How Much Does Culture Really Matter When Working Remotely?

Working from home has become the hallmark of the 2020s. Although the amount of full-time remote workers has declined around 50 percent since the height of the pandemic, going “hybrid” appears to be a permanent preference. A recent Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of employees who work partly at home and partly on-site want to continue with that arrangement. What does this mean for company culture? It’s well-known company culture plays a huge role in employee satisfaction, production, morale, and turnover. How will these factors change with there being so many full-time and part-time remote workers?

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What people think

The same Gallup poll revealed two-thirds of employees in the U.S. do not think company culture will be affected by remote work. Not surprisingly, attitudes toward company culture tends to correspond with how much time the employee spends working at home. Those who spend the most time working remotely tend to have the most positive attitudes about company culture. According to the Gallup poll, “By contrast, exclusively on-site workers are divided, with 49 percent believing that having people work remotely long-term would make the culture worse, while 7 percent say it would be better and 44 percent say it would be about the same.”

Employers appear to be more concerned than employees about the negative impact of remote work on company culture. After all, they have been striving for years to create a supportive workspace where employees can learn, communicate, and bond, based largely on daily interactions with one another. With those traditions flipped upside down, many organizational leaders worry their positive company culture will slowly disintegrate.

What is actually happening

Some employer concerns are valid. There are definitely fewer opportunities to interrelate in a remote or hybrid working environment. However, that does not mean the company culture is destined to crumble. Organizations that succeed are those that know how to adapt to change. They capitalize on the good and reimagine the bad. For example, whatever the company is losing in terms of personal interactions, it is gaining in happier, less-stressed employees.

Empirical research shows hybrid workers report having higher levels of job satisfaction than on-site workers. Since one of the primary goals of creating and maintaining a positive company culture is to generate a happy, productive workforce, mission accomplished. Remote work has clearly not weakened the connection between giving employees what they want and cultivating positive attitudes.

What the future holds

It looks like remote and hybrid work are here to stay. Adapting to this new dynamic may mean companies will have make some adjustments, both now and in the future. They may have to start hosting culture-building events online. Office parties and birthday celebrations may have to be held on Zoom. Onboarding sessions that emphasize the company’s mission, vision, and values will likely start to take place virtually as well. These are all adjustments organizations can make fairly easily. They just have to change their focus from an office-centric company culture to one that is built primarily off-site.

This does not mean, however, that all activities which promote a positive organizational culture have to be virtual. There is nothing wrong with holding weekly or monthly face-to-face meetings where everyone who is in the area can come to the office and strengthen personal bonds IRL. In fact, many at-home workers will look forward to these interactions as they begin to crave real human connection.

Remote work is an adjustment for everyone. Some employees might like working at home for a few months, then realize they actually miss putting on a suit and brainstorming in a real conference room. This is essentially why the hybrid approach is becoming so popular. Whatever direction the modern workforce takes, there is no question company culture will always matter, even if it takes on a slightly different form than before.

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