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  • Published Jan 29, 2024

Adapting Culture for Success in Hybrid & Remote Workplaces

Explore strategies to build and sustain a strong company culture in hybrid and remote work settings, ensuring team unity and effective communication.

Megan Cook
Megan Cook

Happy Companies Cofounder & CAO

a person using a laptop Caption:

A long day at the office no longer requires leaving your house. The office of today can be just down the hall, and more often the future of work is hybrid and remote. Prior to the pandemic, 87% of employers reported that most or all employees were anchored in traditional office settings. However, the scenario has drastically shifted. According to the EY Future Workplace Index, now only 29% of companies have employees working exclusively from the office.

With more than 70% of employees working from home for at least two to three days a week, the shift to remote and hybrid work is significant and represents more than just a fleeting trend. It is a change to the foundation of the workplace itself. This evolution, while offering newfound flexibility and opportunities for both employers and employees, introduces a unique set of challenges, particularly in the realm of building and maintaining a robust company culture. In fact company culture has never been more critical. No longer limited to physical spaces, it stretches across the digital realm, forging connections among a workforce that spans neighborhoods, cities, and even continents.

Building and Sustaining Company Culture Remotely

Someone working from a laptop, viewing a group of people on their screen in a remote meeting

How can companies reinvent their culture for an environment where traditional office-based interactions are no longer possible, and where face-to-face communication among employees and leaders is rare? What approaches are needed to forge meaningful bonds that define a lasting culture and effectively integrate new hires? Additionally, how should company culture be reshaped to suit the new patterns of a workforce split between office-based and remote work?

In a remote or hybrid work context, company culture doesn't vanish; instead, it transforms. The core beliefs and norms that shape an organization's culture continue to develop and strengthen, but they do so outside the traditional office setting. This shift leads to a culture that's more adaptable and influenced by a range of factors, encompassing elements from employees' everyday lives outside of work. Leaders and organizations worldwide are rising to the challenge, creatively adapting their cultures for these new work environments.

The same research by EY indicated that 64% of executives now recognize that flexible work options are not just an employee perk but a core motivator that drives staff to deliver their best. However, the remote or hybrid work model, while offering flexibility and other benefits, can inadvertently create barriers to building a cohesive culture. Employees may feel isolated, communication can become fragmented, and maintaining a sense of unity becomes more challenging. These issues can lead to decreased engagement and a dilution of company values. From reimagining employee engagement strategies to leveraging technology for better connectivity, there's a collective effort to ensure that company culture remains a strong, unifying force. Whether team members are working from their home office, a coffee shop, or a traditional office, the essence of a company's culture needs to remain consistent and engaging.

The goal is clear: to nurture a workplace culture that is as robust and dynamic as the teams it supports, regardless of where the work happens. With remote and hybrid work, culture is no longer just a byproduct of shared physical space; it's a dynamic, living entity that extends across virtual boundaries. This shift calls for innovative approaches to embed company values, foster effective communication, and redefine leadership for a dispersed workforce. In this article, we'll uncover how maintaining a vibrant and effective company culture in remote or hybrid settings requires thoughtful approaches and a commitment to employee well-being and collaboration.

Adapt Leadership Approaches

When it comes to making remote work successful for a company, the role of leadership is crucial. They must adapt their approaches to foster a supportive and productive team environment, despite the lack of physical presence.

Remote work can lead to feelings of isolation among team members and challenges in maintaining work-life balance. Without in-person interactions, it's harder for managers to gauge team morale and engagement. Managers greatly influence team culture, especially in remote settings. Their approach can affect team cohesion, morale, and productivity. Gallup found that managers account for 70% variance in employee engagement scores, highlighting their role in shaping team dynamics.

a group of people having a video conference

Strategies for Adapting Leadership Style:

  • Empathy and Engagement: A leader's role extends beyond managing tasks; it's about engaging with team members on a personal level, understanding their challenges, and providing support.
  • Encouraging Autonomy and Initiative: Successful remote leadership is grounded in empowering team members. By encouraging them to spearhead projects or lead virtual events, leaders nurture a culture of autonomy and belonging, essential for a thriving remote team.
  • Remote Leadership Training: It's crucial for managers to be equipped with skills tailored for remote environments. Training in areas like virtual communication and understanding the nuances of remote team dynamics is vital for effective remote management.
  • Frequent Check-Ins and Recognition: Regular one-on-one meetings are key to tracking progress and tackling challenges head-on. Acknowledging and celebrating team members' achievements is equally important, as it directly correlates with employee morale and retention.
  • Flexible Management Style: Be adaptable in setting goals and open to feedback. Embrace new tools and technologies for remote collaboration.

