” before reading Half’s article just to make sure I had a grasp on the concept. Ironically enough, I found a Forbes article written in 2018 by Dr. Pragya Agarwal titled “How To Create A Positive Workplace Culture", which defines workplace culture as, “the shared values, belief systems, attitudes, and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share. This is shaped by individual upbringing, social, and cultural context.”
They also had tips in this article for creating a stronger corporate culture…but that was pre-pandemic and hybrid/remote work wasn’t as concentrated as it is now. While the definition is still the same, what suggestions has Half incorporated into our new ways of working?
How to Avoid Weakening Culture in the Face of Remote/Hybrid Work
Here are a few of Half’s suggestions on how to “help keep [corporate culture] strong regardless of where your employees work”:
- Trust your employees—don’t micromanage them (meetings, calls, messages checking up on progress)! Trust that they’re capable of producing quality work in a timely manner, even when they’re not in your line of sight.
- That said, make sure you watch their quality of work. If you notice punctual employees missing deadlines or a lack of ideas coming from a normally outspoken and collaborative employee, reach out to help them get back on track. In-person or remote, managers collaborating with employees on issues they could be experiencing makes for a smoother road for all.
- Make sure the employees you interact with daily in-person are not receiving biased treatment (raises, better assignments, etc.). It’s not the location of the work being done—it’s the quality.
As for Dr. Agarwal’s Forbes article, she focuses on things such as:
- The importance of establishing clear “core values” as a company, discussed with employees so they feel included in the overall goal.
- Creating rewards for employees, treating them equally and, in turn, fostering active and motivated workers.
Dr. Agarwal concludes her article by emphasizing that “a positive culture in the workplace is essential for fostering a sense of pride and ownership amongst the employees,” making it something leaders should strive for. This is as true during COVID as it was in 2018, and it will remain a steadfast point for corporations in the future.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
Half makes a lot of wonderful suggestions in his article (as does Dr. Argawal), but the key one I took with me after reading these articles was what Half refers to as “proximity bias”. It should not matter—especially in this day and age—where an employee writes a report/does someone’s taxes/edits a video. If the work being produced remotely is the same as it is when they’re in the office, should it matter the location of its creation? In my opinion, quality should always outrank quantity—or, in this case, geographic location.
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