It’s difficult to build company and workplace culture in the same way when we’re working from home and in remote teams. Even the biggest advocates of the “work from home revolution” will usually admit that it’s been difficult to develop the sense of teamwork and camaraderie that comes with sharing collaborative working spaces since we abandoned the office in 2020.
On the other hand, it’s clear that many organisations find there are compelling arguments for continuing with some form of flexible working arrangements, as we hopefully head out of the global pandemic.
The increased freedom to choose when and where we work has led to quality-of-life improvements as well as lowered cost of living, with many people happy about no longer having to make expensive commutes into congested city centres.
But its undeniable that for certain aspects of our working lives, there’s a feeling that something has been lost. Onboarding and training of new recruits has proven a challenge for many organisations, that have been hiring during the pandemic. Longer-serving employees have missed the reassuring physical presence of colleagues, mentors and friends as they’ve steered a course through the uncharted waters of the past year.
Fingers crossed, that’s all going to change soon – perhaps not exactly “back to normal”, but towards a new normal where flexible working is a real option, and teams inevitably spend longer apart than in the pre-covid days. This changed paradigm gives us a great opportunity to rethink the concept of workplace or company culture from the ground up. Ultimately it’s probably time to think about how it needs to change to make the most of the digital age we’re living in.
If you look up definitions of “company culture” online you’ll find management-oriented articles explaining in a po-faced manner that it’s about values, attitudes, frameworks and expectations. We all know, though, that really it’s about the shared experiences of the people that make up the business. If they share good experiences as they go about their day-to-day work, then the company has a good culture, and that pays off in many ways, from staff happiness to customer satisfaction.
It’s nothing that you can see, or hear – you can attempt to define it in documents like value statements, but you’ll only capture a part of it, because culture is defined by the experiences of everyone involved. It can be guided and nurtured but can’t be set in stone and handed down from above.
Ensuring these positive experiences when teams are working remotely is different than doing it with co-located teams. Communication dynamics are different across a Zoom call than in a face-to-face meeting, and taking oversight of teams requires a careful balance between presence and intrusiveness. It’s easy to get wrong, and everyone reacts differently to perceived transgressions. This can lead to culture interactions that don’t feel positive even if they are well-intentioned!
What we need to be thinking about is “virtual company culture”, then. And what we have to help us are the tools and technology solutions that let us take these experiences online. It’s every tool that a team uses to communicate and collaborate on their work, and specifically, it’s about the features of those tools, and the way we use them to drive interaction and collaboration in our jobs. This will be the framework, now, within which the team shares the experiences that come together to create the nebulous concept of culture (rather than the office, meeting room or after-works-drinks-venue of choice, as was previously the case).
As we’ve discovered over the last year, virtual event technology offers some of the most powerful tools available for creating these experiences. At Buzznation we’ve created virtual leadership meetings, annual reporting meetings, round tables, team-building events, training seminars and plenty of games, socials, fun and entertainment. These events aren’t expected to replace their face-to-face equivalents forever. But given the impressive results and ROI that our customers report (and which are being replicated by organisations around the globe) we’re pretty confident they will become a key tool going forward.
Real company culture is something that’s built up as a by-product of people working together and playing together. For this to happen when we’re all working remotely, we need to overcome the barriers to togetherness that remoteness creates. In person, bonds of professional trust and friendship develop organically. With everyone working from home, sometimes they need a little nudge.
Online training platforms and events-based training provide engaging, feature rich environments. Rather than everyone playing follow-the-leader on a Zoom call, students can interact with each other, with prescribed routes for asking questions and taking part in collaborative learning activities and games.
Outside of training, there are many options for team-building, socialising and leisure-based virtual activities. Why not host a virtual escape room party to help unwind at the end of a stressful week, a team quiz night, a group tour of a virtual gallery or museum, or an online gaming session, streaming cutting-edge video games directly to your attendees in their homes. The internet itself is full of amazing and inspiring venues and experiences that can be enjoyed socially. If you really want to go the whole hog and make people feel special, you can arrange for treats to be delivered to them at home, for the team to enjoy together (virtually) during your session.
Initiatives like these create experiences, and as we explored earlier, experiences help to build culture. In our view, it’s a great idea to think about culture-building as an integral part of corporate strategy. After all your people are your most important asset and you can’t risk having them think that your organisation is anything less than the most amazing place to work in the world.
Buzznation has experience developing and deploying internal events, seminars and parties for clients across the technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals industries, including some of the world’s biggest brands. For a chat about how we can help take your company culture virtual, contact us today.