There’s a reason the 1999 film Office Space is still replayed on comedy networks almost 20 years after it hit theaters. There’s a reason a sitcom about the drudgery of the white collar world dominated television ratings for the better part of a decade. These satirical salves addressed a collective and universal frustration with the traditional cubicle farm office and personal expression available only as a quippy coffee mug. Whether it’s personality politics, long commutes, or missed parenting milestones, it’s obvious that American workers want out of the cubicle, and they’re motivated to find jobs that offer such an escape as a marquee feature.
Increasingly, flexible work schedules and work from home opportunities are determining where workers choose to invest their time and talents. Last year alone, 43 percent of Americans spent at least some time working remotely, a statistic likely to grow as younger generations demand greater work flexibility from their employers. It’s never been more important to establish a strong company culture where every employee feels like a necessary part of the process. It has also never been more important to facilitate easy communications between all your employees to help that process. Here are a few tips for creating a strong company culture, even when your team isn’t able to be in a building together.
Use Engaging Video Tools
Your first goal should be to make it as easy for your employees to see and talk “face to face” digitally as it would be for them to run into each other at the water cooler. Your employees’ goal should be to reach out via video before they send an email or even a chat message, because being able to see facial expressions as well as hear a voice makes communication much more clear and quick, and it personalizes every interaction to help foster the bonds that create a strong culture. Making these tools available also helps ensure that your employees will stay on task and be available to their co-workers for certain amounts of time every day.
Telepresence Robots to Simulate the Office Experience
What used to seem futuristic is now commonplace in many offices, and it may be key to building a stronger company culture. Like we’ve written before, telepresence robots blend the remote and physical world, giving employees the same opportunity to be “present” in the office with all of the conveniences of direct contact folded into the convenience of remote work. Also the simple human experience of walking around and exploring a physical office space helps remote employees feel more bonded to the group and culture. Telepresence robots can be helpful for sales trainings and demonstrations, offering remote employees the ability to get a detailed and self-guided look at products physically present on-site.
Use Huddle Spaces to Improve Collaboration
Since most of the “moving parts” of projects occur between small groups, having the ability to present and collaborate with just a few people in a small room can go a long way to building bonds between remote and on-site teams. These small rooms, with video conferencing technology create a much more intimate environment then the cavernous echo of a mostly-empty conference room, and conversations can still feel private and personal. Small teams represent the individual pistons to your company’s engine, and it would serve your culture and productivity to make room for more of these small, video-ready rooms available to help blend your internal culture with your remote workers.
Complete Video Education
From every employee’s first day, they should be bathed in a culture of video-first technology. Onboarding should be a video-forward process, and if possible, should incorporate video conferencing into the training process. Those first weeks are crucial for setting an employee’s routine, and video conferencing should be as familiar as sending an email or chat internally. To underscore the first point, it should be as easy and as automatic as walking over to a co-worker’s desk when employees need to collaborate. Ingraining this communication as a reflex should start the moment new employees start training.
Start at the Top
Full Adoption and use of these processes will need to start from the top down. Leadership will need to not only use these technologies and reinforce the remote/in-office blended culture, but they need to be well-versed in it to the point that they can help new and adapting employees troubleshoot the process whether they are an early adopter or a luddite. Having confidence that their leadership can assist them helps ease employee fears about getting in there and learning autodidactically.
Listen (and Respond) to Feedback
For many companies working their way slowly toward blending more and more remote work into their culture, this will be a process of trial and error. Anything that slows down collaboration between employees has to be replaced or improved as soon as possible. Both the employer and employee benefit from open communication to improve the process overall. One study found that productivity jumps (or dives) dependent largely on how well the remote work program is executed and improved over time, the type of business, and the individual remote jobs themselves. Tuning into your workforce’s frustrations and improvement ideas is key to keeping your productivity trending upward.
When the company culture messaging is strong and video collaboration is as easy as taking a short walk, there are no limits to the potential of your remote work teams. Reinforcing your company culture with video tool will help all your employees feel invested and essential to the company’s success, and motivates them to put in a little more effort every day.