Without the fortuitous interactions of the office, remote and hybrid working presents a number of social challenges associated with team building and corporate culture.
In the standard office, there are a myriad of opportunities for informal interactions with colleagues, discussions with water coolers, and on-site team building exercises. However, the large ongoing remote working experience adds a quantum layer of complexity to traditional workplace camaraderie and other social considerations. Executives and business leaders often tout corporate culture, but how important is it?
When asked this question, Jewell Parkinson, director of human resources at talent cloud company iCIMS, quoted famous management consultant Peter Drucker as saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
“In other words, corporate culture is paramount,” she said.
“It’s the catalyst for engagement, productivity, profitability, satisfaction and customer loyalty. The experiences shared over the past year and a half reaffirm that workplace experience is important, ”Parkinson continued. “The elements on which culture is built: purpose, values, behaviors, symbols, language, norms, rituals serve either to help or to hinder periods of change and ambiguity. ”
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The challenges of the hybrid workforce
In the midst of this re-imagining of office life, a future with increased remote and hybrid working modalities may force companies to rethink their approach to corporate culture as well as support strategies. As non-traditional working arrangements take hold, Parkinson said companies “are challenged to think about inclusion and equity in a new way.”
“They need to think about how onsite and remote employees have a similar shared experience that engages them and inspires them to do their best,” she continued. “Where opportunities for advancement do not depend on ‘time in the office’ or the presence factor, but are driven by impact and preparation, no matter where you choose to work.”
The importance of shared physical experience was also underscored by another executive we spoke with. Overall, Jeff Seibert, co-founder of Digits, said hybrid working arrangements are “the worst of both worlds, especially when it comes to corporate culture.” Without it, he said it was “hard to see how a business can be successful.”
As TechRepublic previously reported, one expert we interviewed warned that hybrid work could create a two-tier ‘classroom’ system for employees, and Seibert echoed similar concerns about remote working.
“There will always be a feeling of unfairness when one part of a team is physically together while others are far apart,” he continued. “To compensate, remote team members constantly feel the need to come to headquarters to be seen and are excluded from important decisions, hallway conversations and team building opportunities.”
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For most people, Seibert said the basic understanding of remote working involves the use of a “big head office somewhere” and remote workers scattered around. This causes those offsite employees to “miss out on a lot of the ad hoc conversation” and culture developed in a co-located space, he explained, adding that remote employees are often left out of business. meetings and “inevitably begin to feel like seconds.” class citizens. ”
Contrasting the two arrangements, Seibert said that a fully remote team “means no conversation takes place in an office somewhere to be missed.”
In a fully remote model, Seibert noted the importance of finding opportunities to physically bring the entire company together in one place on a regular basis to create a corporate culture, even though it “may seem counterintuitive.”
“Working remotely makes these in-person moments together even more memorable. It also creates unique opportunities to mark milestones in the business, to step away from day-to-day work to redefine priorities, or even just re-energize a team, ”he said. noted. “Sites need to be motivated by business goals, but with special moments that allow teams to connect to things outside of work as well. ”
Technology can also play a role in supporting corporate culture in a remote or hybrid arrangement. For example, at Digits, Seibert said “the pulse and culture of the company [are] pushed online “so everyone can engage, like upgrading chats to video or voice calls
“when written communication is not enough.”
“There is no stigma or friction against those who passively followed into the chat room and now asked to join live,” he continued. “Everyone is on an equal footing and there is a strong culture of trust, communication and collaboration. ”
Great resignation: the result of the WFH?
For months, there has been speculation about some sort of grand resignation as exhausted employees quit en masse amid a tight labor market and sell sweeteners to get off the ship. A survey released in March found that about half of employees plan to land a new job in 2021. In recent months, employees have quit at a rapid rate.
The timing of this turnover after a year of remote work raises an interesting question: What role has the shift to remote work and the separation of employees from fellow colleagues and traditional office culture played in recent turnover?
Citing reports, Parkinson said that “the United States is experiencing the most significant restructuring, redistribution and rehiring of workers in history,” adding that “the current hiring boom leaves employees many options ”. However, the lead-up to a massive turnover is something she dubbed the “Big Thing,” in which she said “connection and communication are key”.
“Leaders need to stay in touch with their employees and in touch with employee sentiment, career ambitions and workplace preferences, while soliciting direct feedback from those they wish to hire and retain,” said said Parkinson.
As to whether remote working has a negative impact on corporate culture, Parkinson said there is “no doubt” that the agreement “shed light on corporate culture” because companies prioritize helping workers adapt. In addition, she noted that companies focus on the “evolving” needs of their workers as well as the importance of listening to better understand those needs.
“This new work experience is shared, but everyone’s situation is unique. You have to consider the range of needs – some may enjoy a virtual happy hour, some may not,” Parkinson said. “Giving employees the choice of their ideal remote cultivation initiatives empowers them and ultimately creates a more inclusive culture. ”