The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally in sight. Half of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot. People are beginning to emerge from isolation and return to normal life—whatever that even means at this point.
Companies of all sizes are in a difficult position as they determine how to move forward after more than a year of remote work. Employees have made their position clear: nearly 30% of working professionals have indicated that they will quit their jobs if they can’t continue working from home post-pandemic.
For the most part, companies are willing to comply with these demands. There’s a general acknowledgment that in today’s digital world, remote work is the new paradigm. The challenge going forward will be figuring out how to retain their company culture in a remote environment.
Defining Company Culture Post-Pandemic
Can you identify your company culture? I hate to break it to you, but if a cool office with a game room and free snacks is what you previously defined as your company culture, it’s time someone told you those are perqs. Perqs certainly can support a culture, but post-pandemic times means, more than ever, that your culture may need to evolve to support the changes.
Even cultures of accountability reinforced by benefits like flexible schedules and work from home policies—previously low-hanging fruit for attracting and retaining employees—no longer stand out to entice great talent. Employees now view working remotely as more of an expectation than a perq.
If your employees will be working from their home offices going forward, how are you going to maintain a cohesive team and inspire them to stick around?
Company culture is about how your team comes together to work (work, after all, is what they’ve been hired to do). That’s when having thoughtful, intentional core values can be extremely powerful.
I know many hi-tech executives who think core values are aspirational BS. And if you don’t take core values seriously, it’s true that they are basically worthless. On the other hand, core values done well can help guide top-level decision making and help you find high-performing team members—and also retain them. After all, we tend to identify and therefore like people who share the same values as we do.
No matter how you approach company culture, it’s got to be more than an office aesthetic or a customer-facing “employer brand identity.” If your company has been using superficial stand-ins for culture, you now have an opportunity to reflect more deeply on the kind of culture you want to build.
Practical Ideas for Building a Strong Remote Work Culture
There are plenty of ways to strengthen company culture—no office necessary. Here’s what works for us at BostonHCP:
- Daily morning meetings. Our team begins every day with a 30-minute standing call to get everyone together and on the same page. We start with a word of the day to help ground us. This opener is a great barometer for knowing how your team is feeling and what might be on their mind. It’s not a test, and there are no wrong answers; managers and team members need to be open to whatever is on their minds.
- Talking about the mission. Employees want to be integral to the operation of the company—yes, even Gen Z and Millennials (who are feeling especially emboldened to risk it all if their jobs don’t meet their demands). Make it a regular habit to talk about your company’s bigger mission. Then, make sure every team member is clear about their contributions toward your common goals.
- “Water cooler” Slack channels. Who says water cooler talk can’t happen in remote environments? We have a Slack channel dedicated to fun conversations that have nothing to do with work. It’s great for breaking tension during a tough week. Encouraging team engagement is tantamount for people to feel like they belong.
- Team-building exercises. If you’re saving money by eliminating the office, invest it back into your team. Look for ways to foster ongoing connections and promote experiences they wouldn’t have anywhere else. We plan a big event every quarter to get people together in person.
Right now, companies have a tremendous opportunity to evaluate their internal culture and make changes that will align with the “new normal” of work-life. I, for one, am excited to see who decides to lead the charge.