Creating remote working success with a positive company culture

The pandemic has placed culture under pressure. With lockdown an all too familiar expression, businesses cannot afford to adopt a passive approach to culture. Stephen Line, VP EMEA, Cloudera explores where to begin and what to do to reignite and drive team motivation.

It is a proven fact that culture is critical to business success, vital for attracting and retaining talent as well as ensuring team motivation. Culture can determine who will invest in your organisation and even who will do business with you. Despite its clear business value, the pandemic has placed culture under pressure.

According to recent research, 35 percent of companies have not held a virtual team culture event during the COVID-19 outbreak, and 39 percent of employees are feeling a lack of motivation due to poor company guidance during the disruption. With lockdown an all too familiar expression, and likely more long-term restrictions in the future, businesses cannot afford to adopt a passive approach culture. The question is where to begin and what to do to reignite it, and drive team motivation?

Leading by example

Before businesses start implementing initiatives to maintain culture remotely, they need to get the leadership team on board. At a time when our workspaces and places of relaxation are increasingly merging, people must establish a healthy work-life-balance to avoid burnout and a drop in their productivity. However, staff will not be inclined to switch off and step away if leadership isn’t leading by example. This is why it is key for those more senior to put into practice what they expect of their employees and drive a more positive company culture.

At Cloudera, we have established the ‘Cloudera WFH Code’ which encourages people to follow a common set of guidelines that help set the tone for working remotely. Most importantly, the code seeks to recognise that everyone copes differently. Whilst some people are good with working from home, others find it more challenging, and that’s OK. Therefore, our approach supports flexibility for personal needs and encourages staff to check in with each other frequently. Having this core code means that employees are left feeling supported and unified as a team, even as they remain working remotely. The leadership team also created ‘Unplugged’ days, where Clouderans are given the day, and sometimes days, off — outside of their standard holiday allowance, providing the opportunity to switch off.

Turning good intentions into meaningful actions

A culture led by a leadership team, while crucial, is only half the story. For businesses to truly succeed at creating and preserving a strong company culture, whilst working remotely, initiatives must be under continual review. Enterprises need to focus on putting sustainable cultural initiatives in place that align with the changing needs of their employees. Here are some factors for executive leadership teams and HR to consider during cultural planning cycles:

Establish boundaries for employees

As a result of remote working, the distinction between home and work is blurred. In fact, according to Buffer, 22 percent of people revealed that they cannot unplug after work. As such, businesses must implement measures to establish boundaries for their employees. By creating strategies that actively encourage workers to switch off, organisations can ensure their staff are receiving the much needed time to recharge and remain productive when expected to work. This could be additional days off, or it can be built into the working day, such as power hours at lunchtime or other times during the day to give individuals time to decompress.

Invest in the means to allow for over-communication

Remote working has resulted in a loss of informal conversations, in which discussions could produce unexpected ideas and offer a completely new perspective on how to approach a challenge. When it is also taken into consideration that 46 percent of UK workers have reported feeling lonely during lockdown, businesses must encourage online versions of these interactions. Alongside more frequent Town Hall meetings with varied content from across the business, leadership teams, working with HR, should consider sharing a weekly or monthly e-newsletter. These missives connect employees to each other through shared success, top tips, virtual events and company news.

Mix things up a little

In most companies, employees spend the majority of their time interacting with the same subset of colleagues, within the same department or with the friends they have made. In fact, they often only interact with new colleagues at ‘in person’ events or conferences. You remember those right? Break out rooms are capabilities provided by most online video conference tools; this is an ideal forum to create an environment for people to meet different colleagues from different departments, functions, offices or countries. Apart from broadening informal social circles, it’s a great opportunity to learn about people’s skills and interests both inside and outside of work, as well as providing professional growth opportunities.

Reinvigorate creativity and support wellbeing

Two in five people (39 percent) report that maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps them cope with the stress of the pandemic. The thing is, everybody de-stresses, finds motivation, and thrives in different environments. To this end, businesses need to consider how best they can support employees in maintaining their wellbeing and staying creative, as they remain limited in their ability to change locations. That could be free yoga memberships or virtual cooking classes. It doesn’t have to be costly: even a meeting-free day can help motivate teams. In doing so, enterprises will open up the door to spark creativity amongst employees and create a genuinely caring culture in which staff know their employer is invested in their wellbeing.

Review your cultural values and set up a culture committee

I have deliberately placed this point at the end, but when was the last time your organisation reviewed its cultural values or code? Regardless of remote working for a moment, do they still reflect and support the company mission? Do you have a Culture Committee to take the cultural pulse of your company? This should have an executive sponsor outside of HR and have a slot at the executive staff meeting at least once a quarter. If you are worried about how your employees are feeling about your culture or if they still believe in the values — ask. Focus groups are a great way of driving collaboration, engagement across the business, and most importantly getting feedback on how people are feeling about your culture.

Putting culture at the heart of the business

There is no doubt that constant cultural change is hard. However, for the leaders that are investing in creating a sense of community and belonging now, the pay off will be big long-term. Positive company culture will not only boost motivation and increase productivity, it will also set your enterprise up for future success. An organisation can describe a positive culture but it’s a living thing only realised by its employees. It needs to be nurtured and cultivated, and now more than ever, this has to start with the leadership.