Guest post by Gemma Church
Flexible working is a wonderful thing. Research reveals it gives staff a better work/life balance and attracts the best talent into your business – but how can you ensure your company culture is retained when your staff are scattered to the four winds?
It’s not an easy task – but it is a necessary one as 75% of the US labour force is predicted to be remote by 2020.
Company culture is also a vital component for any successful business. It will provide your staff with a great employee experience and this directly affects your bottom line – as the below graph from Great Place to Work demonstrates. It is also one of the top job benefits for employees and helps you to retain your staff.
So, how can you create and maintain a company culture when some or all of your workforce use flexible working practices?
Find the right tools for your staff
Every employee is an individual and it’s important to match different preferred ways of working with the right tools to foster communication and collaboration. For example, you could use Slack for text communications, Zoom for voice and video chat and, if you have a particularly valuable employee, you could even fork out for a robot virtual presence.
Whatever you decide, make sure you offer a range of solutions and attempt to combine both your digital and social tools to encourage camaraderie. You don’t have to be in the same room to socialize and make sure you encourage your staff to communicate on a range of topics.
But make it clear to your staff that they need to be available on these communication channels when they are working. Just because they’re working remotely does not mean they can go AWOL.
Organise incentivized meetups
Face-to-face meetings are a rarity (or, sometimes, an impossibility) for remote teams. However, you should try to organize at least one group meeting each year.
You could also informally base your business out of a coworking space, which provides your staff with the flexibility to use such a space as and when you need it. Lucas Seyhun, founder of centrally located co-working space in NYC The Farm, said: “Our space attracts many different flexible workers. Some remote workers use our space nearly every day because they want to escape the home office. Others will simply book a meeting room for a couple of hours on an ad hoc basis. We also have corporates that regularly book dedicated offices. That’s the beauty of coworking – it matches the flexibility of remote work perfectly.”
As Lucas mentioned, many big businesses are now embracing coworking spaces for their remote workers. It allows such companies to connect, collaborate and innovate with the startup space.
Some businesses find coworking is a better option altogether. For example, the company behind WordPress, called Automattic, recently closed its San Francisco main office because its staff were finding different places and means to work.
You could also consider creating “work buddies” where a small number of nearby staff members could meet up regularly for a chat or a more formal meeting. Again, coworking spaces provide the perfect backdrop for such meetups.
Reinforce your values
You must be clear on your company’s mission and communicate that message with every single member of your staff. Do this regularly to keep your staff focused on your goals.
There are many ways you can reach out with your company’s mission. You could use your internal communication tools to demonstrate how your work impacts your customers to keep your staff on point, for example. Videos and images are also impactful ways to achieve this and will keep remote staff focused on what’s important.
You can also demonstrate your values and show your presence with local community sponsorship. This tip comes from web app automation company Zapier, whose workforce is 100% remote. The company has sponsored developer meetups, startup weekends and donated its time to non-profit organizations. And if someone on in their workforce wants to do something similar in their city, they’ll sponsor it.
“By doing this, team members feel more like there is a local presence in their hometown,” according to Zapier.
In essence, it is important to offer your remote teams a variety of ways to communicate, collaborate and encourage your corporate values. This will help you create and build your company culture, no matter where your staff are.
About the author
Gemma Church is “the freelance writer who gets tech”. She’s a specialist freelance science writer, journalist, and blogger. Her USP is that she’s worked in the science and technology sectors she writes about, bringing a unique level of understanding and experience most writers cannot offer.