Much of the professional world has shifted to a work-from-home model amid the ongoing pandemic. By the end of June, an unprecedented 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, and although working from home is a good strategy to keep your team safe, it’s not without its challenges.
Adjusting to new tools and a new day-to-day process can disrupt important workflows. Of course, one of the most pressing challenges is maintaining your company’s culture while your team adjusts to a new normal away from the office.
Aptitude 8 is a fully remote team. We have no office, multiple locations, and a full team of people working from home across the globe. As a result, I am often asked how we maintain our culture when we aren’t sharing an office.
First, we understand that culture isn’t a gimmick. It isn’t built through team-building events and cocktail hours; it’s the code that serves as a foundation for what you do. It helps you make practical decisions without needing to question whether you’re doing the right thing.
My favorite content on the topic is Ben Horowitz's book, What You Do is Who You Are. It’s premised on the idea that any company can combine lessons from history, facets of modern organizational management, and practical steps to build a company culture that can weather any storm. It also comes with some rad rap quotes.
If you’re struggling with how to maintain your company culture during this difficult time, here are some suggestions from Aptitude 8’s fully remote workforce.
State Your Values and Adhere to Them
Companies often look to team-building exercises, company outings, and fun in-office activities as the building blocks of culture. While there’s a place for these things, you won’t define your company culture at the next Happy Hour. Instead, you must define your company culture through values.
Establishing a clear set of values helps your team understand what your company stands for. Your values should guide their day-to-day work and provide a sense of security and purpose. Inevitably, your values help your employees make good decisions that help to achieve your company’s goals.
Ask yourself: What do you and your team do when no one is watching? How do your team members evaluate if they are making the right choice or not?
At Aptitude 8, our values help us answer the most difficult questions without the need to reach out to senior leadership. We can judge whether to work with a new client, consider a project completed, or even hire a new employee based on the values that inform our culture.
Aptitude 8’s values are:
- Relentlessly Resourceful
- Take Pride in the Work We Do
- Continuous Learning
- Time is a Non-Renewable Resource
- FILDI (F*#% It; Let’s Do It) for “Two-Way Door” Decisions
- Solutions Oriented
- Direct Communication
- Calm. Cool. Calculated.
- Our People are Our Greatest Asset
Each month, we hold an “all hands” meeting where we reiterate these values and recognize employees that exemplified them in the previous month. Make your values a core part of your regular operations, and discuss them at your meetings, even if you’re meeting on Zoom.
By stating and adhering to your values, you and your team members can guide yourselves through any challenge, even if you aren’t in the office together. Values are criterions: the principles and standards by which something may be judged or decided.
Giving employees recognition for their good work can help to create a positive workplace culture, whether you’re in the office or working from home. But you should go beyond handing out the occasional comment when someone does a good job. Instead, you should institutionalize employee recognition with a formal program.
Employee recognition programs aren’t just a nice thing to do, either. They can lead to significant business results. According to SHRM, 68% of HR professionals agree that employee recognition has a positive impact on employee retention, while 56% say the programs can help with recruitment.
At Aptitude 8, we use Qarrot as our rewards platform, both to create incentives for our team and to demonstrate the behavior that is most valued at our organization. It allows us to set clear objectives and reward people for reaching them.
We also allow peer-to-peer recognition through the platform. This gives our team a structured way to show their appreciation for each other and recognize their colleagues’ stellar performance. Working late to help out a team member comes with very real and tangible recognition for the whole company to see.
Hold a Weekly “Show and Tell”
Every company holds regular meetings, but they don’t always have to be boring progress reports. We hold a meeting once per week in which someone shows off something they recently built or teaches a tip the rest of the team can implement in their work.
This weekly “show and tell” is a great way to get everyone centered, and it gives team members a chance to show off. But it also allows us to spread learning across the organization.
The meeting emphasizes our commitment to employee recognition as well as two of our values: continuous learning and pride in our work.
Get Video Ready
Now is not the time to be camera shy.
We decided early in the pandemic to transition to a “video on by default” mode of remote working. Not only does this get us accustomed to working via video link, but it also allows us to get value out of body language and other natural ways of speaking, even if we’re meeting online rather than in-person.
Video is important for remote work because it helps you ensure everyone present is attentive. It’s easy to get distracted when you dial into a virtual meeting; it’s harder to get distracted when your colleagues can look you in the eye.
Use Quantitative Management
Your team members will optimize their work based on the metrics you track and display. If you want them to work toward the right goals, you must give them clear information about what those goals are and how far they are progressing toward them.
Quantitative management is all about using statistical information to help your team make better decisions on a day-to-day basis.
I recommend quantitative management for every organization. We use Accelo for project management and time tracking. It’s a tried and true project management system that keeps us on track and gives us full visibility into the work we have ahead.
We often say, “If it’s not in Accelo, it doesn’t exist.”
Company Culture Goes Beyond the Office Door
When working remotely, your employees need a framework for understanding how their contributions help the rest of the team. Setting your company values in stone is a good start. Beyond that, you can use management tools like Qarrot and Accelo to keep everyone engaged and working toward the same objectives.
If you need help integrating your new systems and adjusting to this new way of doing business, we can help. Get in touch with A8 today to find out how we can support your team.