Will Company Culture Suffer From the Rise of Remote Work? The pandemic has accelerated this shift exponentially, but take heart: It comes many surprising benefits.

By David Partain

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the effects of the pandemic cement themselves further within our working world, companies everywhere must adjust to new circumstances. More than ever before, employees are opting to work from home, and many employers are helping with the change. Google, for instance, offered $1,000 to employees to create a better work-from-home space. Twitter announced early in the pandemic that it would be giving the option to work from home indefinitely. But when office structure changes so significantly, what happens to company culture?

Despite the inevitable challenges of managing a remote team, this altered landscape provides the perfect opportunity for culture to improve.

Virtual workplaces require deliberate action

When employees work remotely, management is not able to physically observe body language. Communication cannot happen casually — there's no water cooler, no break room. This leaves room for trouble, as employees may pretend to be busy or happy when they really aren't. Communication must become a deliberate act.

In the office, you may have spotted an employee looking frustrated or quiet, had a chat with them and discovered the cause of their issues. From behind a screen, however, we may never see a frown. Employees have time to think before they respond to a question. Every response is prepared. Every interaction is filtered. Therefore, you must go out of your way to ask each employee how they feel, if they need any help or find out if they have any questions. On the positive side, this gives you the opportunity to really get to know them. Be intentional and your conversations can be much more meaningful than break room small talk ever was.

Related: Growing Pains: How to Turn Hard Times Into Periods of Immense Personal Growth

No commute means more time

A significant part of a worker's routine has always been the commute, but this was lost at the start the pandemic. With all of that extra time and nothing to do, many found themselves becoming more productive. The time normally spent traveling to and from the office became time to think and work. This became incredibly beneficial. Many people have realized there often isn't a need for a commute at all, and they can get more work done from home at a higher quality. The traditional nine-to-five office job truly feels like a thing of the past, and business seems better for it.

Better and more widespread communication

Employees working from different geographical regions existed long before the pandemic. Many companies have a strong foundation for melding teams together across various spaces, but it's only getting easier with ever-improving technology. Thanks to a vast landscape of digital programs, it's just as easy to connect with someone halfway around the world as it is with someone around your local corner. Employees in Europe feel just as close as those in the U.S., and it really makes the organization feel tighter as a whole. Due to technology, it appears that the further we separate, the more we're able to come together.

Related: Why Aligning Raises With Reviews Will Boost Work Performance

Find time for fun

Just as remote work forces workers to be deliberate in their communication, it also prompts them to be deliberate in opportunities that can be created to relax, learn about each other and enjoy themselves. Management has to think more seriously about how to connect their entire team. Every employee is different and, sadly, there's no guidebook for how to have fun. Action taken here depends on the workforce. The important thing is, managers need to make employees feel like they're part of a group, even if they never physically meet a single coworker. Some remote teams have monthly sessions where they play games, answer questions about themselves and get to know who they're working with. Whatever you choose to do, it's all about building these bonds.

Culture doesn't just happen in business. It's constantly evolving, and with a catalyst like Covid-19, it's bound to change dramatically. Rather than fearing a loss of familiarity, the new face of business has presented each of us with an opportunity: We can redefine culture in our own images. Through deliberate action and communication, increased productivity and a focus on uniting your team, you have the chance to shape your company culture for the better.

David Partain

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CMO of FlexShares

David Partain is SVP of Northern Trust and CMO of their subsidiary, FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds. He has over 15 years of marketing, sales and finance expertise and was named one of the "20 Rising Stars in Finance" by the Gramercy Institute.

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