Zoom meeting on laptopCreating a culture for the remote workforce is going to take somenew and creative thinking, because the old standards of officehappy hours or desk drops just won't work. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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As the great Work From Home Experiment continues, many workersand companies are finding that remote work isn't the productivitykiller they imagined. In fact, many employees are actually enjoyingit, and several businesses, including Twitter, have moved to makethe arrangement permanent.

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Not everyone is faring so well, however, and even thosecompanies that are holding steady right now will need to takeproactive steps to ensure the work-from-home model continues toalign with their company mission and culture.

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Related: 10 commandments for working from home during thepandemic

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This is going to take some new and creative thinking, becausethe old standards of office happy hours or desk drops just won'twork.

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Recently, Henry Albrecht CEO of Limeade, sharedsome thoughts on how to support remote workforces withBenefitsPRO.

How can companies build and maintain supportive cultures whenall employees are remote?

Henry Albrecht: When all employees are remote,organizations can lose some of the social aspects that officeenvironments offer. In order to create a connected and supportiveexperience when all employees work from home, companies can buildsupportive cultures through dynamic communication.

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Email is not always the best solution because it does not openup opportunities for two-way, best-practices-sharing communicationfor all. By ensuring your company has a multichannel, bidirectionalsolution, organizations and their employees can communicateproactively and appropriately react to feedback. And, through thesefrequent surveys, you can gauge how employees are feeling andidentify shifts in attitude. From there, you can adjustcommunications plans accordingly so employees are in the know.

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Additionally, your employees should hear from you often. Thishelps make sure that they feel supported and cared for, and thatthey understand the overarching messages and have access torelevant company resources. They should see your face with video,be able to comment and share your views – and participate in opendialog.

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Finally, by providing flexible work arrangements, you can ensurethat your company is equipped to handle an increase in remoteworkers. A key component of employee empowerment is givingauthority to employees. If they don't know you support them, theylikely won't feel empowered to make decisions that are best forthem.

How can companies properly handle employee mental health aswell as promote good work-life integration while WFH?

HA: Companies can properly handle employeemental health by offering necessary services. Employer-providedmental health resources are important for all employees, but manyorganizations are starting to realize the benefits that theseresources have on their remote employees.

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To address these issues right now, employers are offering toolsand training to ensure employees and managers are equipped tocreate a psychologically safe environment that enables genuineconversations. From there, HR departments are providing theiremployees with playbooks in order to appropriately and sensitivelytake action when a mental health issue is disclosed. This includesthoughtful ways to support others as well as providing employeeswith the right resources and support to put their well-being first.Additionally, organizations are surveying their employees to makesure their needs are met and they are actually taking the time tolisten and make necessary changes.

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Of course above all else, authentic care is the most impactfulresource an employer can offer. Only when these efforts aregenuine, will organizations see the direct benefits these offeringsand open conversations have in supporting employee mentalhealth.

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And, as the workforce goes more and more digital, it is increasingly difficult to keep work completelyseparate from out-of-office life, and it is even harder when welive and work in the same location. So, when it comes to work-lifeintegration, companies need to offer employees the option to createa schedule that works best for their productivity as well as theirmental health. This allows employees to take care of children, walkthe dog, or run a quick errand. However, to make this work, thereneeds to be trust between both employee and employer that they aretaking care of their work and themselves.

How can Twitter and other tech organizations with extended WFHtake this time to re-evaluate and examine employee care and becomemore intentional about their cultures?

HA: The global shutdown has forced usto rethink how we view work, and our approach to the entireemployee experience. We are now challenging aspects of work that weprobably should have challenged in the past, but there was neverthis impetus. Because going back to "normal" is no longer possible,we have to look ahead, adapt to the changing workforce, andimplement what we've learned these past few months.

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Moments of crisis offer us an opportunity to reevaluateorganizational values. By taking the time to examine values,Twitter and other tech companies can determine if their values areas relevant today as they were when they were originallycreated.

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No culture is perfect, but moving the needle is totallypossible. These five tips will help you make small improvementstowards an intentional culture that matches the objective of yourorganization. These are behaviors you can enact to shape yourculture today.

  • Clarify the business problems you want toaddress. When you understand your objectives clearly, itbecomes easier to create a complimentary culture. When culture isaligned with business objectives, everyone benefits.
  • Think of yourself as a culture architect. Youare not a victim of your company's culture, but a capablechangemaker that can do something about it. It's challenging work,but this work is unique to your organization — and there's a lotthat hangs in the balance.
  • Get buy-in from leaders and employees.Changing culture requires buy-in from the C-suite and thefront-line workers. Your CEO should be the face of culturetransformation, but employees must also be excited about culture asthey experience it on a day-to-day basis.
  • Start with values. Perhaps your company has amission statement or a set of values it adheres to. Take an honestlook at these cornerstones and determine where you've succeeded andwhere you're falling short. Think of your values as theaspirational culture you are seeking to achieve.
  • Follow the intentional culture circle. Fromcreating a vision to measuring change, the following diagramoutlines steps for creating an intentional culture. Remember thattools and technology can be used to scale these steps to the needsof any organization.

How can organizations help new employees connect with theirteams/the company during remote onboarding?

HA: It is important to remember thatonboarding remote employees is different from onboarding in-officeemployees, so changes to typical procedures will have to be made.Organizations can help new employees connect with their teams andthe company as a whole during remote onboarding by setting a newhire up with a buddy or mentor. This person can guide the newemployee through the first few weeks, introduce to other teammembers as well as ensure they feel settled and have all theresources needed to succeed.

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Additionally, organizations can set up virtual coffee dates orother social interactions that remote employees may miss out on.Through these more casual meetings, new employees can connect withtheir teams and begin building friendly relationships. Employeeresource groups are another way to make inclusion come to life, asERGs can create a sense of community and help new hires transitioninto the organization.

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Emily Payne

Emily Payne is director, content analytics for ALM's Business & Finance Markets and former managing editor for BenefitsPRO. A Wisconsin native, she has spent the past decade writing and editing for various athletic and fitness publications. She holds an English degree and Business certificate from the University of Wisconsin.