How To Change Your Distant Organizational Tradition
Tips to keep your system working
Remote work is here to stay. Many organizations have found that working remotely increases morale and productivity while reducing costs. They will incorporate some sort of permanent remote working option even as vaccines become more widely available. Some of these remote work schedules are full time and some are a few days a week. In either case, many of us are grappling with developing a vision for our company’s remote work protocols that aligns with the larger company’s roles and values.
The remote organizational culture plays a big role in how remote work will look like as the world adapts to our new normal. It may seem difficult to develop the culture of a group of employees across the country, but with a little practice it is possible and important to a sustainable, effective remote working system.
Start from the top
Anytime you think about organizational culture, you can’t go very far without the buy-in of executives. Managers and executives set the tone for the company and the teams, and if they’re not embraced by a great remote work culture, no one will. Whenever you make changes to your remote work, be sure to briefly explain what’s going on and how you can demonstrate new cultural norms. Ask leadership to enforce these norms on those who work under them. And most importantly, convince them why these standards are important to the organization.
Set clear expectations
In order to have a uniform organizational culture, everyone has to be on the same page. Remote working expectations must be clear and specific, practical and enforceable. Does your team have to work the same hours to function effectively? Make this an expectation. Don’t you care if your employees earn their own hours? This is also important to make this clear. Otherwise, employees will not be sure of their flexibility, leading to nervous employees and inconsistent practices.
Make sure the expectations make sense for your team. You should be able to provide specific reasons why they are there or employees could get angry. For example, when employees don’t see that they are available at 9 a.m. punctually every day, they feel like they are being micromanaged in their own four walls, even though they are good employees. Impractical rules may include trying to enforce certain dress codes (employees are smart enough to hide when they wear sweatpants) or asking employees not to be available to their children during the day.
A great way to communicate these expectations is with some type of training module that can be revised later or used as onboarding material for new employees. Learner and development professionals know how to communicate information clearly and in a way that stays that way so that you can avoid gray areas.
Balancing accountability with trust
Accountability is necessary. If you have an employee who keeps missing appointments, working remotely may not be the best solution for them. But trust is also important. Just because you can’t see your people doesn’t mean they don’t work hard and invest in your team. Employees who feel untrustworthy are more likely to have low morale or to feel uninvested in company goals. It is also likely that a communication barrier will be created between you and your team.
In most work situations, there is no need to force employees to record how they spend their time or ask them to show off on the Slack channel every time they step away from their computer, and this can even affect productivity . Such micromanagement practices are unhealthy.
Using project management tools to keep track of tasks and deadlines, or regular but infrequent team check-ins, are far more sensible measures to maintain accountability without your employees feeling like they’d rather be looking over their shoulders all the time.
One way to strike a balance between accountability and trust in your team is to try out new project management tools together. Trello and Slack are no longer the be-all and end-all of teamwork tools. Perhaps there is an option that will work well for your team and provide the right level of accountability while your people are independent.
Training executives on effective remote work management can be an important step in advancing your corporate culture. Leadership instincts may be to keep an eye on people, but working remotely requires building trust in a team. Training can help managers suppress bad instincts and learn different strategies for working with their team.
Some organizations are more likely than others to expect their employees to be on call outside of normal working hours. However, speaking with your team to develop boundaries that make sense for your particular workflow is an important step in creating a remote work culture. When employees feel that work is interfering with their private life, they feel stressed and take organizational culture less seriously in order to deal mentally with work and make a distinction between work and private life. Examples of boundaries that work for your team can include:
- Set hours without email
- Don’t expect team members to reply to Slack messages when they are out of the office
- I don’t expect team members to work when they’re sick
- Allow team members to turn off their cameras on low-stakes video calls
- Don’t expect team members to see the group message or reply to emails on vacation days or weekends
- Allow team members to mute the group message when they are focused
- Don’t expect team members to give out personal phone numbers or receive other work messages on their phones
- I don’t expect team members to reply to messages over lunch
- Allow team members to wear casual clothing during internal video calls
Every distant organizational culture is unique
Ultimately, every organization will have different needs for a healthy remote working culture. These requirements depend on the organizational values, the personalities of the team members, and the industry – and each of these things should be fully considered. However, without exception, the tips above will help you find a working system. The buy-in of executives, clear expectations and the development of trust and boundaries are important for any corporate culture in remote work.