7 Tactics to extend the reach of your company’s culture
The latest coronavirus announcements from the UK government have left employers in no doubt that the UK economy is likely to be under restrictive measures for at least another six months. For many companies, this means extending the life of their now remote teams.
Most companies adapted rapidly and successfully to the initial lockdown. They took immediate action to enable their employees to work from home. Remote working tolls were deployed at pace. But this was only the first hurdle.
As we move forward, there are signs that remote working could fracture teams. Collaborative tools help people to work together remotely, but it remains incumbent upon leaders and managers to build the trust that is needed for teams to do so. How to build this trust in remote teams is the challenge that companies are now facing.
The effect of remote working on remote workers
Most of the people now working from home did not volunteer to do so. While initially embracing the idea, these people are effectively guinea pigs in a global experiment. As we have progressed with this experiment, empirical evidence suggests that companies will have to work hard to continue to get the best work from their remote employees:
- Liberty Mind notes that working from home can become a 'barrier to productivity for some'
- A survey by Protect Your Bubble reveals that 85% of UK workers slack off when working from home
- Deloitte note how ‘remote X’ organisations tend to ‘have organisational cultures that do not favour remote work, due to unfamiliarity, mistrust, or scepticism of employees’ productivity while working remotely’
- A study by the Advanced Workplace Institute warns that ‘without active management to respond to changes in working, team dynamics are at risk with a knock-on effect on both employee happiness and performance’
As employees work remotely, how do you stop your culture becoming remote?
A company’s culture and its core values are embedded within the fabric of the workplace. As employees become scattered, it becomes difficult for employees to remain aligned with that culture.
Working remotely, employees become disconnected and only talk when it is necessary. They lack the constant feedback loops that underpin a culture of teamwork, motivation, and collaboration. A void develops into which ideas that would have materialised in the workplace become lost. Managers are not readily available, and the reassuring and motivating ‘pat on the back’ disappears.
For companies to continue to thrive with remote teams that didn’t exist just a few months ago, they must uncover ways to extend their culture to where they have extended their technology. Here are seven actions that leaders should be taking to achieve this.
- Be available and approachable
Managers must be available, replicating their availability in the workplace. Companies should build in a communication method that is akin to employees ‘knocking on their manager’s door’.
- Meet with your team daily
A daily, virtual team meeting allows the team to get together and the manager to provide clear guidance that empowers greater collaboration and community.
- Meet with your employees regularly
Get to know your employees. Take a walk in their shoes to better understand their individual challenges, fears, family issues, and pressures from their work. Remote workers are likely to be more vulnerable. They are also likely to display skills and strengths that you never realised they possessed.
- Trust your people
Now that employees are no longer present and performance cannot be monitored in person, managers must show they trust people to get their work done. Allow people more freedom to work when they are most productive (within the parameters set) and move away from ‘time at desk’ to ‘productivity achieved'.
- Be collaborative with individuals
In your virtual one-to-ones, take a more collaborative approach to task delegation. Consider the requirements of the team, but within this consider individual strengths to decide on tailored task packages. Pay attention to how you manage individual employees as well as the team.
- Encourage employees to 'participate'
In virtual meetings and when working remotely, nonverbal communication is removed from the conversation. It is therefore important that managers encourage their people to voice ideas and points of view. This helps people to understand the challenges that others are experiencing and offer solutions that may evolve into best practices. This also encourages employees to be accountable and take ownership for unclaimed tasks.
- Ensure that your people remain your priority
Focus on ensuring the wellbeing of your people. Be authentic and empathetic. Address their concerns and share your feelings with your team. Establish a healthy work/life balance for all.
Build a trusting and productive remote team
The shift to working from home with remote, dispersed teams has been rapid. The first challenge was enabling this shift by adopting and embedding collaborative technologies. Now the serious work begins. While technology enables teamwork and collaboration, leaders and managers are the ones who must facilitate it.
The seven actions outlined above will help companies do what is the most difficult yet critical component of effective leadership of remote teams – extending the reach of your company’s culture from workplace into the home.
Building Trust in Remote Teams is one of Primeast's Scaling Talent workshops, a portfolio of flexible, modular training programmes designed to develop skills and talent across organisations.
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Developing Culture is one element of Primeast's Prime Leadership portfolio which also includes Leadership Development and Alignment & Engagement programmes.
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