Company culture is woven in the way the company operates, it’s not a manifesto printed on paper and hung in the break room. With remote work, company culture is even more important now than ever, without a ‘cool workspace’ or ‘fun perks’ to lure employees in. Make no mistake, neither of those things defined company culture, but instead served as a way to entice employees and project a certain image, often at the expense of a less-than-stellar or nonexistent culture. Changing the culture at work can only happen when leaders understand what it is that needs to be changed.
Have the tough conversations
To improve company culture, you have to tackle the issues that are detrimental to building it. You can’t shy away from talking about the big issues in the workplace, like discrimination, micro-aggressions, racism, and more.
The challenge with remote work is that many of these issues can be hidden. It’s important that employees feel comfortable speaking with their managers to alert them to issues they’ve either experienced or witnessed. Once an issue has been voiced, it’s important to act to rectify it. Often that comes in the form of having a direct conversation, which might be uncomfortable, but is the only way to address an issue. Things left unsaid only allow problems to grow and spiral out of control.
With remote work, it’s easier for people to feel more disconnected from the company, their managers, and even their teams. When too many people operate in their own silos, it’s hard to build culture. Without simply bumping into a colleague in the break room or a team being able to physically work together in the same space on a project, most connection happens only via work, rather than just casually.
This disconnection can foster a lot of misunderstanding. If someone isn’t responding to their messages quickly, the person on the sending side can form the idea that their colleague is lazy. Too many typos in a message can lead to thoughts of lesser intelligence. Simply put, disconnection fosters bias, and bias can run unchecked behind a computer screen. Create ways for teams to spend time together in a casual setting to encourage connection and let everyone blow off a little steam. An easy way to do this is to open the Zoom meeting 15 minutes early and encourage employees to hop on early and chat with each other, just like they’d do if they arrived to a meeting early in the office.
Give everyone a voice
All employees, regardless of their position or role, should be able to contribute and share their ideas. Encourage employees to voice their thoughts and give them a way to do so.
Holding monthly office hours where employees can drop in for a brief virtual chat with their manager is an easy way to give employees a voice. Also consider creating a message board or Slack channel where employees can share feedback. Most importantly, let employees know that they always have an open line of communication with their managers where they can share their thoughts privately.
Model the change you want to see
Leaders have to lead the change. It’s up to senior management to show commitment to change and model the practices they want to see. If employees are expected to act one way yet management and leadership aren’t held to the same standards, culture change won’t stick.
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