Creating a Positive Culture… With a Mix of Remote and Non-Remote Workers

Avatar by Daniel Wiggins Published Sep 8, 2019 Last updated Sep 25, 2019

Workers in a company where the culture is vibrant and supportive can feel like they are set up to succeed, making them more motivated to achieve their best rather than just a reasonable outcome. 

As more offices reap the benefits of offering remote work possibilities, the cultures that have been developed in-office don’t always translate. In particular, a company that has both a traditional office staff as well as a variety of off-site remote workers must do extra due diligence in order to ensure that the positive workplace culture is actually extending to the remote staff.

Benefits of Positive Culture

To begin with, it’s important to recognize why positive culture is such a valuable goal. Companies whose workers experience a positive culture:

  • Are more likely to see themselves as capable of solving even the most difficult problems they encounter at work.
  • Are more likely to support their colleagues and cover for each other, seeing the team effort as an important aspect of the job.
  • Are more likely to use any competitiveness in a positive way to help everyone achieve their best possible outcomes.
  • Are more likely to voice concerns respectfully but quickly, so that issues in the workplace can be resolved.
  • Are more likely to work collaboratively with management and other levels in the business.
  • Are more likely to actively seek out ways for the company to prosper.

So how do these benefits emerge? In many cases, the idea of “culture” is reduced to small reflections of culture, like people getting appetizers together after work or taking breaks to brainstorm with their colleagues. In most cases, however, a positive culture is one where each individual feels the combined benefits of great support from the company (colleagues, management, everyone) and great investment in the company (willingness to step up, speak out, and work hard). 

Pitfalls of Mixed Remote-Onsite Workplaces

Once your company has a mixture of both onsite and remote workers, the following scenarios can emerge:

  • Workplace opportunities and perks are easier to distribute to those who are present in-person, so these individuals tend receive preferential treatment.
  • Onsite workers feel slighted when they must use vacation or sick days for things that could be flexed by the remote workers.
  • Either group sees a noticeable difference in the output of the other kind of workers: either onsite workers think that remote workers are somehow slacking off, or remote workers feel like they get more done with their minimal-distraction environments.
  • Collaboration is harder from remote to onsite, so the staff on either “side” work less diligently to bridge that divide.

In any given workplace with a mix of onsite and remote workers, there may also be a wide variety of other concerns that are connected with the particular work, but they tend to always come back to feeling that others are not as invested or that one’s own work is not as well supported as it was before this transition to a mixed workplace.

Steps to Maintain Your Positive Hybrid Culture

After working hard to create a positive culture at your workplace, you want to maintain it now that many workers are working remotely. The good news is that this is entirely possible, but it does require more intentional work than when everyone joined each other in the same physical location every day. Solving issues that affect positive culture, however, are generally as simple as making sure that there is equity in support and investment across both teams. 

Re-Evaluate and Streamline Communication Channels

While a lack of digital communication techniques might be okay in a context where everyone is just a cubicle away, it is more important than ever for good email hygiene and an intuitive instant messaging system be available. Consider how quickly individuals need answers in your business: within 4 hours? Within 24 hours? Within a week? Work with every team to make sure that there is an expectation for how frequently you’ll use the digital communication tools so that no one can complain that they were left out of an important decision because of being onsite or being remote. Make the expectations clear that even people who prefer phone or in-person communication may need to use these systems in order to truly create collaboration that includes everyone.

Use Email or Other More “Fair” Systems to Distribute Perks and Opportunities

Rather than popping into the office and announcing free tickets or inside information on a new task or project, managers need to make the effort to distribute first-come, first-served opportunities to everyone at once. Email is a great use for this; while it does privilege people who check their email more often, this doesn’t apply more to onsite versus remote workers. 

Have Meetings With Each “Team” to Determine Any Pinch Points in Workflow

If you feel some of the positivity slipping in your workplace culture, have each team separately address what might be termed ‘pinch points.’ These meetings should be structured in order to notice where disconnects are happening, not casting blame on one team or the other. It may be that remote workers are so accustomed to a certain system that they are baffled when onsite workers are slow to take it up, and onsite workers may be annoyed that remote workers proceed faster and without verbal confirmations. Make sure that the actual rules for each step in typical workflows are established.

Help Every Team Member Remove Roadblocks to Productivity

Rather than making productivity goals that pit remote workers against onsite workers, use one-on-one meetings to address whether remote work or onsite work is working best for each individual. The way we get work done is a unique part of our personalities, and some people really thrive in an office while others are hyper-efficient at home or in a co-working space. Dig into what would help each individual, whether it’s a location change or something else, rather than comparing metrics like the two teams are in opposition.