In the second instalment of her blog – you can catch the first here – Rachel Lanham from Voodle, who is busting the myths around remote work and hybrid work, helps you flex your remote work super powers. This week, she takes aim at builing culture in remote and hybrid work environments
If managing culture in a remote or hybrid work environment is something you’re struggling with – sign up for our webinar on how to manage culture in a remote working world, with leading expert and author, Brett Putton
Myth: Culture is created by our physical space and being together.
Reality: Many all-remote companies have thriving cultures.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as Peter Drucker famously said. Strong workplace culture can power a team to accomplish amazing things—it can be the catalyst for growth, innovation, productivity, and deep commitment to the mission. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true and this year most managers and HR professionals are stuck in the very difficult situation of feeling responsible for culture during a time when in-person conversations are impossible and hugs feel like a thing of the past.
The Buffer 2020 State of Remote Work Report, which polled 3,500 remote workers from around the world, reveals difficulties with “communication & collaboration” and “loneliness” as the top two biggest struggles with Remote Work. In fact, those two challenges have been in the top 3 of the report for the past three years running.
So, how do you build a strong culture in a remote work world when folks feel lonely and communication is a challenge? If you are an HR leader of a suddenly remote organization, start with these 3 steps:
#1 REVISIT CORE VALUES
“Values-fit” has rapidly replaced “culture-fit” in evaluating both current and future employees. Having a solid alignment on what’s important and how work gets done is essential during this transition to a remote world. Are your company values relevant to the moment we find ourselves in?Are there new ones you need to add to the mix? Lastly, most importantly, are your core values apparent in your workplace culture? Are they discussed, celebrated, cherished, and protected? To quote Joeren Van Der Ver, chairman of Phillips, “In my view the successful companies of the future will be those that integrate business and employees’ personal values. The best people want to do work that contributes to society with a company whose values they share, where their actions count and their views matter.
Work with leadership to review and update your values for the new work environment. Then, be as transparent as possible and bring them into the day to day workflow. Make your values easily discoverable and find creative ways to remind your team of them constantly. Ensure there are systems in place to reward your values in action—which brings us to the second step in the process.
CAPTION: All-remote companies like Voodle, GitLab, and Automattic make their values publicly available for current and future employees.
Descriptions are accompanied by Voodlers sharing what our values mean in a short video, so it feels more authentic!
#2 CREATE NEW RITUALS
Paper plate awards, the summer baseball outing, and Ben’s recap around the watercooler of his weekend raising twin girls were all ritualistic elements of the culture prior to this year—and rituals are deeply important. In a recent Masters of Scale podcast, Reid Hoffman and Shishir Mehrotra went into depth on this subject. Rituals like Shishir’s Sunday Emails provide feelings of certainty, safety, and personal connection. The absence of these “moments” creates white space — so find new rituals to fill the space. Imagine a short video on #weeklyinspo from your upbeat co-worker Jacinda, or #momentsofinsight from the CEO, or starting each Monday with a #weekendsummary from a clearly underslept Ben—marker still on his cheek. These Voodles, or short videos, ensure that team members across the company are not only effortlessly kept up to speed on all the latest ideas—they’re able to seamlessly contribute their own. That’s how the spark of a ritual becomes a full flame and takes on a life of its own.
Check out how Mystery, an event start-up based in Seattle, started using Voodle in a number of creative ways once they were forced to close the office. The way new employees used to be ushered in was no longer possible—so in its absence, hello new Voodle ritual.
#3 RE-THINK CULTURE-BUILDING ACTIVITIES
We’ve all been to a virtual happy hour this year that was—how do I put this gently—awful. Virtual Zoom happy hours abounded during the pandemic, but companies including Wired reported dwindling interest as lock-down continued. They were often poorly managed (if at all) and we’ve likely all had a goat crash our Zoom meeting or maybe even been Rick-Rolled mid-conversation. But building personal connections and trust amongst a team in a remote environment requires new thinking and approaches, not gimmicks.
Back in the office, we would go to coffee, lunch, or simply take a walk around the block to learn more about our co-workers and establish a genuine relationship. It may feel impossible to capture those authentic moments in our new remote, asynchronous world, but there is one tool we believe imitates that real human-to-human feeling better than any other—the short form video. Gitlab, the DevOps giant, describes asynchronous communication as “the art of communicating and moving projects forward without the need for additional stakeholders to be available at the same time your communique is sent.” It’s more important to embrace and adopt these asynchronous workflows now than ever before. Check your messages, respond to email, or watch a short video in the best moment for you.
Allowing team members to share highlights of their weekend, concerns about remote life, or even pet videos through an asynchronous app like Voodle can be surprisingly powerful. A voice-note is a step up from a written text, and a video, or voodle, is yet another step closer towards that feeling of real in-person human connection.
A regular cadence of “voodle challenges” can really create great moments of bonding and insight about who your coworkers are and what matters to them. I can tell you from firsthand experience, it’s a lot more fun and authentic than those awkward in-person icebreaker exercises! (Now say your name and do a dance move!… No, thank you.)
Caption: Fun with a voodle challenge!
As the Future of Work comes barreling at us, innovative tools are emerging for HR leaders to leverage in their quest to maintain engagement and culture. The new workplace experience is an opportunity to embrace asynchronous points of connection—jump in and contribute when you choose, sit back and learn when you have time. To maximize the benefits of remote work, team members should feel less pressured by requirements to attend real-time events. They are now free to share and learn about their team in a more casual and authentic way, in the moment that suits them best. According to Gitlab, “In an all-remote setting, where team members are empowered to live and work where they’re most fulfilled, mastering asynchronous workflows is vital to avoiding dysfunction and enjoying outsized efficiencies.”
Would you rather read “great job on that project” or see your manager in a short video sharing their smile and a sincere message of congratulations? Asynchronous messaging platforms only get you so far towards connectedness—Voodle aims to bring humanity and real human feeling to this new world of work.
Rachel Lanham is Chief Customer Officer at Voodle, the short async video platform for teams. She is an aspiring “remote-work guru” and is obsessed with the future of work and enabling every worker to feel empowered and connected