In 2023, building a culture that allows a business and its employees to thrive while working remotely is about more than surviving in the “new normal” or post-pandemic society.
Remote and hybrid working may have been thrust upon us due to 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 taking a flexible approach to where and when we work, and perhaps not as many downsides as people at one time feared!
Today, forward-thinking organizations aren’t offering hybrid and remote working arrangements to keep their workers safe from viruses, but because it’s been established that it can be beneficial for the business and for employees. And a whole range of technological solutions – including the much-talked-about metaverse – have sprung up to support this widespread behavioral shift.
However, that isn’t to say that it isn’t without challenges.
Workforces spread across wide geographical areas can encounter difficulties when it comes to communicating and collaborating.
Employers may find it more difficult to track productivity and understand where bottlenecks are occurring that are slowing down workflows.
And home-based workers may find it more difficult to draw a line between work and family life without the delineator of the daily commute to split their day into company time and home time.
What is company culture?
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the effect that widespread remote and home working has on company culture. Company culture – sometimes called corporate culture or organizational culture - is a tricky thing to define. Exactly what it means often changes dramatically from organization to organization. But to put it in the most simple terms, it’s a shared set of values, experiences, and behaviors that help to 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 workers expected to follow instructions to the letter or to apply initiative and interpret instructions creatively?
- How valued is diversity among the team?
- How are employees encouraged to engage in ongoing 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 isn't always an answer that's right or wrong in every situation. This means that the job of those responsible for fostering and building culture is generally one of achieving balance rather than making decisions one way or the other.
What are the tools we need to build remote and hybrid company culture in 2023?
Building and maintaining a positive culture clearly has a number of advantages – from improved productivity when employees feel they are part of a team that works, to increased likelihood of attracting and retaining talent.
When teams are remote, it may become more difficult to build and maintain the interpersonal contact and communication that are needed to collaborate efficiently. Effective teamwork relies on understanding how best to use the strengths and weaknesses of individuals to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time and that all bases are covered.
Technology plays a part in helping us overcome these challenges. Most organizations have gotten to grips with collaborative tools such as Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, or Microsoft Teams, which let us share documents, work collaboratively, communicate and manage projects remotely.
In 2023, we will see the emergence of more immersive online working environments that come under the metaverse banner that we have heard 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 persistent, collaborative, and immersive environments designed to be used as virtual offices.
In one poll, 30 percent of American workers who were questioned reported that they are already using virtual reality (VR) to some extent in their job, and 10 percent are working within platforms defined as "metaverse."
The huge benefit of VR and other metaverse 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 with hundreds of miles between you.
One example of this in action is global consulting firm Accenture’s One Accenture Park, a VR-based training and onboarding environment that all hires are expected to explore during their first days of working for the company.
The metaverse is a controversial term. While some people firmly believe it describes the next evolution of the internet, some believe it is mostly marketing hype. However, it’s clear that, whatever label we decide to give to it, many organizations are benefiting from using immersive technology such as VR and AR to connect teams, assist with remote, collaborative work, and build culture.
How do we build culture remotely?
So, to round off, here are a few tips for any company looking to ensure that its remote teams are helping to contribute to the company culture.
First, define the culture, communicate it, and ensure everyone is on the same page – create a slide deck or infographic that communicates the core elements of your culture (referencing each point in the definitions given above is a good start.)
Encourage everyone to understand how their work impacts the work of their team and the company as a whole – making sure everyone understands they are an important part of the whole is essential.
Create a thorough onboarding process for new joiners to ensure everyone feels included and understands the culture from the start.
Make sure you offer ongoing career development opportunities, along with education and upskilling, and that everyone understands what is available to them.
Leverage technology and tools such as collaborative platforms, VR, and metaverse environments to make remote collaboration more immersive and engaging.
Prioritize wellness – ask everyone, particularly those you don't see face-to-face in the office regularly, how they are doing and if there is anything they need help with. Implement initiatives that promote health and well-being, such as gym memberships and mindfulness sessions.
Lastly, encourage team members to speak up if they feel that they are becoming disconnected from the company culture or that the remote nature of their team and workflows is causing the culture to break down or stray off-path.
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