Can Remote Workers Meld into an Organizational Culture?
Readers who work from home have different opinions on how organizations should respond to the culture of the practice. The discussion is summarized by James Heskett in where he interviews several members of the staff about what they think and feel about remote work.
Should Management Take the Reins in Blending an Organizational Culture with Remote Work?
Many people with jobs that allow them to work remotely are enthusiastic supporters of the practice. Success depends on the organization's effectiveness and whether management embraces remote working. When disengaged managers lead to toxic office culture, remote work can sometimes be an escape.
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 were quick to express how much they enjoyed it. By fostering loyalty, it may enrich the culture. When she discussed the move, her employer allowed Betty Dickson to start working from home. According to her, the freedom and flexibility make her more productive, which motivates her to find new ways to overcome problems that would have caused her to quit in the past.
Joan De Souza supports remote work both within her organization and among her clients. It is important to be cautious, however. For example, remote work could improve workflow in certain environments where conflicting political beliefs don't lead to a toxic workplace. The same can be said for sales or administration teams congregating in break rooms or meeting after work. 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.
A remote work environment or culture can help people avoid hostile work environments. When Alison Leuders explains why she loves working remotely, she perfectly illustrates what this is like. She saves time and money by not having to commute, avoids rude coworkers, and works long hours without safety concerns, which most men would never comprehend. Remote work is a great thing, she says!
According to Adrian Zicari, the problem with expanding an organization's culture to include remote workers is not inadequate technology. Rather, it's the way companies are structured because they're prepared to maintain remote work as if it were the norm. According to him, the problem is a managerial one. The technology is already available, but we lack the mindset to put it into practice.
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 all have had conversations over the last few weeks with people working from home for the first time while sheltering from COVID-19. I've tried to use the opportunity to conduct an informal survey: How is it going? Do you think you'd like to change your work habits to continue working from home?
The responses I've been getting are fairly positive: "It's going pretty well. In the future, I might like to alter my schedule to include at least some portion of my time working from home."
Many of us have participated in meetings on Zoom and other meeting services. Some have engaged in telemedical appointments with doctors. Social distancing has even penetrated our television viewing: Our favorite news and opinion shows have been little affected by social distancing. (In some cases, they've improved, perhaps due to the increased availability of celebrities sheltered at home. You also see what your favorite pundit has read since most seem to broadcast in front of their bookshelves.) The experience is different from working side by side as social animals, but thanks to 5G, internet, and cloud capability that didn't exist just a few short years ago, we've communicated without too much difficulty.
It all suggests that responses to the virus may hasten a trend already in process, that of more delivery of work performed remotely.
The pros and cons of working remotely have been hashed over repeatedly. Consulting organizations have found that policies permitting consultants to live anywhere have been effective ways of recruiting talent. However, while these people may live anywhere, they carry out most of their work in teams on the road. My concern is the impact on an organization's culture that a significant increase in work from home may have, particularly where the culture is thought by management to be one of the organization's strengths.
A case in point is Critical Mass, a 24-year-old digital experience design agency based in Calgary, Canada, with 950 employees employed in 12 offices operating around the world. CEO Dianne Wilkins says, "Our greatest threat for years to come centers on talent." The organization's culture has been an important competitive advantage for the Company. As she describes it, "You're likely to meet your new set of best friends when you join Critical Mass." Much of the organization's work is in teams.