Not long ago, I got a call from a key client consulting me on how to keep his company’s workplace culture while shifting to an all-remote system. My answer was “You can’t…But if you could, would you want to?”
Let me explain.
Ever since Henry Ford developed its famous Motor company Sociological Department in 1914, western companies have treated their workplace culture as some sort of sacred intangible value backed by a life-long history of successes. Even tech companies that were born five-ten years ago quickly developed an obsession with establishing a reputable inner culture designed to attract the best talent available.
But with the rise of the everywhere workforce and hybrid workspaces, it has become abundantly clear that all the organizational theory books in our libraries can not prepare us for the challenges we have ahead of us.
In a recent survey conducted by MIT Sloan, 50 well-known executives agreed that establishing and maintaining organizational culture is difficult, if not impossible, in a virtual setting. They argued that the lack of a strong sense of culture is a particularly acute problem for newcomers.
This means that, for some of the most prestigious executives in the land, constructing purpose and a sense of belonging inside of a remote network seems downright impossible.
This assessment presents a complicated scenario for companies in the post-COVID era. On one hand, a productive workforce that takes no physical space and no in-house resources, potentially saving millions of dollars, and on the other hand, the risk of destroying an identity they spent decades building both inside and outside their company.
I don’t see this as a one-or-the-other dilemma. I think that what we are seeing here is a paradigm shift in which organizational consultants, HR experts, and tech gurus will have to start asking their CEOs a simple question; “Does our company’s workplace culture fit in a box?”.
With the rise of new hires for full-time remote jobs, part-time gig workers, massive infrastructure downsizings, and hybrid work schedules comes the need to start thinking inside the box, and I mean that literally.
New hires and customization services can create a new way of reaching employees, changing the impact their job has on their lives well beyond their paycheck.
There used to be a clear division between our home and the office. Now, the lines have started to become blurry and suddenly companies find themselves in the unique position to change not only how you work, but also how you live (hopefully for the better).
It is still a matter of debate how businesses will engage this issue. Some companies are already starting to develop new ways to create better working conditions for people in a fully remote scenario, while also developing trust through elements that can bring people together to build a cohesive company culture.
Designing an efficient onboarding process without the physical everyday interaction in the workplace will certainly be one of the biggest challenges, but I believe this problem will only be around until everyone adapts to new ways of building relations within collaborative work platforms.
Like I said to my client; There is no going back to the way things were, but there is certainly a way to move forward, adapting and becoming better for the benefit of our company and our employees.
In this moment of uncertainty, companies should remember every success story has one bleak moment when everything seems to be lost, and that usually comes right before the triumphant success.
CEO of Netuniverse