As businesses embrace fully-remote work, does company culture suffer?

With many big-name companies embracing all-remote work, either by allowing workers to be fully virtual or by eliminating offices, a question arises: does that hurt company culture and employee connectedness?

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Today, Articulate has 400 employees primarily located throughout the US, with a small number of staffers scattered across the globe.

Being fully remote and without offices, Suros argued, makes it possible to hire the best talent because you’re not constrained by geography. It also reduces the overhead costs of physical offices.

Even more profound, Suros said, is the benefit a remote operational model has on culture and productivity.

“Many companies think that good communication, collaboration, and engagement magically happens when people are in the same shared space, but that’s frankly ludicrous,” Suros said. “Remote work forces companies to face the harsh truth: you must intentionally and programmatically build cultures where communication is clear, truthful, and safe; where collaboration is inclusive, empowering, and effective; and where people are engaged and productive because they feel seen, heard, and valued. Companies who do this well are top decile performers.”

Articulate does hold annual company gatherings where employees gather in one location to promote company culture and familiarity, but it has not held an offsite since the pandemic began.

The software maker creates its company culture by sharing with all new employees its principles for how to treat others as well as how to communicate, something Suros calls a human-centered organization (HCO) framework. The framework is focused on building socially and psychologically healthy connection between “folx” at the organization. (Folx is a variation of the word “folks” and is meant to be a gender-neutral way to refer people."

“At the core of our HCO is heart-centeredness, respect, and a desire to create an empowering dynamic between folx at all levels of the organization,” Suros said.

The company also fosters corporate culture through resource and interest groups, “fun interest-based Slack channels,” games and activities, and coffee chats between coworkers who are randomly paired. It also holds periodic virtual retreats along with its annual physical site retreats.

“What’s problematic for most companies has nothing to do with whether their employees are remote or not. It has to do with their underlying cultures,” Suros said. “Because the things that make a remote workplace culture thrive — communication, collaboration, empowerment — are the same ingredients that make any company culture thrive.”

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(Smaller companies are getting on the remote-only train, too; online job consultancy Remote.co has created a list of 25 small companies that are fully virtual for job-seekers.)

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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