The world is changing at an unprecedented pace, and the workplace is no exception. In the past few years, companies across the globe have embraced remote work, and the trend has only accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A dispersed workforce, once the exception, has become the norm. Companies that had been resistant to remote work were suddenly forced to adapt, and many quickly realized the benefits of flexible working arrangements.
However, with the rise of remote work, businesses face new challenges in building and sustaining their corporate culture. When employees are working from different locations, sometimes even different time zones, it can be difficult to create a cohesive team that shares a common mission and values. In this long-form blog, we’ll explore what it takes to build and sustain culture in a dispersed workforce.
Defining Corporate Culture
Before we dive into the specifics of dispersed workforce culture, let’s take a moment to define what we mean by corporate culture. Culture is a set of values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that define an organization. It’s more than just a mission statement or a list of core values on a website. Culture is the way things are done, the way decisions are made, and the way people interact within an organization.
Corporate culture can be a powerful force for good, driving employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity. A strong culture can help attract and retain top talent and differentiate a company from its competitors. On the other hand, a toxic culture can drive away employees, harm productivity, and damage a company’s reputation.
Challenges of Dispersed Workforce Culture
When employees are working together in the same physical space, camaraderie and team spirit can develop naturally. But when people are working from different locations, creating a sense of belonging and shared mission can be challenging. Here are some of the most common challenges a dispersed workforce faces when building and sustaining a shared culture:
- Lack of physical proximity: When employees are spread out, it’s harder to develop relationships and trust. Body language, shared laughs, and impromptu conversations are missed when working remotely.
- Communication barriers: Effective communication is key to building culture in a dispersed workforce. However, there are often communication barriers when working remotely, such as different time zones, technological glitches or even language barriers.
- Different work environments: Everyone has their own work environment, with different home office setups, distractions, and schedules. This makes it more challenging to establish a shared work culture.
- Reduced socialization: When employees don’t work in the same office, important events like birthdays, team lunches or office happy hours can’t take place. These seemingly small events can have a big impact on building culture.
Now that we’ve identified some of the key challenges of building and sustaining culture in a dispersed workforce, let’s discuss some strategies for overcoming these obstacles.
Creating Shared Values
One way to build a strong and cohesive culture in a dispersed workforce is to establish a set of shared values. Values are the beliefs and principles that guide an organization’s actions and decisions. When employees share a common set of values, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and purpose.
Creating shared values starts with involving employees in the development process. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews, or focus groups. Once the values have been identified, they should be communicated frequently and consistently, such as through email, video conferencing, or company-wide documentation.
One powerful way to reinforce shared values is by recognizing employees who embody them. This can take the form of public recognition, awards, or regular shoutouts in team meetings or newsletters. When employees see that their work is aligned with the company’s values, they are more likely to feel a sense of pride and fulfillment.
Effective communication is essential for building culture in a dispersed workforce. When employees are working from different locations, it’s important to establish clear channels of communication and provide the necessary tools and resources.
First and foremost, it’s critical to establish regular communication channels. This can take the form of weekly team meetings, monthly check-ins with managers, or even daily huddles. Using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts can help replicate the experience of face-to-face meetings.
Another important aspect of communication in a dispersed workforce is documentation. When employees are working remotely, it’s important to provide clear guidelines and protocols for communication, such as email etiquette or file-sharing procedures. Documenting these procedures can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure consistent communication.
Establishing a Positive Work Environment
When employees are working from different locations, it’s important to establish a sense of community and connection. This can be done by creating virtual spaces where employees can socialize and collaborate.
One effective way to create a positive work environment is by establishing a company-wide intranet or online portal. This can be used to share announcements, news, and updates, as well as to offer resources like tutorials or training materials. Additionally, an online portal can be used to build a sense of community through discussion boards, chat rooms, and virtual social events.
Another way to build a positive work environment is through regular team building activities. While traditional office activities like happy hours or team lunches may not be possible, there are still plenty of ways to foster team morale. Activities like virtual trivia games, online scavenger hunts, or even social media challenges can all be effective ways to build team spirit.
Building and sustaining culture in a dispersed workforce takes time, effort, and a commitment to effective communication and collaboration. By setting shared values, fostering communication, and creating a positive work environment, organizations can create a strong and cohesive culture that drives employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity.
Companies that are able to build a strong culture in a dispersed workforce will be well-positioned to attract and retain top talent, differentiate themselves from competitors, and succeed in the rapidly evolving world of work.