How remote working affects your company culture and what you can do about it

2020 has been bonkers so far and it's not over yet! Among the many changes we've experienced, remote working's rise in popularity is certainly one of them. Simply put, working from home has become the norm in many sectors and it looks like it's going to stay this way for a while.Could IT be any different? No. In fact, most companies in the industry have chosen to let their employees work from their kitchen. While this policy makes many employees happy – especially the withdrawn ones whom you need to blackmail to accept a beer invitation – it may come at a high cost for everybody if not handled properly. You might think the main risk has to do with decreased productivity, i.e. employees watching one too many videos on YouTube! That too. But I think the bigger challenge is to keep the team spirit kindled. To maintain your employees involved. To get them to engage in water-cooler chatter – albeit now in the absence of the thirst-quenching marvel.In other words, the biggest challenge is to preserve and nurture your company culture.

5 ways in which remote working can make your company culture turn sour

1. IsolationFor once, after a prolonged work-from-home routine, even the most introverted can start to feel isolated and wonder whether they have a job anymore. The idea is, when the sense of camaraderie is lost, motivation nose-dives and so does the sense of purpose.2. Less teamworkAnother thing that can happen due to physical distance between coworkers is that teamwork is turning slowly into individual work. People tend to collaborate less when the best way to do it is through a semi-awkward Skype call.3. MiscommunicationConflicts can escalate out of nothing as written communication becomes more prevalent. That's because without non-verbal cues (or at least some dorky emoticons), one can attribute a negative meaning to otherwise neutral words.

4. Less feedbackThen it's the lack of feedback, be it positive or negative. As people work from their couches, both great work and bad work can pass by unnoticed. The worst thing that can happen is your employees thinking their work doesn't make any difference.5. Lack of proper onboardingMaybe the most pernicious factor that can alter your company culture is newcomers. Now, now, don't frown on your new colleagues just yet, let me explain. Newcomers need guidance, mentorship, they need to be introduced in a collective that already adheres to the values of your company. This is how you engage the "freshmen", and this is how you encourage them to pick up the collective culture. But when everybody's at home, this onboarding process takes more time and is less effective.

6 practical things you can do to engage your colleagues

1. Set up informal meetingsAt Qubiz we organise what we call Coffee Chat meetings with our CEO. To ensure proper social distancing, only one team is invited at once. Team members can opt to attend in person or online. And since these meetings take place in the afternoon, coffee is seldom consumed!

2. Use online media to foster employee engagementFor instance, we launched a few Facebook contests company-wide. The most successful was #QubizPhotoRecreation in which we invited our colleagues to recreate a photo from their past or a movie scene. An example:

Another cool thing that happened is that many of our colleagues interviewed themselves in a series of videos called Thoughts from the Home Office.We even had online a Quiz@Qubiz night during the lockdown!3. Adapt your onboarding processIn our case, we encourage newcomers and interns to work on our premises for at least a week or so to get accommodated. The thing is, most of our newer colleagues actually choose to keep coming to the office as they feel direct communication with their peers and team leads is crucial when you're a "freshman".4. Encourage your colleagues to turn on their cameras during callsWe did! Sorry for the screenshot quality, you know how these work...

5. Send company-wide newslettersThe marketing team at Qubiz (actually Krisz) sends an internal newsletter every Monday.6. Encourage people to show up in person from time to timeMake sure your workplace is as safe as possible. I, for one, trust to go to the office every week or so to reconnect. My colleagues are scattered all over the place and everything reeks of alcohol (you know what I mean), but it still feels good to have a random and seemingly insignificant chat with my good ol' mates.BTW, we have social distancing bracelets!

That's about it!

How do YOU handle this problem? Do you think it makes sense to try and preserve company cultures as they are, or should we embrace the "new normal"?

In any case, I'd love to hear what works for you!

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