It’s Tough to Build a Corporate Culture in a Remote-Work World - Deepstash

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Remote Work Is Not Like The Real Thing

Remote Work Is Not Like The Real Thing

For all the triumphs of remote work, the social connection remains a pain point. One survey of 700 remote workers, who had previously worked in offices, found that social connection was the thing people missed most about offices, outranking office banter, a dedicated workspace, and face-to-face meetings. And yet, despite the obvious need, most companies haven’t figured out how best to broker connections in the virtual world. 

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Returning To A Physical Office

Returning To A Physical Office

Some companies are counting on the eventual return to offices to mend the social fabric of the workplace. Google and Facebook, which both expanded their real estate footprint during the pandemic, have historically used their office space to create a sense of shared culture, and they will continue to do so. But many other companies have embraced remote work, allowing some or all of their employees to remain dispersed in the months to come.

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The New Gig Work

The New Gig Work

Isolated employees can be compared to gig workers, who may do the same tasks for different companies. People can still feel productive, even content, working by themselves. But when work feels transactional, it’s very easy to trade one laptop for another. It’s not surprising that turnover is so high.

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The Old Workplace Culture

The Old Workplace Culture

At its essence, workplace culture is defined by shared norms and routines. Something as simple as providing free coffee can create an office routine for employees to meet each other or socialize. At their best, those small interactions open the door to friendships or collaboration. Even when they don’t, they give people a sense that they belong to a larger group.

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Post-Pandemic Routines

Post-Pandemic Routines

Remote work challenges these routines and office norms—when people come in when they leave, what they wear, and whom they interact with. The flexibility to work on your own time, and in sweatpants, if you choose, is one of the great advantages of remote work. But it can also leave employees feeling detached, and unsure when it’s appropriate to ping a coworker or how to start a conversation about something that’s not work-related.

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How Remote Work Works In The Long Run

How Remote Work Works In The Long Run

Research on remote work is sparse, and the conclusions vary. Some studies find that workers are happier; others say workers experience more loneliness, irritability, worry, and guilt. Also, the recent research on remote work has taken place during the pandemic, making it difficult to separate whether people feel bad because of their work arrangement or because of the pandemic.

One thing that is clear, though, is that remote workers do not tend to replace in-person interactions with virtual ones.

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Companies On The Job

Since remote work doesn’t seem to be going away, these problems will need to be solved, fast. Some companies trying their hand:

Cleary: is a “digital lobby” where people can ask questions, post announcements, and congratulate each other on workplace wins.

Tandem: encourages employees to share updates throughout the day so coworkers can see when they’re available for a chat.

Donut: aims to create a human connection between people at work.

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The Price Of Lost Connections

The Price Of Lost Connections

The price of this lost connection is more than just dissatisfied, disengaged, or departing employees. It can also cost companies the innovation that comes from people who know how to work together. Remote workers can be productive—even more so than when they work in offices. 

Productivity gains apply mainly to solo work, the kind that gig workers and freelancers do. Collaborative work, which is linked to innovation, has not fared well.

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Remote work: How It fares in the long run.

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