In 2023, building a culture that allows a business and its employees to thrive while working remotely is about more than just surviving in the “new normal” or post-pandemic society.
Remote and hybrid work may have been forced upon us out of necessity, as cities went into lockdown and office buildings became no-go zones for months or, in some cases, years.
But we quickly learned that there were many benefits to the flexible approach to where and when we work, and perhaps not as many downsides as people once feared!
Today, proactive organizations offer hybrid and remote work arrangements not to protect their employees from viruses, but because it has been proven that it can be beneficial to the business and employees. And a whole host of technological solutions – including the much-discussed metaverse – have emerged to support this widespread behavior change.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its challenges.
A workforce spread over large geographical areas can face difficulties in communication and collaboration.
Employers may find it more difficult to track productivity and understand where bottlenecks occur that slow down workflows.
And home workers may find it more difficult to draw a line between work and family life without the delimiter of the daily commute to divide their day into company time and home time.
What is corporate culture?
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the effect that widespread telecommuting and working from home is having on corporate culture. Corporate culture—sometimes called company culture or organizational culture—is a difficult thing to define. Exactly what that means often changes dramatically from organization to organization. But to put it in the simplest terms, it is a shared set of values, experiences and behaviors that help unite teams behind a common purpose.
Some examples of questions that can help understand a company or organizational culture might include the following:
· Does the company follow a flat or hierarchical management structure?
· How is success measured and rewarded?
· How are team members encouraged to communicate and interact with colleagues, customers and management?
· Are employees expected to follow instructions to the letter or to take initiative and creatively interpret instructions?
· How much is diversity valued within the team?
· How are employees encouraged to engage in continuous learning and upskilling?
· Is there a dress code or are employees allowed to wear whatever they want?
· How does the company promote a healthy work/life balance?
Clearly, with some of these questions, there is not always one answer that is right or wrong in every situation. This means that the job of those responsible for cultivating and building the culture is generally to strike a balance rather than to make decisions one way or the other.
What are the tools we need to build the remote and hybrid corporate culture in 2023?
Building and maintaining a positive culture clearly has a number of benefits – from improved productivity when employees feel part of a working team, to an increased likelihood of attracting and retaining talent.
When teams are remote, it can become more difficult to build and maintain the interpersonal contact and communication needed for effective collaboration. Effective teamwork is based on understanding how best to use people’s strengths and weaknesses to ensure that the right people are in the right place at the right time and that all bases are covered.
Technology plays a role in helping us overcome these challenges. Most organizations have embraced collaborative tools such as Zoom, Slack, Google Docs or Microsoft Teams, which allow us to share documents, work collaboratively, communicate and manage projects remotely.
In 2023, we will see the emergence of more immersive online work environments that will be under the banner of the metaverse that we have been hearing a lot about recently. Meta (formerly Facebook) Horizons Workrooms, Microsoft Mesh and Nvidia’s Omniverse, as well as solutions from startups such as Arthur VR, offer permanent, collaborative and immersive environments designed for use as virtual offices.
In a poll, 30 percent of American workers surveyed said they already use virtual reality (VR) to some extent in their work, and 10 percent work on platforms defined as “metatavers.”
The huge advantage of VR and other interconnect technologies is the sense of “presence” – the feeling that you are actually in a room communicating with colleagues rather than sitting in front of a screen hundreds of miles apart.
An example of this in action is global consultancy Accenture’s One Accenture Park, a VR-based training and onboarding environment that all recruits are expected to explore during their first days at the company.
Metaverse is a controversial term. While some people strongly believe it describes the next evolution of the Internet, some believe it is mostly marketing hype. But it’s clear that, whatever label we decide to give it, many organizations are benefiting from using immersive technology like VR and AR to connect teams, facilitate remote, collaborative work, and build culture.
How do we build culture at a distance?
So, to wrap up, here are some tips for any company that wants to make sure their remote teams help contribute to the company culture.
First, define the culture, communicate it and make sure everyone is on the same page – create a slide deck or infographic that communicates the key elements of your culture (referencing each point in the definitions given above is a good start.)
Encourage everyone to understand how their work affects the work of their team and the company as a whole – it’s essential to make sure everyone understands that they are an important part of the whole.
Create a thorough onboarding process for new associates to ensure everyone feels included and understands the culture from the start.
Make sure you offer ongoing career development opportunities, along with training and development, and that everyone understands what’s available to them.
Leverage technology and tools like collaborative platforms, virtual reality, and metaverse environments to make remote collaboration more immersive and engaging.
Prioritize wellness – ask everyone, especially those you don’t see face-to-face in the office regularly, how they’re doing and if there’s anything they need help with. Implement initiatives that promote health and well-being, such as gym memberships and mindfulness sessions.
Finally, encourage team members to speak up if they feel disconnected from the company culture or that the remote nature of their team and workflows is causing the culture to collapse or drift away.
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