- Remote work can be a superpower, but for companies without a strong culture it can be “kryptonite”.
- A panel hosted by Running Remote Conference explored how to optimize a remote workplace culture.
- Every remote culture is different; the key is to personalize your approach to help workers feel more comfortable and engaged.
Running remote, the world’s largest remote work conference, was held virtually on May 21. The event gathered thousands of people from across the globe and offered over 15 hours of content and networking opportunities.
This year’s agenda included a variety of topics:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Hybrid workplace
- Remote work
Allwork.Space attended a number of sessions. Below are our highlights from one of those sessions, “Strategies to Optimize Your Remote Workplace Culture”.
The session was moderated by Brie Reynolds, Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs, and the panelists were Chris Dyer, Founder & CEO PeopleG2 and Sara Sutton, Founder & CEO FlexJobs.
Suggested Listening: Remote Work Isn’t Going Anywhere: Adapt Or Get Left Behind | Brie Reynolds
“Remote work can positively impact people’s lives and transform organizations to be more modern, productive, efficient, and resilient.” – Sara Sutton.
Reynolds kicked off the session by asking panelists: What are some of the first considerations leaders and managers need to consider to build a strong remote work culture?
“When you start any company, you need to be very clear about who you are, what you want to be, and what your purpose is,” Dyer answered. For him, it all starts with hiring the right people; people who share your company purpose and vision.
If someone isn’t a good fit, your remote culture will suffer.
Dyer also argued that remote work can be a superpower for companies with strong workplace cultures; however, it can be the opposite for companies that don’t have a strong culture.
“Remote work is a kryptonite if you do not have a strong culture.”
While Sutton believes that organizations can work with unhealthy cultures remotely or in the office, she believes that remote work is a bellwether for people that aren’t engaged or performing well.
For her, a strong remote work culture needs to be built from the beginning; establishing clear expectations, KPIs, and clear communication.
While both Dyer and Sutton have led remote companies for over 10 years, the coronavirus pandemic created a unique “era” for remote work, and both companies had to rethink some of their remote work strategies in order to keep their teams engaged and happy.
Sutton and Dyer agreed that personalization is what workers needed the most this past year.
To do this, PeopleG2 began to group workers into different categories based on whether they were single, a couple, a family, or a multi-generational home.
These groups had different needs and were feeling very differently throughout the course of the pandemic.
“Singles and couples were overworked, bored, and they wanted to socialize. On the other hand, families and multi-generational homes wanted to be left alone, more flexible hours, and extra bandwidth.”
For Sutton, one main difference was in the amount of video meetings.
“One of the things that has come up a lot is Zoom calls and meetings and video, one thing I keep trying to remind people is that it doesn’t have to be video-first. In the first 3 months of the pandemic, I had more video calls than I’d had in 14 years of working remotely.”
Video has become normalized and requiring workers to always be on video quickly became exhausting. Moving forward, Sutton believes the video-first approach will likely die down.
Dyer, for his part, believes that Zoom fatigue has not so much to do with video as much as it has to do with long meetings.
“We do a lot of 15-minute-long meetings, and our average is 8 minutes. To be on camera for 8 minutes is no big deal. Being on camera for 30 minutes to an hour… now that is a big deal.”
Still, people aren’t always camera ready, or they don’t always want to be camera ready, Sutton argued. To this point, Dyer shared that at PeopleG2 they have “no mascara days”.
Basically, no mascara days gives people the opportunity to choose not to be on camera for whatever reason they have, without having to explain to the team.
For video to be an effective tool in building your remote work culture, you need to use it correctly.
Video should be used to help people connect with one another; seeing each other’s faces and smiles can go a long way. However, if you are requiring video simply to control and monitor employees, then you already have a cultural problem you need to fix.
So, how can you optimize your remote work culture?
There is no clear answer.
What the panel showed was that what works for one company may not work for another.
Case in point: PeopleG2 is a video-first company; FlexJobs isn’t. PeopleG2 doesn’t do one-on-one meetings; FlexJobs does.
The key is to be open and transparent with your team. Building a strong culture takes time, and in remote environments companies need to lean on the right platforms to keep employees engaged and connected.
Running Remote is kicking off a series of Ask Me Anything sessions with remote work experts and you’re invited. If you want to learn more about building remote culture in your organization and even jump into a conversation with some of the most successful remote-first founders and CEOs, register on their website for their next event.