Work provides a sense of purpose and meaning, allowing employees to feel that their contributions are making a difference in the world. But, in remote or hybrid environments, workers may feel disconnected from their colleagues and the shared goals of their organization.
A survey by Bankrate found that 55% of workers prefer flexibility or remote options over their salary. That explains how important flexibility is to your employees, whether they work in a remote or hybrid environment. And with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing about a new era of remote work, building and maintaining a supportive company culture has become a priority for many leaders.
As businesses adopt new strategies, it has become clear that remote work is here to stay. Remote work’s perk is the two extra weekly hours (thanks to the removal of a commute) for employees to invest in self-care, professional skills, and/or personal pursuits, leading to greater fulfillment and satisfaction in work and in life.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, remote employee numbers have increased dramatically. From 2019 to 2021, the numbers tripled to 27.6 million people in the USA. Despite concerns that remote work undermines company culture, forward-thinking companies have used technology and creativity to foster strong cultures that benefit both employees and the business.
Here are four ideas for leaders who want to turn their company culture into a more supportive one, whether fully remote or hybrid.
1. Provide access to resources
Remote work can create challenges for employees who may not have access to the same resources—like a suitable workspace, high-quality technology, or even a reliable internet connection—as their in-office counterparts. So, they often feel left out or judged when they can’t be equally seen and heard as office employees.
Helping your employees create a work-from-home environment they love and feel confident in is the answer. Countless studies have found that having a positive work environment improves collaboration and fairness. This figures to be true of hybrid workplaces as well.
The first way to build a supportive company culture in a remote environment is to provide employees with the resources they need to create an enjoyable workspace. This includes providing them with the necessary tools, a comfortable desk, and a budget for “extras” that make them happy to be a part of your remote company. By providing these resources, employers can help remote workers feel more connected to their team and maintain productivity.
2. Establish a sense of connection
Your employees can easily feel isolated without an official environment. Take socialization initiatives that help employees connect. Encouraging employees to communicate on non-work-related topics can foster a sense of community and help your team feel more connected. This helps them cope with their secluded culture, getting almost the same vibe they might get in an office.
A thriving company culture doesn’t happen by chance. It takes intentional effort and planning. One way to do this is by creating opportunities for employees to connect and share common interests, like Zapier and GitLab did. Zapier uses Slack channels to create a social space where employees can bond over their hobbies, while GitLab hosts 15-minute virtual events to help remote workers build relationships and get to know each other better.
Another company, Buffer, uses Slack’s Donut integration to arrange one-on-one employee sessions. And they encourage in-person meetups to strengthen employee bonds. GitLab also encourages in-person meetups and provides travel expenses to make this more alluring to their employees. This connection helps bridge the gap between remote and in-person workers.
3. Offer diverse remote benefits
Most entrepreneurs are only limited to healthcare when it comes to employee benefits. But by providing remote benefits beyond just healthcare, organizations can build a culture of support and inclusivity, regardless of where employees are.
Yusuf Sherwani, M.D., cofounder and CEO of Quit Genius, the world’s leading virtual clinic for substance use management, says: “As an organization, we also break down barriers to remote work and build culture by providing benefits that are equally accessible to our staff in the U.S., U.K., and across the globe. But, it all starts with open lines of communication between our people, HR team, managers, and leadership—wherever they are.”
Providing employees with access to various well-being benefits, such as mental health, addiction treatment, and parenting groups, can significantly impact employee satisfaction and retention. Equally prioritizing employee mental and physical health (especially during economic uncertainty) can help businesses save money.
To address this, I recommend offering mental health days that allow employees to take time off flexibly and manage their well-being needs. It’s an effective way to reduce employees’ stress, prevent burnout, and improve their well-being, whether they work remotely or in-office.
Offering non-healthcare benefits that cater to employees’ preferences (like flexibility, personal growth, financial wellness, and a sense of purpose) enhances the employee value proposition. Quit Genius, for example, provides a range of benefits like unlimited PTO, a Learning & Development reimbursement program, financial wellness tools, a 401k plan, and an ownership plan to fulfill employees’ needs.
Providing benefits that support work-life balance, financial security, personal growth, culture, and community is crucial for employee satisfaction and success in all work settings. Employees who feel connected to the company’s mission and culture tend to be more engaged, collaborative, and loyal, resulting in higher tenure, increased survey participation, and a positive Employee Net Promoter Score.
4. Get key stakeholders on board to cheerlead company culture
Creating a new company culture can be challenging. But it’s possible if you plan your steps in time. Leaders must reinforce the existing company culture or capitalize on the shift to remote work to create a new culture. This is more than just an HR responsibility. Getting key stakeholders on board helps maintain and promote company culture big time.
A Harvard Business Review article emphasizes the importance of a leader’s decision during inflection points. They can choose to:
- Do nothing.
- Work to craft new ways of reinforcing the existing culture.
- Capitalize on the shift to remote work to reset the culture profoundly.
Creating a warm and fair work environment in remote settings requires intentional effort from leaders. As a leader, I help remote employees feel valued, interact with them more, provide feedback, and am transparent about career growth opportunities. By prioritizing the unique needs of remote workers, employers can create a supportive and inclusive culture that drives success.
A positive company culture is key to employee retention and productivity, but it takes a more conscious effort to maintain in remote environments. Remote workers prefer a supportive and inclusive work culture to thrive. As a remote employer, understanding and creating a culture that suits your employees’ needs is important. Creating opportunities for collaboration and fostering a sense of purpose can significantly impact your employees’ work satisfaction and productivity.