The oxymoron of office culture for remote workers

The dialogue is starting around this latest experiment in the office sector.

We’ve seen other experiments in recent years such as the open office concept and co-working concept. COVID-19 has accelerated a work-from-home (WFH) trial that might otherwise have taken years to duplicate.

Will WFH emerge as the disruptor that some are suggesting?  

Will organizations be able to maintain culture within, while the experiment is underway?

Are you for or against?

I get it… there are lots of factors that play a part in an individual’s work from home experience.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Do you have a private and quiet, at home office setting?

Are you relatively new in your career or are you a seasoned expert in your field?

Do you have a two-hour, or a two-minute commute to your office? 

Does your current employer provide you with a private office or are you in shared, open office setting?

Is your office located in a 52-storey building which will result in a 40-minute elevator wait time at the beginning and end of the day due to Covid-19 social distancing policies?

Your vote for return to the office is likely to be influenced by any one or more of these factors.

I have seen many recent polls on this topic in which the voting results have been as varied as there are people.

Show me the proof

I’d like to see a few good examples of companies who have developed a great WFH culture, with staff of 20 or more working remotely. 

I’m skeptical. It has taken years of research and corporate trial and error to develop organizational culture.

A detailed definition of “organizational culture” provided by the “Business Dictionary” reads as follows:

“The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.

“Organizational culture includes an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid.

“It affects the organization’s productivity and performance, and provides guidelines on customer care and service, product quality and safety, attendance and punctuality, and concern for the environment.“It also extends to production-methods, marketing and advertising practices, and to new product creation. Organizational culture is unique for every organization and one of the hardest things to change.”

Let me reiterate their last point, in that office culture is unique for every business and it is most certainly one of the toughest things to change.

Spontaneity is the spice of (work) life

A Harvard Business Review report, authored by Paul Zak, states neuroscience experiments by his lab show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.

At ICR we provide intelligent client solutions, which are many times arrived at because of a spontaneous in-office gathering of the minds to brainstorm a strategy.

My experience was spontaneous brainstorm sessions just did not happen effectively while our team was working remotely.

Critical feedback from employees is part of a healthy corporate culture. 

Mark Zuckerberg recently faced the biggest backlash in history among Facebook employees over his refusal to act on President Trump’s inflammatory posts.

Could the extent of this backlash correlate with an employee base that has recently moved home, resulting in a fracture to Facebook’s inherent culture?

There are still many questions surrounding our return to the office that remain unresolved.

It will be four or five years before we will have solid evidence of the results from the WFH experiment upon the company cultures of our nation.

Have a comment? I welcome your input.

Posted by Barry Stuart

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