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4 minute read


Is there a future for ‘office’ culture in your remote workforce?


With 90% of millennials and Gen-Z workers reluctant to face a “return to the office mandate”, it’s clear that business leaders must plan carefully for the future of their workplace.

Could a return to ‘bricks and mortar’ working pose a risk to employee engagement, or impact talent retention? It’s a big consideration for organisations looking to go fully remote or hybrid in their working methods. Sustaining a happy, healthy workplace culture without a tangible ‘place’ requires embracing true digital transformation.

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Creating collaborative communication

The global pandemic accelerated digital transformation for most businesses. But while many may have invested in temporary solutions to get them through the unprecedented, chaotic period, there is a huge opportunity now to select the type of technology that will stand the test of time.

But how? It’s important to consider your business needs carefully and implement a strategy and timeline to guide you and your workers through changes. When it comes to keeping teams productive whilst working remotely, the cloud is the ideal solution for workers whose location may be in flux, or who need to share work without being physically in the same place.

Get the right unified communications solutions, embrace analytics to build on what you’ve implemented, and make sure you have the right cyber security services to protect your data, and migrating to the cloud can massively enhance the employee experience.

In addition to a full migration to the cloud, leaders should not ignore emerging technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and augmented reality (XR), all of which could help to provide a sense of ‘place’ for workers, helping them to truly connect in a virtual environment.

For example, Facebook is already in the process of exploring how they can leverage augmented and virtual reality (dubbed ‘mixed reality’) to ‘supercharge remote work and productivity’. In addition to announcing that all Facebook staff could request permanent remote work status after the pandemic ends, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the AR and VR division have plans to use their tech to support remote workers. They hope to apply these futuristic technologies beyond entertainment purposes, but also to provide remote employees with a feeling of presence during meetings.

Define a working model

Laying out your new working culture in a world still going through change requires logistics. If you opt for a hybrid model, you’ll need to know the capacity of your office and possibly implement a rota system. Some businesses that have chosen not to downsize can continue to use their centralised offices. Still, many might consider implementing more regional micro hubs or flexible spaces for teams to collaborate in person on a regular basis, with most working remotely.

One business blazing a trail with this type of location strategy is Dropbox, which implemented flexible, collaborative spaces. ‘Dropbox Studios’ were created specifically for in-person interactions, replicating the incidental and spontaneous nature of the connections we might make in the office.

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The future of the office

As businesses discover the potential of remote working, which presents huge opportunities in terms of employee productivity, access to a broader talent pool, and reduced costs on maintenance and estate agency fees, the future of the office is still in debate.

But for many, the office is an anchor for workplace culture. To feel engaged, motivated, and included, employees need to feel a sense of unity and as though they are a part of something. Historically this manifested itself in our physical office space during impromptu ‘water cooler’ moments or social gatherings after work. But now that the traditional office holds increasingly less gravitas, businesses will need to find ways to create an ‘outlet’ for their corporate culture.

Different businesses have attempted to tackle this problem in their own ways. While some have opted for more traditional virtual happy hours, others have been more creative and done things like invite ‘virtual comedians’ to raise morale through comedy, host remote costume parties and encourage teams to work together though virtual escape rooms. Still more have instead focused on joining up their existing systems, using solutions like Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral to help to make communication much more seamless and collaborative across the virtual interactions and communications tools we use across the working day.

Redefine your culture strategy

Cultivating a nurturing, inclusive and open culture in a remote workforce is more important now than ever. But in a predominantly remote working environment it will take time to figure out how to create spaces that help people bond naturally without a forced interaction.

Implementing company values into everyday operations, creating gamified ways to uphold them, or simply encouraging spontaneous collaboration through virtual happy hours, quiz nights, fitness clubs, or regular one-to-ones over a cup of coffee (or something stronger!) might help to reinstate a sense of unity.

Businesses must be aware of the risk of regressing to the old ways of presenteeism or inadvertently rewarding those who show up at the office more often. Implementing a remote culture means building a foundation of equality, openness and a safe ‘space’ (be that physical or virtual). Companies must rewire any old-school habits, allow teams to do their best work wherever they choose and be rewarded based on outcomes rather than attendance.

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