Has remote working killed the corporate culture?

Lindsay Wall is Managing Director EMEA at Wongdoody, a human experience company powered by consultancy Infosys. He explains how bosses can continue to get the most out of their staff, as they return to working from home amid a massive spike in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister’s recent guidance that people should work from home wherever possible is the latest development on the roller coaster that businesses across the country find themselves riding, as they navigate the ‘not so normal’ news” of hybrid – or remote working.

It’s only recently that we’ve been discussing the best way for businesses to manage a hybrid workforce, with some employees in the office and others working from home. However, as continues to be the case with this pandemic, the dial has changed again and while we believe we have the situation under control, we are receiving new guidelines to follow.

Without a doubt, remote work has a huge impact on how a business operates, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. It has undoubtedly dealt a blow to the typical ways in which a company builds and transmits its culture; by its object, its values, its behaviors, its rituals and its norms. With employees all based in different locations, it is more difficult to continue corporate rituals and practices that may have been originally designed for the physical world.

Additionally, remote work has reduced the valuable relationship-building opportunities through informal co-worker interactions that are so often where the magic happens. How often do we hear that people make my work great? Well, in this distant world, you can forget the brief conversation in the kitchen while making your morning coffee, or the daily office chat with co-workers who can help spark an idea or answer a quick question. a customer.

It has also become apparent that digital social interactions are not so normal for many people outside of the gaming world or other communities with a common interest. Because, given the choice, many of us would prefer face-to-face interaction. Humans are by nature social beings and nothing can replace the personal magic of face-to-face conversation.

However, working remotely has not been a fatal blow to corporate culture, especially for global organizations like ours whose teams were collaborating remotely long before Covid-19. While the term “Zoom” seemed to have become universal almost overnight, many companies were already hosting regular team or client meetings via video conference, allowing different members to connect from all over the world.

Remote working has in fact led to the adoption of entirely new – and arguably more productive – ways of working and has accelerated the use of collaboration tools like Miro and Slack to facilitate communication and create and promote a culture positive business. This is accelerating the need for companies to rethink how they work and how they deliver the employee experience, creating meaningful reasons for people to connect socially and professionally rather than just expecting it to. produce. For our business in particular, remote work has forced us to create well-structured digital interactions and will lead us to explore and embrace new platforms, like Unlock.

Moreover, the notion of working from home, which could previously be viewed with suspicion by business leaders, is now universally recognized and legitimized, as business leaders have learned to trust their employees to make work work. done and standards don’t slip if they don’t show up at the office at 9 a.m. every day. Likewise, workers have realized that there is no place to hide and that if their tasks are not completed on time or to a high enough standard, they will suffer the consequences. This newfound trust works both ways, with companies and their employees both equally invested in maintaining its value.

There are, however, negative implications for work-life balance. The principle of trying to put boundaries to protect people’s personal time from work time is key, especially with working from home, where the line between the two is completely blurred. Organizations with a stellar employee experience recognize that this will be key to overcoming burnout as we enter another period of forced telecommuting.

The real practical solution is to trust employees and give them the flexibility to work on their terms. In a global organization, this might mean starting at 7:00 a.m. and ending at 2:00 p.m. That could mean working for four hours starting at 11 a.m., running errands to school, then doing a few hours after the kids go to bed. Successful employers today will understand that employees want to know they are trusted to do the right thing, on their terms to get the job done.

Finally, there’s no denying the huge changes companies have had to implement over the past two years, largely due to the introduction of remote or hybrid working. Covid-19 has been one of the greatest accelerators of organizational change and digital transformation of modern times. We’ve seen major innovations in product and service offerings coupled with tectonic shifts in purpose and direction, but no aspect of the business has changed more profoundly or quickly than the employee experience.

So while corporate culture remains more important than ever, the way it is delivered has changed, if not just for the foreseeable future, then most likely…forever. How you choose to respond to this shift could separate those who survive from those who thrive.