It’s been said that a positive work culture is the key to attract, engage, and retain talent, and we couldn’t agree more. In fact, a company’s culture is one of its most valuable assets, giving employees a sense of purpose and motivation that drives efficiency, increases productivity, and reduces turnover.
According to a Glassdoor survey, 56% of employees prioritize a healthy workplace culture over salary. Although many organizations have already recognised this, the recent abrupt transition to remote work dealt a major blow to even the best of company cultures.
Following the global pandemic of 2020, where human contact suddenly became a no-go, over 80% of organizations shifted to some form of remote work. Very few companies, however, took the time to define what their virtual culture should look like.
In physical offices, company culture gets strengthened through frequent social interactions--from a morning coffee chat, to a team lunch to greeting a colleague down the hallway . It’s these opportunities to engage with team members across the business at any given time that empowers employees to build strong cross-functional relationships and gives them a true sense of belonging.
Companies navigating a transition to remote work attempt to maintain their company culture by replicating these physical activities through Zoom meetings or “informal” Slack/Microsoft Teams channels. These platforms, however, are primarily designed for work-related structured collaboration and communication. They were never built for employee engagement and as such fail to recreate the comradery of being together in-person.
Existing platforms are primarily designed for work-related structured collaboration and communication. They were never built for employee engagement and as such fail to recreate the comradery of being together in-person.
Without a true alternative to in-person interactions, company culture has quickly eroded as remote work has become the new norm. It’s no surprise that 53% of people working remote feel less connected to their colleagues, and 1 in 5 feel lonely in a remote work arrangement. In addition, 45% of employees have considered leaving their current organization because of these challenges. It’s clear that remote company culture cannot be ignored if companies want to survive--and thrive--in the new normal.
The first step to building a better remote work culture is recognizing that social interactions in the virtual world are not one-size-fits-all and need to be significantly different from the physical world.
To help remote companies build a great virtual company culture, we created the Kosy Office, where we looked at all physical interactions needed for a strong company culture, and reinvented them in our virtual office with none of the downsides. By giving the right mix of engaging professional and social activities, every company, team and employee can interact with one another--all on a single platform built for employee engagement.
We’ve put together 7 practical steps to help you revive your company’s culture, regardless of where your teams are!
Building a successful virtual culture is more than selecting the right online tools or doling out perks. . Instead, companies need to create an environment that helps employees feel as connected to their colleagues as to their companies. This is key to help employees achieve both their personal goals and the company vision. Here are a few practical ideas to get you started:
Back in the ‘real world’, you’d be able to tap your colleague’s shoulder and ask them a quick question. This was conducive to effective problem solving, as people tend to find innovative solutions to complex issues by talking things out. Working remotely has removed our ability to hold these much needed short bursts of collaborative interactions, leading to an increased sense of disconnect and more teams working in silo. That being said, it’s had a surprising positive impact on individuals’ increased bias-for-action as they strive to work through problems & questions more independently.
Building a positive remote work culture isn’t just about re-creating these tap-on-the-shoulder moments. It’s about being adaptable, identifying and taking advantage of surprising benefits this shift brings, as well as re-thinking the way we interact for the better.
By creating a virtual dedicated co-working space, Kosy not only promotes these tap-on-the-shoulder moments that are key for keeping teams connected and aligned ; but gives back control to colleagues to jump in and out of that space, dependent on their bandwidth. This allows people to support and feel supported – rings true especially for new joiners – without breaking each individuals’ productivity.
Coffee chats or “watercooler” conversations are a lot more valuable than we first thought. Connecting with coworkers and management on a more personal level, like sharing stories and engaging in casual conversation, builds rapport and empathy that are critical to strong working relationships. These interactions cease to exist in a remote environment, and can be reduced to impersonal and mundane ‘how was your weekend?’ conversations. This can make employees feel isolated.
With Kosy, you can create a coffee break room where people can have free-flowing conversations with various groups, freely move between group conversation and invite invite a new colleague to join. The Coffee Breaks can be made more engaging and fun by defining pre-set topics of discussions or enabling games such as Two Truths and a Lie or Pictionary.
Communicating online often removes many of the important elements of conversation that we take for granted in person--like tone of voice, visual cues, and real-time dialogue. This can make effective collaboration difficult leading to disengagement, miscommunication and errors. In addition, long email chains are inefficient, if the same result can be achieved through a quick discussion. Encourage employees to interact on video as often as possible. For example, some organizations have released video-first policies that encourage employees to interact first by video. If the video doesn’t work, you could then try a call, a chat message, or email as a last resort. This may be uncomfortable for the first few weeks, but it significantly pays back at scale.
When working online, employees tend to exclusively collaborate with their direct teams. In addition, shifting to remote work removes all the chance encounters of getting to know someone through 5min elevator or cafeteria chats which created cross-department exchanges.
To ensure cross-functional collaboration, find ways to encourage employees to get involved together. For example, invite a salesperson to your weekly product roadmap meeting or marketing campaign brainstorm. Better yet, invite employees from other departments to participate in job candidate interviews. These exchanges will create stronger team bonds and encourage new perspectives that increase creativity.
AA key challenge with remote work events is giving people a reason to join. Employees have quickly tired of the monotony of Zoom calls day after day, and people are hesitant to join a social work event that follows the same predictable format.
Instead of hosting repetitive videoconference meetings, create a social calendar with a variety of different activities and events that bring purpose and meaning for employees. Bring in a speaker, alumni, or someone from your network that you know is interesting to give a TED Talk presentation or host a Q&A. Or just ask an employee to host a lightning talk on something that passionate them. Following this session, organize a virtual happy hour where people can discuss the previous event, play games, or simply catch-up.
Be intentional about giving your employees time and access to engage with your CEO and top management team. Create transparency about where your business is heading and reserve time for employees to ask questions, crowdsource solutions, and drill down into points of interest.
An open-book approach has the power to create a high level of trust and provide value-driven autonomy. At Kosy, we’ve seen CEOs jump around between co-working spaces to have informal chats with various employees.
Celebrating positive moments together is still important for remote teams. The equivalent of the “bell” in physical offices when a new deal is signed or popping a champagne bottle is harder to replicate in remote and distributed work environments. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socializing can strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for future collaboration.
Find ways to shorten the affinity distance. At Kosy, one company made it a habit for top leadership to personally congratulate any big milestone or deals that came in. Creating moments to celebrate successes and promoting social connection is key, and how you do it is less important than whether you do.
Remote work is here to stay, and it’s important to take your remote company culture seriously to ensure your employees are happy, connected, and productive. This means implementing both the right strategies and the right technologies to achieve your employee engagement goals.
Kosy is here to help. Our virtual office platform is built to recreate the social interactions your employees are craving. Want to learn more? Schedule a demo today to see how a virtual office can increase your employee engagement
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