In the past, almost all jobs needed to be done at a place of work. Today, while this remains the case for some jobs (for example, it’s simply not feasible for a builder to build a house remotely or for a doctor to never see a patient in person), the number of jobs that can be done remotely has dramatically increased.
Advancements in technology are the major reason that remote work is possible. The pandemic has seen further growth in the remote-first mindset, with organisations from Twitter to Atlassian adapting to it. Many companies (such as ALRA) had already adopted flexible work arrangements pre-pandemic.
Companies with a remote-first culture treat working remotely as the default way of working. Remote work is prioritised over office-based arrangements. For this system to be efficient, the employer must provide resources and technical support to employees. The benefits may include not having to pay to run a large office space and attracting and retaining talent, given there is more flexibility and inherent trust given to workers.
Tips for creating optimal company culture
One of the challenges facing remote-first companies is how to create a vibrant work culture when the majority of co-worker interaction is occurring via technology such as emails, phone and video calls. Here are some ways that employers can build company culture…
1. Have in-person gatherings
Remote-first should never equate to remote-always! People need the endorphin kick that comes from interacting with other humans in real life. It’s important for company culture development that employees have the opportunity to collaborate and also interact socially. Of course, if employees are scattered all around the country or even internationally, then getting together in person may need to be limited to once or twice a year.
If possible, it’s a great idea to have monthly or quarterly get togethers which are broken up into a productive brainstorming work session and/or development workshops followed by a social element such as a lunch or bonding activity. Companies may also want to provide other opportunities for social interactions; such as by offering discounted or free tickets to sporting events or productions that colleagues then have the opportunity to attend together if they wish.
2. Establish excellent communication
Working remotely is not for everyone. Some employees find it isolating and feel dissatisfied and disconnected. Communication is the key to ensuring workers are feeling connected and enthusiastic about their work. Remote-first companies run the risk of communication becoming dry and transactional. To prevent this, all staff must be well trained in the technology and systems around communication. There shouldn’t be an overwhelming number of meetings, but some routine video calls to touch base are important, because video calls are more personable than emails or audio-only calls.
It’s also a good idea to create an opportunity for casual conversation. This may be as simple as a brief and informal discussion about everyone’s weekend on a Monday. Or it could be more elaborate, such as each staff member taking turns at the start of a meeting to speak around a particular topic; such as “tell us something surprising about you?” or “which famous person have you met?”.
3. Trust and support employees
Trust is essential to fostering a vibrant remote-first workplace culture. Ideally, employees should be trusted to manage their own time and to work when and where they want. Steer clear of micro-managing and/or invasive employee monitoring tools and instead seek to motivate staff and celebrate their achievements.
Ensure that your staff feel supported and valued. Make sure that you are fair and inclusive. Support health and wellness as much as possible. This may be by way of free gym memberships, extended compassionate leave and/or paid parental leave.