Adapting leadership and managerial styles to remote work helps create an environment that promotes growth, collaboration, and well-being. It's about more than changing communication methods; it's a redefinition of leadership to suit a remote context. This means leading with empathy, understanding, and a strong commitment to each team member's success, regardless of their location.

Focus On Effective Communication

In remote or hybrid work environments, effective communication is essential. Without face-to-face interactions, clear and consistent communication is necessary to avoid misunderstandings that can disrupt workflow and cause frustration.

 a collage of people smiling

Remote work lacks the non-verbal cues of in-person interactions, making misunderstandings more likely. A study by Fierce shows that 86% of employees and executives attribute workplace failures to poor collaboration or communication. This lack of physical presence can weaken team cohesion and alignment. Poor communication in remote settings can lead to a disconnected team culture. Team members may feel isolated or out of the loop, hindering collaboration and a sense of belonging.

Strategies for Effective Communication:

  • Use a Variety of Tools: Utilize email, chat apps like Slack, project management tools, and video conferencing to cater to different communication preferences and needs.
  • Prioritize Regular Virtual Check-Ins: Consistently hold virtual meetings for updates and discussions. These scheduled interactions are key to fostering team cohesion and ensuring alignment on objectives and progress.
  • Maintain an Open-Door Policy: It is important to have an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback at any time. This policy not only builds trust but also ensures inclusivity and diverse perspectives are valued.
  • Over-Communicate: In a remote setup, err on the side of over-communication. Regularly clarify and reaffirm goals, expectations, and deadlines to ensure everyone is synchronized and informed.

By emphasizing effective communication, remote teams can overcome the challenges of distance, fostering a collaborative and engaged work culture. This approach ensures each team member feels valued and integral to the team's success, enhancing the overall work environment.

Enhance Connection and Collaboration

In remote or hybrid work environments, fostering connection and collaboration is crucial for a positive company culture. It's about more than just completing tasks; it’s about creating an environment where team members feel connected, valued, and engaged.

Remote work often leads to feelings of isolation. A Buffer study found that loneliness is a top challenge for remote workers. This lack of physical interaction can hinder the development of strong interpersonal relationships within the team. A lack of connection and collaboration can result in a disconnected team, where members feel like they are working in silos. This can impact team morale and reduce overall productivity.

Strategies to Foster Connection and Collaboration:

  • Informal Virtual Catch-ups: Encourage non-work-related video calls, like virtual coffee breaks or lunch dates, to mimic office water-cooler conversations.
  • Interest-Based Groups: Create online groups for shared hobbies or interests to help team members connect on a personal level.
  • Virtual Team-Building Activities: Organize online events like trivia nights or themed happy hours to provide a relaxed setting for team members to bond.
  • Use Collaboration Tools: Implement tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Asana for project management and communication. These platforms facilitate easy sharing of ideas and keep the team aligned.
  • Leverage Tech to Build Connection: Innovative tools, like Happy's Coaching Technology Platform, help create opportunities for connection between remote teams. Happy combines behavioral science and AI, creating personalized engagement strategies and improving team communication, fostering a deeper sense of connection among remote workers.
Quote by Brené Brown, "We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering"

A joint study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, professor of Babson College, found that companies encouraging collaborative work are five times more likely to be high-performing. By fostering a culture where team members can collaborate easily and support each other, productivity increases, and the team feels more united and successful. In summary, fostering connection and collaboration in a remote work environment involves creating opportunities for personal interaction and utilizing effective tools for seamless communication. These efforts lead to a more cohesive, engaged, and productive team, enhancing the company's culture and success.

Reinforce Company Values

Maintaining a unified direction and shared purpose in remote or hybrid work environments is crucial. It's important to consistently reinforce company values and objectives to prevent them from becoming diluted without a traditional office setting.

a group of people watching a video call on a screen

In remote workplaces, the absence of physical cues and environments can make it harder to feel connected to the company's ethos. This can lead to a diluted sense of the company's core principles and goals. Without a strong reinforcement of values, remote work culture can lack cohesion and direction, potentially leading to decreased morale and engagement.

Strategies for Reinforcing Values and Goals:

  • Embedding Values in Every Interaction: Successful remote work cultures seamlessly integrate their core values into every touchpoint. By consistently discussing these values during virtual meetings and in all forms of communication, they become deeply ingrained in the company's fabric.
  • Align Actions with Values: It's crucial that a company's policies and practices mirror its declared values. For instance, if innovation is a cornerstone value, it's important to not only encourage but also actively reward creative initiatives and calculated risk-taking among team members.
  • Set Clear, Long-Term Goals: In a remote environment, clearly defined, long-term goals are pivotal. They provide direction and illustrate how each individual's work contributes to the overarching objectives of the company, thereby enhancing engagement and productivity.
  • Values in Performance Metrics: Incorporating core company values into performance reviews solidifies their significance. This method ensures that values are not just theoretical concepts but are actively lived and reflected in everyday work.
  • Celebrate Value-Aligned Successes: Recognizing and celebrating achievements that embody company values is essential. Whether it's through virtual accolades or company-wide communications, these celebrations bolster morale and reaffirm the company's commitment to its values.

