Leadership & Future of Work

Remote & Hybrid Teams - Cultivating Culture (Part 1)

Post by
Diyanah Afendy
Remote & Hybrid Teams - Cultivating Culture (Part 1)

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, many of us have stepped into the new reality of working from home, or, if we must, #WFH. Thanks to modern technology and the resources that come with it, the global work environment has seen a massive and accelerating shift, and is uncovering new challenges for leaders of remote and hybrid teams.

In many ways, remote and hybrid teams are an ongoing experiment for companies forced to convert their physical work space into a virtual one overnight. This unprecedented (our favourite word of 2020) situation presents unique opportunities, and many employers have realised that working from home is equally, if not more productive during this pandemic. Some companies have even continued to adopt the work from home arrangement after getting the green light from government bodies to resume work in the office.

However, if not done right, this change poses a risk of misalignment within teams, and the resulting breakdown in communication and workflow may greatly affect team trust and employee engagement.

As with any major changes, most companies will experience growing pains when trying to adapt to the new age of working. In this two-part blog series, we explore how these common challenges can turn into opportunities for leaders to cultivate a healthy, effective company culture even when working physically apart.

Goodbye, ping pong tables.

Big tech companied like Google, Facebook, and Netflix have painted an idealistic picture of what good company culture should look like – free meals, yoga balls, and basketball hoops at every (shared) desk.

When perks are stripped away, it all boils down to the company’s values that serve as a guiding principle in cultivating culture.

As much as we love free food and playing ping pong with our colleagues, not all companies can afford such luxuries. When work becomes remote or hybrid, and daily in-person interactions within the team get taken out of the equation, up-keeping morale becomes an even greater challenge.

Or perhaps not. When you remove the shiny, fun, things in the workplace, what’s left for the team is plenty of time to focus on doing good work without distractions. As mentioned by Anthony Sochan, co-founder of Think & Grow: “just because someone spends a lot of time playing ping pong or hanging out in the common areas, it doesn’t mean that they fit with the organisation’s ideals”. So when perks are stripped away, it all boils down to the company’s values that serve as a guiding principle in cultivating culture.

Many employees (myself included as I write this article in sweatpants my dog is drooling on) prefer this approach of being able to work in a safe, comfortable environment in the midst of the pandemic anyway. In many cases, this has resulted in work getting done faster, without compromising quality. The pandemic and adapting to working from home also pose as a shared challenge among teams, and for some, have inculcated an unexpected sense of camaraderie as we navigate this strange new world together.

Building a foundation of trust.

The inability to physically see employees from 9 to 5 also serves as a great opportunity for leaders of remote and hybrid teams, because the team’s ability to work well together is then built upon a foundation of trust. Remote work also means that leaders are able to hire for culture fit regardless of location, that potential employee being someone you can trust who you know is aligned with the values of the company.

Take for example the team here at Remote Social – we have a hybrid team with coworkers working in different timezones. Through our hybrid work model, we learn to get work done asynchronously and form bonds on deeper shared values – rather than making small talks around a ping pong table – which creates a much tighter-knit culture of a shared enterprise. This generally contributes to a better work culture within the team, and saves on resources such as toilet paper and yoga balls.

Bottom line: for remote and hybrid teams to be effective and sustainable, leaders have to start addressing fundamental issues that so quickly arise from the nature of remote work or #WFH – don’t worry too much about the perks and instead focus on what is most important, YOUR TEAM. Only then can teams gain the advantages of deliberate, thoughtful communication, and a meaningful drive to consider company values.

In the next part of this blog series, we explore how leaders of remote and hybrid teams can establish a winning team culture by communicating more deliberately and creating shared experiences.

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