Culture is a unique animal. It is challenging because it means something different to just about everyone. Culture is much more than just having lunch shipped in every couple of weeks or adding game centers for employees. It takes intention and mindfulness to foster a strong connection between an organization and its employees.
The past year has changed everything
Most organizations and offices have been working remotely for over a year now, and although the world is slowly opening up, some things regarding remote work have changed forever. Some organizations may require all their workers to go back, but that will be the minority. Some companies will allow their people to work remotely permanently, while most will likely create a hybrid solution with people working from home for the foreseeable future.
At Imagine IT, how do we deal with remote work and our culture?
It only takes one trip to our offices to experience how important culture is to our organization. When you walk through the office door, you are met with a very cool and unique water wall that makes everyone smile.
Behind the water-wall is a huge, fully operational kitchen and “coffee shop” area, with two induction ranges that would make any chef jealous. The kitchen is stocked with every kind of food, and for anyone working at the office, meals are supplied by Imagine IT.
Imagine IT's ownership and leadership group have made culture a critical part of their responsibility, and it shows.
They have truly created a Google-esque type of work environment for all to experience.
If it was only that easy …
The Imagine IT offices are cool, and the culture is something any organization would love to emulate. That being said an IT service company with a great office, and an incredible culture, should have no problem with the Pandemic and creating a remote work culture … right?
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. As part of the Imagine IT team, I have been working remotely for the past year and a half now, and I love our offices and enjoy being there. But I am having trouble getting my butt back to the office, especially on a full-time basis.
Why? For me, there are several reasons: I live in Eagan, and even though I have only a 15-minute commute, I don't miss the traffic going over the Cedar Avenue bridge. I also love having our golden retriever at my feet all day and enjoy spending breaks on my deck overlooking a beautiful private backyard.
At the same time, I miss being with our team!
So, what can Imagine IT do to get me to want to head back to the office? What can your organization do to deal with a full or hybrid remote workforce and keep everyone connected?
After talking with Barb Dusek, our HR Director and a critical part of our leadership team, we have identified 8 things to help you build a stronger remote work culture.
Here are 8 tips to help your remote work culture
- First, make sure your people have everything they need
- Reliable internet
- Dedicated workspace
- Office supplies
- Desk and chair
- Cybersecurity protocols
- Create a foundation of trust
Trust is where it all begins when building your remote workforce culture. A great company culture offers your team an environment that puts trust and mutual respect at the top of the list. Do your people feel confident that they won't be rejected or punished if they speak up on any subject, or worse, are ignored. Trust is where your culture begins and ends.
- Share your company's missions and goals
Does everyone on your team understand your company's vision, and do you continually reinforce that vision. At Imagine IT, on the last Friday of every month, we have what we call an "all-hands meeting" where our CEO, Richard Anderson, communicates to the entire team what has happened over the past month, and a big part of that is addressing our culture. It is a very powerful tool for the entire team.
- Define your remote work policies
Remote work can mean different things to different people. Especially if you have a hybrid work policy where some team members are totally remote, while others are hybrid, meaning they work both at home and the office when needed. Creating clear policies for this hybrid environment is critical. For example, will employees need to travel to the office regularly? You need to be 100% clear on what you expect, and you need to create metrics to measure their productivity.
- Make face-to-face meetings a priority
Culture is about relationships, and there is nothing more important than meeting face-to-face to build stronger connections. So, of course, virtual meetings on Zoom and Teams will continue to be important, and you need to continue those. But nothing will ever beat face time with your colleagues.
- Technology: Having the right tools, like Microsoft Teams
It's critical to utilize tools inside your company to allow for easy collaborative conversations among your departments and employee-to-employee. Chances are your organization has tools you could be using; it's just not been part of your "mindset" to use those tools in this remote work scenario. If, perchance, you do not have good collaborative software … give us a shout, and we will introduce you to Microsoft Teams😊.
- Set Up regular rituals
It's critical that you set up recurring team meetings that help establish a pace for projects. It also keeps your teams regularly connected. You will want to create regular weekly and bi-weekly calls or meetings that are both group-oriented and one-to-one—keeping in mind that some employees will be much more open in a one-to-one setting.
- Find creative ways to keep people engaged
By this time, most have been involved in many virtual meetings and events. Meeting opportunities like: virtual happy hours, exercise sessions, breakfast meetings, and group challenges are great ways to stay connected. Here is a quick list of ideas on how to keep people engaged:
- Encourage health and wellness
- Foster personal connections
- Host virtual company events
- Create casual hangouts
- Make sure your remote workers feel heard and valued
- Gamification: add game-playing elements
Building a remote culture is challenging; it requires a more concerted effort than being at the office. Your people must get involved and take responsibility for these connections. You will be amazed at the results when you put everything on the table and ask for their participation.
Keep in mind that some of your people could be feeling down, and some could be struggling with work-life balance as well. They could be losing that spark that got them through 2020 and the Pandemic
It is going to take everyone a while to come to terms with this “new world”.