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Organizational culture

3 ways managers can preserve culture during remote work

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Work perks can be nice, but when it comes to organizational culture, it’s not the unlimited snacks that count, but the human connections and interactions that occur within a physical workspace.

Culture is a “sort of tight coupling between what we do, how we do things, and what this means to us,” said Jennifer Howard-Grenville, an organization studies professor at the University of Cambridge, during an MIT Sloan Management Review webinar.

But sustaining culture has been a challenge for organizations that have gone remote as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While some are taking steps to reintroduce in-person work, others will be remote for the foreseeable future.

“If we're all sitting either at our kitchen table or a sofa … and we're interacting largely over online communication means, we don't observe practice in the same way,” said Howard-Grenville, PhD ’00. “We don't have a ways of conveying to each other the richness of our communication.”

That can put a strain on reinforcing an organization’s culture, Howard-Grenville said. In her presentation she offered three ways to maintain culture during remote work.

Make sure culture is visible Remind people of valued habits when you see them happening. If there is a healthy debate going on, remind those involved that that is how your organization arrives at solutions.

Welcome modifications to the cultural toolkit Allow your organization’s culture to adapt along with changes to the work. Embrace new practices that reinforce existing culture.

Use the disruption of moving to remote work to bolster the cultural core — Share stories of where the organization has come from. Discuss its cultural strengths, how they’ve emerged, and how they can help the organization navigate the future.

Watch the complete presentation below: