The overall benefits of working remotely have been a focus of this year, but no system is perfect. Translating the feeling of being together and collaborating in an office is difficult to achieve with remote work company culture. It’s no surprise that loneliness is the second most common issue reported as a downside of remote work, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work Report. The first most common issue is unplugging for the day.
We now know that there are two sides to every coin, even for remote work. However, for every person feeling loneliness and lack of connection to their job, there are solutions. We are tackling the complexities of how office relationships may change due to remote work company culture, and how to strengthen your friendships and professional relationships.
In May 2020, the Colorado Business COVID-19 Impact Survey found the majority of businesses reported not being prepared for the changing economy due to COVID-19. A lack of preparation left most companies scrambling to accommodate work from home, and adjust their processes. Now several months into the work from home era, most companies are past the initial struggle. Businesses now have more time to focus on evolving company culture in a virtual world.
So, is maintaining company culture virtually effective? Business advisor Paul Lipinski from KPMG noted that “there is a mutual resiliency and commitment between organizations and their employees that’s resulting in improved connectivity and productivity. During times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make sure employees not only understand their role and responsibilities, but also that they feel recognized and appreciated.”
This is the essence of remote work company culture. We have heard from companies across Colorado on how culture can be translated regardless of in-person events. From mental health programming, to virtual team bonding activities, to employee fitness challenges, this manifests in many forms. One thing is certain though, the creativity is incredible. While employees are willing and able to support their company’s continued efforts, additional recognition and appreciation feed energy into this cycle.
When it comes to remote work company culture and office relationships changing this year, expectations are also changing. In addition to more flexible work hours and a departure from the 9 to 5 workday, norms for team bonding, meetings, work deadlines, interviews and onboarding have also changed.
For example, much earlier this year an individual we work with shared a story about a candidate having an interview call while on a hike in the mountains. In the past, this could be seen as bizarre, even rude behavior, as most folks would typically plan to take a job interview in a quiet, service-reliable setting. Today, most of our clients would not think twice about a candidate’s location, as working outside and on the go has become more ubiquitous than ever, and even encouraged.
This new normal will bring lasting changes in the professional world. Autonomy and remote work go hand in hand, and tech workers in particular are welcoming this flexibility. Busy parents find flex work a downright necessity for getting everything done. The changes extend into the realm of job interviews as well. Long gone are hours long onsite interviews. Companies are getting better at distilling what they are looking for, and in turn, becoming more efficient with their time. This benefits candidates too because “going in for an interview” is far more nerve-racking than an open conversation over video. It also prioritizes the most important parts of the interview process, so candidates with multiple offers are not bogged down by four rounds of interviewing.
Remote work is also redefining professionalism. Here in Colorado, our dynamic, often outdoors-centered lifestyles blend with our work experience, as you may have a business meeting during a hike or on a golf course. Normalizing less formal clothing and less formal settings for business meetings releases us from rigid and outdated confines of how we must work.
Also, allowing a more casual environment virtually lessens the pressure on folks delivering an important presentation, or having their first-round interview. Without the added expectation of professional attire, people are able to be more genuine and comfortable, so their work becomes the focus of the conversation.
It’s not just about attire either. Managers relaxing expectations when it comes to workflow, video fatigue, and project deadlines shows they are aware of the added challenges of remote work and want to help employees avoid burnout. Take advantage of these evolving norms by speaking up about what’s working and what’s not to your manager or team.
Communication in a virtual space adds complex nuances of picking up on people’s expression and emotions through a screen. Therefore, being clear about your needs is important. Overall, redefining what it means to be professional shifts our focus to each other, and the content of our discussions over everything else.
With everything going on, maintaining office friendships may unintentionally slip towards the bottom of the priority list. However, studies have shown that having a close friend at work brings up productivity and boosts your mood. A 2018 Gallup poll focusing on the impact of having valuable individual connections found work relationships are “among the most significant elements in representative commitment, and a feeling of direction.”
Knowing someone is reliable and available for support at work can make all the difference in mitigating loneliness and burnout. We’re all missing our work besties, so how can we continue to connect? Find time for a virtual meeting or outdoor coffee date, during which you and your work friend can just have a conversation, work related or not. If Slack channels for team communication have lulled since the quarantine, revive them with a recent story or video you enjoyed. Or, publicly extend gratitude to a team member, and watch the goodwill circle back around to you.
Often times, office relationships are an underappreciated part of culture. Bringing the human element into remote work company culture means creating a virtual channel for the “office hallway.” If the most networking at a conference happens in the venue hallway, the same can be said for the office hallway and friendships. Despite the challenges, investing in and nurturing our office relationships should remain a priority. If you feel less connected to your team than you did in March and April, take the initiative to plan an event, coordinate an outdoor meetup, or build in time to simply celebrate one another.
With a little extra effort to continue communicating and socializing, remote work friendships are similar to long-distance relationships. Plan specific times to meet, like virtual lunch breaks, take an extra moment to compliment someone’s work, or remind them how valuable their friendship is to you. At the end of the day, it is about effort. Video chat hangouts like coffee meetings or Friday Happy Hours create a semblance of routine. They can also be a moment to reflect on the incredible output of your team’s work this year.
On the flip side of sustaining work relationships, others may be enjoying less social pressure and decreased distractions that are part of a typical office environment. Those who find work friendships just one more thing to manage may welcome this time as a moment to be especially productive. To all the introverts living it up out there, we see you.
Whatever boat you are in personally with your office relationships, remote work company culture has become a pliable concept. As office relationships change, so will our ability to connect in new ways. This year will put office relationships to the test like never before. From what we’ve already seen, work friendships are still thriving and teams are eager to put in that extra effort to stay connected. How are you staying connected with your work friends? Comment below and let us know how your office relationships have shifted this year.
Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.
If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!