Maintaining workplace culture

01 July 2020

With remote working now commonplace, Helen Livesey, senior business director at Hays Payroll Management, sets out five ways to maintain your workplace culture remotely

The current world of work is operating more remotely than it ever has before, but adjusting to this may result in employers facing certain challenges which need to be managed. Some of these challenges include obstacles to communication, collaboration, relationship building and accessibility which may result in an impact on workplace culture.

The uncertainty we are experiencing in the world of work may continue for some time, which is why it’s vital that employers of remote working teams do what they can to maintain their workplace culture for the benefit of their organisation and their employees.

Draw up a communications plan – When managing your team remotely, effective communication is crucial. As a priority, you should set up a communications plan with your team outlining when you will talk each day and on what platform. Take advantage of the variety of platforms available to help your team stay in touch and collaborate, but bear in mind that too many can be overwhelming.

The next best thing to talking face-to-face is communicating over video. Encourage your team to use their webcams, as this will help participants engage more with each other. As you would with a physical meeting, set an agenda prior to the call and make sure this is visible to everyone.

This way of communicating is now the equivalent to team meetings, so stress the importance of attendance. Remind your team that communicating regularly keeps everyone in the loop, enables you to celebrate successes, iron out any issues and maintain your working relationships.

Don’t underestimate the importance of small talk – Working remotely means that you don’t encounter those impromptu interactions in the office with your colleagues. While these may not seem so significant at the time, they go a long way to building rapport and fostering working relationships between employees. If you have any new team members, this time will be particularly important for them to get to know their colleagues.

Therefore, in addition to making sure you speak to your team frequently and over video where possible, it’s also worth factoring in to make small talk and have more casual conversations to catch up. I would encourage factoring in this time at the start or end of a conference call so your agenda isn’t disrupted. If you don’t have regular calls, you could still facilitate this type of discussion over instant messaging apps like Yammer or Slack.

Encourage your team to share knowledge – The natural exchange of knowledge is another element of your workplace culture which tends to come more naturally in an office environment. Many of your team will possess specialist knowledge about their area or subject which is of use to the wider team, and this may need input from you as an employer to facilitate while your team is working remotely.

You could encourage your employees to create guides, host webinars or record podcasts on their specialist subjects to provide opportunities to share their knowledge in an engaging way. Ensure that this is shared to your team via a conference call, instant message or email and that you follow up with praise and recognition.

Keep your team engaged and united – Whilst you’re probably used to reading your team’s emotions and reactions when you’re with them in person, obviously when working remotely this is more difficult. Where possible, use video calls where at least you and your team are able to see each other and engage more than you would simply over the phone.

As well as seeing your team, try to encourage inclusive language such as ‘we’ and ‘our’. It might seem like a small step, but these verbal cues foster cohesion and unity which is harder to achieve when everyone is working independently in different locations.

Trust your team – While remote working may pose challenges at first, particularly to those who don’t have experience working or managing in this way, by trusting your team there is a lot to gain from this working setup.

Trusting your team will mean they feel empowered to work in the interests of your organisation and stay motivated to do their work day-to-day. They’ll also be able to experience the flexibility benefits which working remotely offers.

Featured in the July/August 2020 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.