By focusing on these strategies, remote teams can maintain a strong connection to company values and goals, fostering a cohesive and motivated work culture. This approach ensures that even without a physical office, the essence of the company's ethos remains a guiding force in daily operations.

Promote Inclusivity

Inclusivity in remote or hybrid workplaces goes beyond being a corporate value; it's crucial for building a thriving, cohesive work environment. Ensuring that every team member, regardless of location, feels included and valued is key to fostering a sense of belonging and respect.

a person holding a phone and smiling while also on a remote meeting on their laptop

Remote work can create barriers to inclusivity. Without physical presence, some team members might feel disconnected or overlooked, which can impact team dynamics and employee morale. Lack of inclusivity in remote settings can lead to a culture where not all voices are equally heard or valued. This can stifle innovation and creativity and may result in lower employee engagement and satisfaction.

Strategies for Promoting Inclusivity:

  • Foster an Inclusive Culture: Ensure that every employee feels they are a vital part of the team. Celebrate diverse backgrounds and experiences to enhance creativity and innovation.
  • Regular Feedback: Use surveys and other feedback tools to understand remote employees' needs. This helps identify areas for improvement and shows employees that their opinions are valued.
  • Equal Access to Opportunities: Provide equal learning, development, and career advancement opportunities to all employees, regardless of their location. This approach is proven to enhance company performance and employee satisfaction.
  • Inclusive Communication: Use language and communication methods considerate of all genders, cultures, and backgrounds. Make company communications accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.
  • Mentorship and Support: Implement mentorship programs and support networks to help remote employees feel connected and supported, offering avenues for personal and professional growth.

Promoting inclusivity in remote work environments is essential for creating a supportive, productive, and resilient organization. When all team members feel included and valued, it leads to higher engagement, job satisfaction, and overall success. Implementing these strategies helps overcome the challenges of remote work and builds a more inclusive, dynamic work culture.

Supporting Employee Growth and Engagement

Fostering employee growth and engagement in digital workspaces demands innovative approaches. Without a physical office, it's vital for organizations to ensure employees grow professionally and stay connected to their work and colleagues.

The digital workspace lacks the natural interactions and learning opportunities found in a physical office. This can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection, hindering professional growth and engagement. A lack of engagement and growth opportunities in remote settings can result in a stagnant work culture. Employees might feel less motivated, impacting their productivity and overall job satisfaction.

Strategies for Supporting Growth and Engagement:

  • Tailored Development Programs: Offer personalized development plans through digital platforms, like online courses, webinars, and virtual workshops. For instance, Google offers a range of educational resources and programs through its Grow with Google initiative. This initiative includes various online courses, digital skills training, and professional certificates aimed at helping individuals grow their skills and advance their careers.
  • Work-Life Balance Initiatives: Implement flexible working hours to help employees manage their time effectively, contributing to their well-being and overall productivity. This approach allows team members to balance professional responsibilities with personal life, fostering a healthier and more engaged workforce.
  • Encourage Self-Driven Projects: Allow employees to initiate their own projects. This boosts autonomy, nurtures "intrapreneurial" skills, and creates a culture valuing innovation.
  • Regular Virtual Check-ins: Managers should conduct regular check-ins for guidance and feedback. This keeps communication clear and ensures employees feel supported in their professional journey.
  • Invest In Your People: Leveraging technology in remote work setups creates a culture that is productive, inclusive, and engaging. It bridges the physical distance gap, ensuring team members feel connected and valued. For example, Happy uses behavioral science & AI to build a user manual for your entire team in less than 10 minutes. It enhances organizational culture, communication and manager effectiveness at scale – making your people your competitive advantage.

Adopting these strategies can transform the challenges of remote work into opportunities for employee growth and engagement. By focusing on tailored development, work-life balance, autonomy, and regular feedback, companies can foster a dynamic and supportive digital work environment.

Mastering the Art of Remote Company Culture

The ability to adapt and innovate your company culture is more than just a necessity. It is a defining characteristic of successful, forward-thinking organizations. Culture has to be deliberate and intentional. It is multi-layered and needs to be integrated thoughtfully into each aspect of the business. This is even more true when working with remote and hybrid teams.

In a nutshell, cultivating a vibrant company culture in a remote setting is an art that intertwines defined values, robust communication, and empathetic leadership. It's about creating a virtual environment where every team member feels valued, connected, and motivated to contribute to the collective success of the organization.

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