Can Remote Workers Meld into an Organizational Culture?
Updated: Jul 30
Readers who are among those working from home have different opinions on how organizations should react to an initiative promoting the practice. James Heskett offers his summation of the discussion.
Should Management Take the Reins in Blending an Organizational Culture with Remote Work?
People who have had jobs where they could work remotely tend to be enthusiastic supporters of the practice. How successful it largely depends on how effective the organization is and if management embraces the concept of employees working remotely. Remote work can sometimes be an escape from a toxic or chaotic office culture resulting from disengaged management.
Armando Del Bosque said that he believed that organizational culture allows us to find work that we love so that we can love our jobs, which helps us overcome barriers, including having to practice social distancing with our teams. But Melanie Roberts offers a compelling reminder when she says that Charles Handy regards culture as the typical soup that we all find ourselves swimming in and that this soup gets pretty bland when the workplace is not a specific location. Everyone seems to be out of sync and may not even share the same way of doing things.
Employees who work remotely had no trouble saying how much they loved it. If it ends up fostering loyalty, it could enrich the culture. When discussing her move to work remotely, Betty Dickson said that her employer let her start working from home. She described that the freedom and flexibility make her more productive, and that motivates her to figure out ways to overcome problems that in the past would have driven her to quit her job.
Joan De Souza supports remote work, not only in her organization but in those of her clients as well. However, one must be cautious. For example, this can work well in specific environments where working remotely improves workflow because they are relieved of having to deal with a toxic workplace due to conflicting political beliefs. On the other hand, in a sales or admin team where people congregate in the break room or meet after work, a drink can stimulate them. In her role, she finds it difficult to promote her concepts of “flexibility to her clients’ workers since upper management does not seem open to the idea.
Remote work does help people avoid a hostile work environment or culture. Alison Leuders aptly reminds us of what this is like when she states the reasons why she loves working remotely. These include the time and money saved by not having to commute, avoiding rude coworkers who have misbehaved towards her, and the ability to work long hours without safety concerns, which most men would never comprehend. She says hooray for remote work!
Adrian Zicari points out that the issue with expanding an organizational culture to encompass a remote workforce is not a lack of adequate technology. Instead, it’s the way companies are structured because their procedures and mindset are ready to maintain remote work as if it is the new normal. He says that it’s a managerial issue. We already have the technology, but what we don’t have in large part is the mindset to do this.
Are you in agreement with Zicari? Is management’s reluctance to take the reins in blending culture with remote work? What is your opinion?
We had discussions with people who started working from home for the first time due to the pandemic. I’ve been Informally taking a survey, asking: How have you adjusted? Is this something you’d like to continue doing permanently?
I’ve been surprised at how positive the responses have been: “I found the adjustment easy. In the future, I think it would be nice if I could work out a schedule that would allow me to work some of the time from home.”
Zoom meetings have become a routine part of the workday for many of us. Some have embraced telemedicine and meet with their doctors online instead of driving to their office. Social distancing has become the norm on television: Hosts and guests on TV news appear in their homes. Everyone loves sitting in front of shelves packed with books to make them look smart. These shows are more attractive now since celebrities and other guests have plenty of time to be guests on TV while sheltering at home.
As social beings, work-life feels very different than when we’re in a crowded office. But, thanks to the internet, 5G capability, and the Cloud, none of which we had in the recent past, we’re able to communicate with colleagues quite easily.
We’ve responded to the challenges posed by COVID-19 has likely hastened a movement already started, that of more working successfully from a remote location.
Professionals have endlessly discussed the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely. Consulting businesses now realize that allowing consultants to live where they want can recruit better talent. Even though they can live anywhere, most of them work in teams who travel together from client to client. I worry about how an increase in remote workers could affect the culture of the organization management believes that its culture is one of its most valuable assets.
For example, Calgary, Canada, is the headquarters of a 24-year-old company named Critical Mass, a digital design agency. It employs 950 people working in 12 separate offices spread across the world. According to CEO Dianne Wilkins, her biggest worry for the foreseeable future is talent. One of the company’s most significant competitive advantages, as she sees it, is the organization’s culture. She describes a setting where everyone who joins Critical Mass meets a great group of people who soon become their new best friends because they primarily work in teams.
Before the pandemic, the company had already started a new program called Liquid to incorporate remote work. Currently, nearly 10% of its workforce is working from home. The purpose of this program is to find a way to accommodate others who would like to work from home at some point down the road. According to Executive VP of Talent Sara Anhorn, people are looking for different ways of working these days, and the type of talent Critical Mass is looking for lives worldwide, not just where the next office will open.
Critical Mass recognizes that the challenge it faces is maintaining the company’s extremely enviable culture. To this end, they’ve adopted a policy that states that those who work from home keep the same schedule as their office counterparts. There are still many questions regarding the implementation of remote work: How does it impact employee loyalty? How do remote workers become more fully engaged in their work? How do you ensure that everyone fully complies with the organization’s values? Can remote workers meld into an organizational culture? What is your opinion?