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How to maintain company culture when it’s been months since you’ve seen your team 

by Jackson B

By Christina Brun Petersen, Co-Founder and Chief people Officer Worksome

Never has there been such a gigantic overnight shift in the way we work.  Nearly all businesses have had to accept remote working over the past year, whether they wanted to or not.  While a few were ready, many more had to adapt their business operations with little to no notice.

But while operations might be easily changed, there is another aspect to working life which is much more intangible and less adaptable: company culture.  As we go through a period where usually we would have had daily casual office chats, coffee and lunch breaks and social events like Christmas parties, team building and cementing of culture, this year businesses have tried to figure out how to keep their staff motivated, committed and part of a shared direction. Along with these challenges also comes new opportunities for us to start thinking differently about building company culture.

Why is company culture important?

Company culture is the sum of all we do as a company, as founder, managers and employees. Company culture derives from the way we communicate, interact with each other, and treat each other. A company with a culture where staff feel valued, are supported, and have a good work-life balance and career path, will attract and retain the best talent and contribute to the overall success of the business. Company culture is and should be acknowledged as ever changing and that is a very important premise to accept when facilitating and driving company culture in 2021 and onwards.

COVID has also precipitated an increase in freelancing which presents its own challenges and opportunities for culture. Over a fifth of the freelancers on our platform went freelance during the pandemic. For many, this new desire for flexible work is a long-term shift. 83% of freelancers said that they would not go back to permanent work, and job adverts on our site are up from 25% remote roles to 90%. So, if this is another major change in the way we work, business leaders and HR Directors need to consider how culture is managed with a hybrid workforce.

How can we maintain culture as the way we work changes?

While 2020 has been deeply challenging for businesses, many leaders have been surprised by the resilience and commitment of their staff.  Maybe company culture actually went remote as well, just as we thought it was something installed in our offices? Culture has not  been sacrificed to COVID-19 in the short run, but we need to consider and understand how to ensure an internal coherence in the long run accepting the premise that remote work and hybrid workforces will be defining elements in the modern way of working.

The tech and digital sectors have become renowned for fast-growing firms that see multiples of growth year on year with huge amounts of capital investment and team expansion.  Many of these businesses were early adopters of project based, remote working, hiring staff from across the globe to work on short-term contracts together.

Those tech giants have already dealt with the problems that many companies are tackling today, of how to ensure your staff are on the same page and working towards the same goals, and how to build a company culture when your team doesn’t sit next to each other.

Good communication tools are key, not only to be able to easily discuss work, but also to maintain the camaraderie that people naturally feel in the office.  Easy access to supportive and available management is also important to keep workers on track and committed to projects.  According to research in the US with Clutch, almost two thirds (63%) of people said they spent less time socialising with colleagues, but more positively, 52% of workers said managers are just as available now as they were during regular office operations.

Another answer is to relinquish some control and enable your teams to have more ownership and input into decision making, whether this is about the way they work, or about business decisions.  The result will often be a higher level of productivity.

My co-founders and I started Worksome from our homes in Denmark, a city that is among the best places to be when it comes to work-life balance according to the OECD, and we’ve strived to reflect this in our own culture at Worksome. We might not always all be in the same place, but we’ve been consistent about our company culture right from the start and it really shows.

While the way we work has changed potentially forever, staying committed to company culture and finding ways for your team to be a part of it is the difference between those who get it right and those who don’t. Offering trust in your workforce grants staff the freedom to think, to be creative and to grow, and they will thank you for it.   While we figure out what work will look like in 2021, I urge businesses to consider culture as a central part of their plans.

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