What’s Remote Work Doing to Your Culture?

By Kristen Harris

Remember the day when you first heard “shelter-in-place” or “lockdown” (Words of an Unprecedented Year)? Yeah, me too. I’ll always remember leaving the office that Friday with a few things, assuming we’d be back in soon. I’ve been working from home for almost a year now. And, whenever it’s deemed safe to do so, don’t expect being “back in the office” to look exactly the same as before. That genie is not going back in the bottle. 

The truth is, before 2020, we saw companies becoming more open to remote and flexible work for the creative, marketing, and technology roles we fill. Portfolio Creative was doing it too–we have team members who live in other cities, and our whole team had the option to work from home a day or two per week. However, for most companies, when remote or flexible work was allowed, it was still on a limited basis and only for specific roles. 

What held them back? Technology wasn’t an issue; many people had the tools available to complete their work from anywhere. The real concern most companies had was how remote work would impact their culture. Managers and business leaders had many, many questions mostly along these lines:

  • How will I manage my team when I never see them?

  • How do I know what people are getting done?

  • Will they be doing their job the right way?

  • How do I clearly communicate what needs to be done?

  • What if I can’t reach someone when I need them?

  • Will people pay attention during video meetings?

  • How will team members interact with each other?

  • Will my employees be engaged or slacking off?

  • Are they doing personal tasks during work hours?

  • How do we onboard and train someone new?

Which really all boils down to this…

  • Do I trust my people, and do they trust me?

Despite all of the turmoil and emotional distress of 2020, a recent CHG Healthcare survey found that working from home did not negatively impact company culture nearly as much as you might think. 54% of their survey respondents said that their company’s culture remained the same–and 20% said it actually improved!

What contributed to these results? Respondents who said company culture had improved attributed it increased transparency and communication, maintaining employee benefits and salaries, and better leadership support. Pause on that for a moment…some people felt they had better leadership support working from home than when they were in the office! Conversely, of the people who said company culture had decreased, nearly one-third cited poor leadership support, and 25% pointed to lack of communication and transparency. 

What’s the moral of this story? A vast majority of respondents (89%) said that strong company culture can be maintained while working from home. However, this requires putting a high priority on communication, transparency, and leadership support. If you trust your team members, and they trust you, then work can be accomplished from anywhere. 

One more thing about team engagement–people really show their true colors when forced to go through a crisis. I’ve been continually amazed and grateful by how our team members responded throughout 2020 and continue to do so as we head into 2021. There’s nothing like a crisis to show whether you have the right people in the right seats within your company. Our team works hard to build trust with each other; it’s like depositing to a savings account, so there’s a balance to draw from when you need it.

Need to add the right person in the right seat for your team? Contact us, our amazing team is always here to help!