How to build a remote culture that works

With the recent coronavirus pandemic, many companies became remote against their will. Now, with things getting “back to normal” and the ongoing threat of the second wave they need to face the reality and the fact that some employees simply don’t want to come back to the office. They’re figuring out new setups and considering new ways of functioning. However, many of them still fear that being fully or mostly remote won’t work. People will lose connection to the company and to each other, they will be disengaged and ineffective. 

During our recent Inko Club webinar, we discussed and shared ideas and experiences of transformation from an office-based to a remote company. 72% of the companies attending our webinar remained at least partly remote and 57% of them are right now in the stage of deciding whether they want to come back to “normal” and operate mainly from offices or they will become fully remote. Only one company called all employees back to offices and doesn’t allow remote work anymore. 

So, there’s a high chance your company is now in the midst of remote culture pros and cons evaluation and you’re figuring out what are the cornerstones of a remote company culture that would actually work.

Let me save you time and struggle by answering this question right away. Your company can only become a successful remote one if you apply culture transformation and not culture fixing. 

Stop fixing, start transforming 

When COVID-19 struck, companies had to quickly adjust. And the most natural and time-saving way was to introduce fixes. So, you fixed your recruitment process a bit and started recruiting online. You fixed your sales strategy and focused on the e-shop. You fixed your internal comms and added a new channel on Slack, created an all-employee group on Whatsapp or started a company-wide sports competition to keep people engaged during the home-office period.

It’s safe to say that major restrictions and the national freeze are over here in the Czech Republic (and in many countries around the world as well). However, many companies still run in the “fixing” mode believing they can “fix” their way to a remote culture. Unfortunately, they’re setting themselves up for failure.

Quick fixes are great for two situations – stable development and crisis. In stable development, you have your strategy set and you only adjust and fix here and there as you go with implementation. And if you’re in times of crisis, fixes are helpful as you cannot afford to be undergoing any major transformation.

Right now, we’re stuck in the middle. It’s not a crisis anymore but we’re not settled in the “new normal” yet either. And this is a perfect time and opportunity for transformation and innovation.  

If you want to switch to partly or a fully remote company, you need to drop quick fixes and start the transformation process with everything that goes with it.

The magic of planning 

Sorry, there is no exact magic formula for creating a great functional remote culture. The secret to why some companies (hello to GitLab!) manage to operate successfully with people all over the world working from homes, coworking centers, or beaches is simple. They have a plan and they understand it’s a unique process with numerous phases that you have to go through. 

Therefore, your discussion shouldn’t be about specific tools or how often you should have offsites with your people. The discussion should start with the hard questions – why, how, and what. “Why do we want to go remote? How does it change our strategy? How does it align with our values? What are the opportunities? What are the risks?” 

If you don’t know where you’re headed, you cannot expect your people to follow. But when you have the bigger picture in mind, with every little change you make it will all come together eventually.

Change leader or handyman?

So, next time you’re discussing internally how to keep people engaged when working from home, how to replace the kitchen talk, or how not to lose touch with the colleagues, don´t fall into the trap of quick fixes.

Take a step back and ask yourself whether you’re actually building a new version of your company and making decisions with the new strategy and set up in mind or you´ve turned into a handyman fixing, tightening or replacing here and there trying to keep the “good old DIY culture” together. 


Interested in the topic? Looking for some practical examples and experiences of your colleagues from other companies? Watch our webinar on Building a remote culture.

Written by Zuzana Hübnerová

Published on 20 August 2020

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