Does Working Remotely Affect Company Culture ?

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Management

In my 22 years of recruitment I have heard many reasons for leaving from my candidates. From “better prospects”, “career advancement”, “relocation”…right down to “I did not like the smell of the place”. But one that I repeatedly hear is “LACK OF CULTURE FIT”. What does this mean?

The textbook response is something along the lines of – “A company’s culture defines the values of the organisation and the way in which staff behave or are expected to behave” – Maintaining a balance between the company’s expectation and the employee’s counter expectation is the ultimate challenge.

South Africa is a uniquely interesting place to live and work in. With 11 official languages and each of those having their own similar, but ultimately differing ‘culture’. Throw in religion and political affiliation and you can see how a ‘culture fit’ is so important in putting together a successful team that will bring out the best in each other and in turn bring about the success of any organisation.

Over the years the structure of the workplace has changed and today most organisations have moved from individual offices to an open-plan office environment. This, in turn, has changed how people interact, co-operate and communicate with one another – a sociological petri dish – where the behaviour of one individual affects those around him or her.

“A company ought to be a community, a community that you belong to, like a village,” 

The ‘look and feel’ of our work environment is important as this is where most of our time is spent and a strong culture contributes to the company’s brand. Happy employees make the best brand ambassadors – in this age of social media one positive social media post goes a lot further than most marketing strategies.  

A strong corporate culture makes the workplace more appealing to potential employees and helps retain the best talent. This helps in the hiring process and reduces staff turnover. When you factor in the cost of recruiting, training and disrupting the productivity of your team, it makes perfect sense to create a workplace environment that people will not want to leave. As the Irish organisational culture leader, Charles Handy said “A company ought to be a community, a community that you belong to, like a village,” 

We choose the village we live in, so too should we choose the place we work at.  Regardless of how hard an individual works or how committed they are, if they feel that they are at odds with the culture fit of the company they will not stay there for the long-term.

As more and more people are working remotely from either their home or a coffee shop – the company culture fit seems to have loosened somewhat. Now that you are not constantly in one another’s space, your fellow workers’ idiocentric behaviour is not as unbearable as it was when you were seated between them at the office.  People are more focused on the actual work rather than where they work. Recent surveys show that a higher percentage of workers will change jobs for the opportunity to work off site more often and in many instances remote working opportunities are not just a luxury, they are a standard feature.

If you employ people you trust, then trust the people you’ve employed.

Although more conservative managers may point out that remote working will affect the employee’s output. Claiming that employees will ‘slack off’, become unproductive and disconnect with team members if they are not constantly watched. This is not necessarily true. Employee productivity does not have to suffer because they work away from the company’s offices.

If you employ people you trust, then trust the people you’ve employed. As long as remote work is a realistic option for your business and you put the right guidelines in place, you may just find the results are anything but unproductive.

Here are three important considerations when it comes to building, maintaining, and cultivating culture in a remote-work environment:

Ensure Technology is in Place

Make sure your remote staff have the necessary tech in place – you don’t want the lack of connectivity to be a running excuse when deadlines are not met. There are numerous platforms that can be put in place from communication (like Slack or WhatsApp for Business), project management tools (such as Trello or Asana), to document sharing (Google docs). All of these enable real-time collaboration.

Institute Regular “Face time” 

Develop a routine whereby you meet up as a team or have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. For remote workers, this is the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening around the company. For managers, it ensures they know how employees are doing and whether they are achieving their deliverables. Don’t just do it over text or instant message. Seeing faces and hearing voices will  strengthen the employee/team/employer bond.

Coach Remote Employees

Don’t just assume that a person’s productivity will automatically transfer from the office to their remote site. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. To ensure people can operate well on their own, show them how to. Train them to communicate regularly in order to manage expectations, develop routines that support their work/life balance and help them set up a customized home work station that best suits their style.

Working off site need not be the end of the road for either employee productivity or organizational culture. If this is done well, you can attract and retain hi-performing talent, maintain positiveness through flexibility and optimize employee performance by removing workplace ‘politics’.

At the end of the day culture is not a place. It is a mindset.

Published by Luisa Da Silva, Property Executive Recruiter, 010 593 4901

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Ability Recruitment was established with the aim of providing personalized and quality driven executive staffing services within an ever-changing environment. For over a decade , we have provided our recruitment services for some of the top companies in South Africa and around the globe. Read more

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