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Remote companies say culture doesn't come from physical offices

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Julia Cummings, a remote worker at a Los Angeles-based software startup, says her job: It has access to almost everything she needs. She can see her company’s financial performance, see her co-workers’ salaries, and view shared notes for all meetings, even those she didn’t attend. She receives reimbursements for unlimited books and a $1,000 annual scholarship for development. A minimum 15-day leave policy required by the company, along with time off for mental health, helps her avoid burnout. She has a “roll her buddy” to help her navigate her position and a buddy to stay connected to her company’s culture. And her employer, Buffer, regularly welcomes employees to discuss what’s going on outside of work.

Cummings, who was a little nervous about joining a completely remote company six years ago, said: “It’s one of the strongest cultures I’ve seen and we’re not in the office.”

Cummings is one of many employees employed by companies that have gone fully remote since their inception. As more companies move to hybrid work, As of early August, approximately 36.5 million people in the United States were working remotely five or more days a week, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. As leaders formulate post-pandemic policies, his one concern about remote work often surfaces.

Businesses that were remote before the pandemic say that not only can it be done, it will be more flexible, more productive and more competitive in hiring. But creating remote cultures requires a shift in mindset, creativity and orientation, remote businesses say.

what’s going on in your workplace? Please tell me about it.

For social interaction, Buffer, which employs 84 people in 27 countries, offers monthly allowances to work in coworking spaces and coffee shops. Provide a tone guide so the text is not misunderstood. He also pairs cross-functional employees for 30-minute chats once a week via his automated Donut app in Slack.

“It is possible to build the same thing in a remote environment [office] Energy, but we have to work harder,” said Jenny Terry, director of business operations at Buffer. “It’s not easy to bump into each other in the hallway. In our hallway he’s Slack.”

Definitions of culture vary. Some workers suggest it is a sense of belonging to the organization and a strong connection with colleagues. Some say it is a set of shared values ​​and beliefs that guides decision-making. Some define it as an intangible asset called the soul of the company. But what is clear is that culture plays a big role in a company’s success, employees say.

Cultural influence is one reason some companies refuse to work remotely. Leaders worry that their corporate culture will soon collapse, employees will become disconnected, and their jobs will suffer. They believe there is magic and creativity that can only come from doing real work. Indeed, due to the nature of work, not all companies can work remotely.

Gen Z workers want flexibility and don’t want to be crammed into cubicles

But since the pandemic, more companies are offering remote options. Twitter, Salesforce, and Slack, the messaging app owned by Salesforce, now allow permanent remote work. Airbnb employees can work remotely from anywhere in the world.

GitLab, a software development platform with more than 1,700 employees in 65 countries, says companies need to embrace flexibility as remote work takes hold. To encourage face-to-face friendships, at the beginning of each quarter, GitLab offers employees a “social gathering grant”. This provides up to $50 for meals, transportation, or activities with colleagues. We also offer a visitation grant of up to $1,000 for travel to events with 4 or more teammates. GitLab’s first employee, Marin Jankovski, once used a grant to attend his colleague’s wedding.

“It created a special connection with GitLab,” he said. “It was a deliberate move … to promote relationships outside of work.”

To promote transparency, GitLab offers an evolving 2,000-page handbook. It is intended to serve as a searchable document for employee questions. It includes resources on how employees should communicate, both from a media and etiquette perspective. It also includes departmental topics, as well as what employees want to know about Sid his Sea Brandy CEO, including his style of communication, flaws, and how to meet him. GitLab also says it will document everything from decisions to project updates to conference discussions in public materials for employees.

GitLab Chief Human Resources Officer Wendy Barnes said: “So don’t worry about missing it.”

But Jankovski, who lives in Amsterdam, admits that transparency is not easy. In the days before GitLab, Jankovski and his co-founders teamed up remotely for the project and together documented next steps.

“We had a clear moment to write things down [to see] people’s understanding and [those of] Others,” he said.

At Zapier, which employs more than 700 people in 41 countries, employees regularly discuss hobbies in various “fun” Slack channels, and the company sends employees on retreats twice a year. . Senior Business Operations Manager Danny Schreiber said, He says that being conscious of getting to know colleagues in a remote environment is useful for work.

“If you can learn a person’s tone, way of speaking, and sense of humor, you’ll be more productive,” he said of meeting in person.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, known for the WordPress content management system, had remote workers. over ten years. Make video calls with automatic pairing based on common interests. Team meetings also often start with non-work related questions.

“Ultimately, I believe it’s important to give teams autonomy and create a culture that works for them,” says Mullenweg.

Thinking of ditching your office for good? Here are some things to consider before going completely remote.

Brandon Sammut, Zapier’s chief people officer, said that for remote work to succeed, companies need to develop systems to support their employees.

“What brought you here won’t take you where you go,” he said.

For managers like Steph Donily, Zapier’s head of corporate marketing, this means it’s now focused on results, whether or not someone needs to go shopping at noon. She consistently said she was over-communicating expectations, feedback, and context.

“rather than [basing someone’s] In order for them to have respect for sitting in their seats or saying sensible things in meetings, we need to manage it differently,” she said. We need to make sure we are delivering what we are saying.”

Some companies have gone remote as they see the benefits to their employees and their business. Christa Quarles, her CEO of Canadian graphics software company Corel, says some adjustments are needed.

“I had to drastically change the way I approached my leadership style,” says Quarles, including being intentional about listening to people and creating opportunities.

That’s why Corel trains middle managers to understand the performance-based leadership model. She also said that working remotely has made her realize the importance of articulating processes clearly, and that technology features such as Zoom’s chat and raise-hand features have made meetings fairer.

Expanding culture remotely can be a challenge, but companies say it’s worth it. Employees have more freedom and employers have access to a larger talent pool, including workers who want or need flexible work.

For some workers, office duties are more than just a pain. they are harmful.

Prithwiraj Choudhury, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the future of work, said:

Buffer’s Cummings says he won’t be going back to a traditional office now that he’s working remotely.

“Just because you’re in person doesn’t mean it’s a positive culture,” she said. It’s whether you respect your employees as human beings and trust them to get things done.”