Remote work ‘saves’ corporate culture – TLNT

Arthur C. Clarke was, quite possibly, the most interesting man in the world.

He hosted television shows, explored hundreds of meters below the surface of the sea and invented a jet engine. He also wrote (somewhat notably, one might add) 2001: A Space Odyssey – both the novel and part of Kubrick’s film script. Interestingly, in 1964 he said this:

“It will be possible… for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali as well as he could from London…. Almost all executive skills, all administrative skills, even all physical skills, could be made independent of distance.

The problem is, I can say with near 100% certainty that when Arthur C. Clarke imagined a future of work without borders, he was not imagining a “digital 9 to 5” with hours-long Zoom calls. . Nor did he think of time-tracking software, the almost constant buzz of Slack notifications, or fixed employee hours.

No, Arthur was a visionary. And if we want to do remote work well, we also need to be visionary about how we approach company culture. Here’s why:

Executives are afraid of remote work, but they shouldn’t be

There’s a big obstacle to a good remote work culture: executives who won’t let go of the office.

Evidenced by the fact that the majority of executives want to return to the office full time, but only 17% of their employees agree. This is a major shortcoming. But that’s not surprising either. Most employees appreciate the flexibility that remote work provides, but their bosses — people who have spent their whole lives managing in-person teams — fear the change will hurt their company culture.

In a way, the executives are right. The remote work culture is very different from the office culture. A 2021 Microsoft viral study found that collaboration (measured by communication between people) was significantly lower in a remote environment. And, of course, other things are missing from the office. For example:

  • Employees do not have frequent face-to-face chats
  • Teams don’t sit around after hours, huddled around a table, pushing a big project forward
  • There are no going out to the bar after work
  • People are not always immediately available or present

The points above are, among others, activities that do not exist in most remote work contexts.

But here is the kicker: Many of these office standards shouldn’t exist in the first place, and trying to replicate them remotely doesn’t work.

What most people don’t understand – I think – is that while remote culture is different, it also offers a different set of benefits. And in many ways, it’s a benefit package that actually surpasses what you’d get in the office.

This is what a good remote work culture looks like

We’ve lived for ages in the office without really asking ourselves if our “office standards” were really good things. Is it good – for example – that employees with children are disadvantaged because they cannot go out after work or stay after hours? Is it good to create a culture that celebrates people who stay late? Is it good to force people to work specific hours each day?

The answer, for me (and probably most of you reading this), is no. So what does a good remote culture look like?

Jack Altman, CEO of Lattice, recently wrote an essay on this topic. Its team has hundreds of employees and they have worked hard to make it work both in the office and remotely. Jack’s main discovery is this: The culture is stronger in the office, but more manageable from a distance.

For things like cross-team connection or the buzz about working something in person, the office culture is stronger. But the culture is more egalitarian, and manageable, from a distance.

So, a good remote culture is one that embraces the benefits of remote working.

Benefits like geographic independence, schedule flexibility, and asynchronous communication are great things. They make people happier, make work fairer, and allow people to work with talented people no matter where they live. This looks like :

  • Care about production, not hours worked (more than 9 to 5 required)
  • Let your team have autonomy, which means no time-tracking apps
  • Build a culture of documentation
  • Have an asynchronous first culture – i.e. kill as many meetings as possible
  • Have in-person team retreats focused on building relationships

There’s a lot more here, and your approach will depend on your business.

But when creating a culture strategy for your remote team, remember that you’re not trying to replicate the office: it’s like trying to carve a turkey with chopsticks. Instead, take advantage of the benefits of working remotely.

Because ultimately, remote work is not the death of corporate culture. This is the savior of it.

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