By: Liesa Stecher-Chief Growth Officer at Addition.
The global pandemic presented many challenges to the business landscape. Companies have had to pivot quickly to stay afloat. For many, this included transitioning from brick-and-mortar to ecommerce, boosting online presence, and supporting staff with working from home.
Working remotely has lessened commuting time and office utility bills. And according to the vast majority of feedback, it’s actively boosted productivity – or at the very least, it hasn’t had a significant negative impact on employee ability to deliver.
With the success of the vaccine programme, pandemic restrictions are beginning to ease. And while some employers are eager to haul their staff back to the office (and some employees are just as eager to be hauled), others will be keeping their remote working model in place. After all, if it works, it works (pun intended).
The benefits of working from home for both employee and employer have been covered extensively – as have the potential challenges. However, it’s entirely possible to foster a positive company culture, whilst keeping a hybrid or fully remote work model in place.
At Addition, our team of 10+ employees have benefited from hybrid working even before the pandemic hit.
Here are some of our top strategies for nurturing a thriving remote workplace culture.
1. Be Adaptable
Adaptability is the soft skill of the future. This applies to employees and employers alike. In a team member, you’ll want someone who takes a flexible approach to their job role. That’s not to say you should expect them to be a jack of all trades. But an ability to ‘think fast’ and roll with unexpected changes is a must in today’s unstable climate. As an employer, you should do the same. Restrictions are still present, and the rules are still in flux. Understand how this could affect your employees, and adapt your approach accordingly.
There’s nothing worse than a micromanager. However, the opposite – an absent one – is just as harmful. Regardless of where you’re working from, make sure you check in regularly with your team. Ask them how they’re getting on, if they need anything from you, and even update them as to what you’re currently working on. It’s important that your team knows where and how to reach you, if needed, as well as that you’re pulling your weight and contributing to the workload too.
Perhaps the leading discussion point around remote working is the factor of trust. Employers who struggle with placing full confidence in their team will have a tough time creating a positive remote work culture. Avoid hyper-vigilant and intrusive measures such as screen activity apps or other monitoring software where possible. This is a surefire way to turn your workplace culture toxic, fast. If productivity is lagging, bring your team into the discussion to solve the issue. But if you don’t trust your employees to work without constant management, why did you hire them to begin with?
The word ‘presenteeism’ now leaves a sour taste in the mouth of most employees. The rigid approach to 8 hour workdays is swiftly losing relevance. Instead, employers are focusing on output-driven work models. Results – not hours at a desk – are what should matter. Set clear goals for the day, week and month (involving your employees in this process as much as possible) and then let your team crack on with it. If the goals are met by their deadline, and the work is completed to a satisfactory level, it really shouldn’t matter how long they were glued to their desks.
The importance of including employees in decision-making has already been touched on. Without face-to-face interaction, it can be harder to assess how someone is really feeling about a situation. Touch base with your team frequently – both as a unit and individually – to see what’s working and what isn’t. Schedule 15-minute catch-ups with each team member that are non work-related, to stay connected on a personal level. Set targets together as much as possible. Your employees will be much more motivated to reach goals that they have been involved in creating.
No two situations – or people – are the same. Do your best to understand and accommodate the challenges of your team wherever possible. Some may have childcare or caring responsibilities. Others might have mental or physical health issues. Access to quiet workspaces or high-speed internet is another factor to consider. If you’re able to offer the choice between coming into work or working from home, do so. Flexible hours also make a big difference to those with care commitments, and for those suffering with health conditions, they often have some idea of steps that could be taken. Knowing they can come to you with potential issues will encourage loyalty, productivity and job satisfaction in your team.
Examining popular aspects of ‘office culture’, social interaction tends to top the list. Many people who are otherwise happy working from home admit to missing after-work drinks, lunch with coworkers, company social events and just general ‘banter’. Create a space where your team can interact socially, such as a Whatsapp group or Slack channel. Keep them connected through virtual events such as online quiz nights and competitions. Celebrate successes as a team. If you’ve saved money on costs due to remote working, why not allocate that portion of your budget to rewarding your employees? For example, at Addition, we send monthly gifts to each team member. Show appreciation and keep that bond engaged.
Pandemic restrictions will continue to ease, but an en-masse return to full-time office work is unlikely to happen. The myth that hybrid and remote work models are hotbeds of complacency has been dispelled. Employees will look for workplaces that are flexible, results-driven and engaging. Applying the tips listed in this article will not only help your current team to thrive – it will help your business attract (and retain) high-quality performers who will make your company a success!
Liesa Stecher is Chief Growth Officer at Addition, a London-based financial services firm giving small businesses the insights of big corporations. Liesa has worked in top-tier roles for brands including Conde Nast International and Zara, as well as startups like Lumen and Spring. She is committed to fostering a progressive, flexible remote work culture.