10 Ways You Can Maintain Your Company’s Culture in a Virtual Work Environment
Virtual Work Options Are Here to Stay
We’ve seen dramatic change to how businesses operate over the past two years. Businesses that were adamantly opposed to remote or even hybrid work arrangements were thrust into virtual work models. Contrary to what many business leaders and managers thought would happen, workers did not shirk their responsibilities and their productivity actually improved.
In addition to more productivity workforces, businesses saw other benefits. Those embracing virtual work environments in 2022 and beyond see capital expenditure (CapEx) reductions as they no longer need some to all of their permanent office space. Recruiting and keeping top talent is much easier. Businesses recruit based on candidate skills and work experience rather than geographic location. There is a good reasons for this approach: Many professional workers are willing to quit their jobs and look for new employment in instances where employees are demanding a return to work five days a week, eight hours a day from fixed workspaces.
Virtual Work Environment—The Flexibility Workers Want
Some organizations have elected to dump fixed workspace altogether and embraced 100% virtual work arrangements. The majority are utilizing hybrid work arrangements—where some to all fixed workspace was retained but workers are given the flexibility to work a portion of the work week virtually. Before the pandemic, many businesses had invested significant time and resources to foster unique company culture. The sudden shift to a virtual workforce disrupted these efforts—and company culture is different for a virtual workforce versus one that works from a fixed workspace.
Ways to Build Company Culture in Virtual Work Environments
Per an article in the Harvard Business Review, businesses seeking to produce outcomes that differentiate themselves from competitors must “define a unique culture that cultivates the necessary kinds of employee attitudes and behaviors. So, what are some of the things that a business can do to create a “winning” company culture? Following are some of the different ways to do so:
One of the outcomes from remote work from home during the pandemic is the importance of communications. This is especially critical for employees who previously went to a fixed workspace every day, or most days, of the week. Communications should occur over multiple channels—from the company instant messaging and collaboration tool, to email, to video conferencing. As the pandemic recedes and groups can meet in person, companies should think about periodic in-person meetings. Rented meeting rooms like Davinci Meeting Rooms are a great option here, even for businesses that still have physical office space. They come with all of the presentation and collaboration tools, administrative support, lobby greeters, and food and beverage services to facilitate a great company meeting.
2. Use the Right Video Communications Tools
While there are many similarities between online video communications tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and others, there are also some distinct differences. Organizations need to understand the preferences of their workers and business requirements (e.g., how clients want to interact, integrations with other collaboration and project management tools, etc.) when selecting the right video communications tool. Further, video communications tools need to enable and not inhibit company culture.
3. Use the Right Collaboration Tools
Collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams play an important role in company culture. For example, Slack comes with a broader selection of emojis than Microsoft Teams. For some businesses, these are part of their company culture.
4. Leverage Project Management Tools
Businesses and teams that attempt to manage projects on spreadsheets are setting themselves up for potential failure and certainly inefficiencies. Like video communications tools, there are a number of great project management tools such as Asana, Monday.com, Wrike, Basecamp, and others. Configuring and setting these with the right notifications and workflows is important; if a project management tool isn’t configured correctly, businesses will struggle with adoption rates and inefficiencies (the two go hand in hand).
5. Document Virtual Work Policies
Many businesses documented virtual work policies when they switched to remote work due to the pandemic. Yet, others simply assumed that their workforce policies for fixed, on-premises work arrangements sufficed for virtual work environments. However, this is faulty thinking; virtual workers need parameters around the hours they need to work, when and if they can take time off during the day for a short walk and other forms of exercise, lunch, and errands, how they should manage between work requirements and childcare and family activities, and other personal issues.
6. Communicate with Job Candidates
Jobseekers need to understand what will be expected of them in the role for which they are interviewing. Clearly demarcating boundaries and expectations enable businesses to eliminate candidates who have certain requirements and expectations that do not align with company culture. Candidates who know they are not a good fit for a company can withdraw before there is significant time investment on their part and that of the company that is interviewing them.
7. Implement Coaching/Mentoring
Just as businesses should not assume that coaching and mentoring will take place in fixed workspace environments, they should do the same in virtual work arrangements. As a starting point, managers need to be given the tools and training to coach and mentor their employees. Performance reviews need to include coaching and mentoring.
8. Measure Results
Businesses must measure the results of workers—whether they are on-premises or virtual. Workers need to understand how they are measured and given the ability to quickly and easily track and report on their progress. As part of this process, managers need to identify successes and failings, celebrating successes and providing coaching in areas where improvement is needed.
9. Provide Virtual Workspace Options
Not all workers excel in work-from-home arrangements. Loneliness and lack of connectivity with other professionals are a problem for some. This is where virtual office solutions such as coworking space and day offices through providers like Davinci Meeting Rooms are a great option. For congested metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, the greater Seattle area, and others, coworking space and day offices may be a great alternative for those in the workforce that live a long commute distance/time from the company office.
10. Brand Your Company Culture
Without a clear brand identify for your company where the mission and values are codified, it is difficult—if not impossible—to build a lasting company culture. Denise Lee Yohn argues that building a unique company culture goes beyond aspirations; it must align and integrate with a desired brand identity—how an organization wants to be perceived and experienced by customers and other external stakeholders. When a company culture is aligned and integrated with brand identity, employees will make decisions and take actions that deliver on the company’s brand promise.
If your company lacks brand clarity, now is the time to go through the exercise to define why you exist and what core values matter to your organization. Even for companies with documented mission statements, values, and brand voice, brand identity may need to be refreshed due to the pandemic and how it changed the ways we work, communicate, sell, market, and operate.
Company Culture Must Adapt and Evolve
Company culture is not static but rather dynamic. When faced with dramatic changes resulting from the pandemic, company culture must evolve and shift to meet new experiences of the workforce. While working remotely, many employees experienced significant changes—adjustments in work-life balance, use of new technologies, autonomy, trust, empowerment, and much more. To be truly effective and meaningful, a company culture must shift to accommodate these changes. Businesses that maintain their company culture through the pandemic (whenever the end may occur) will not simply do one thing but rather many things. The 10 above recommendations are intended as a starting point and not a comprehensive checklist.