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Melinda Starbird


VP People & Employee Experience

Read more about Melinda Starbird

How can HR create a company culture ‘to go’ in an age of remote working?


Remote working is perhaps one of the defining characteristics of the modern workplace. It has evolved from a perk to table stakes for many employers.

In fact, there’s a good chance you will be reading this while working remotely – indeed, 70% of the world does so at least once a week, according to Gallup.

It could be that you have young children that need looking after during the workday, or that you’d rather save three hours of your day that would otherwise be lost to the grind of a daily commute.

Whatever the reason, remote working gives people freedom. It’s about doing things on your terms in a way that allows you to be most productive, not just in work but your life as a whole.

The positives of remote working are well established at this point – greater productivity, freedom and access to a wider pool of talent.

It’s not just a case of giving everyone a laptop and sending them on their way, however.

Organisations need to take steps to ensure engagement, protect the wellbeing of their employees, and create workplace cultures that reflect their values.

Get your tech right

If your team is going to be working flexibly across different locations, you need to make sure they have the right tools to do so. In the past, many of us have dealt with a prehistoric laptop and some form of clunky VPN or remote access to company resources.

It’s in these situations – after 45 minutes speaking to IT support – that the lustre of working from your garden or the nice café down the road has quickly worn off.

Thankfully, the options are much more encouraging now. With the basics of laptops and possibly mobile phones ticked off, it’s the different communications platforms that make the difference.

Rather than being where the majority of labour-intensive tasks are done, the office becomes an environment more devoted to discussion time, brainstorms, and learning.

A good, reliable video conferencing suite is an absolute must. ‘Remote-first’ companies might find that many of their staff are spread across the world and tools like Zoom allow for far more engaging meetings than the average conference call.

For situations where asynchronous communication will work, instant messaging platforms are vital. Anyone who has worked with a developer team – as we do at Auth0 – will have heard them sing the praises of Slack.

The exact choice of tools always depends on the need of the business – size, team structure and composition, for instance – but the overall aim is to create virtual spaces that facilitate and encourage employees to communicate and engage with one another wherever they might be working.

Relationships with colleagues are fundamental to job satisfaction and improving employee productivity.

The importance of the office

Whether operating a flexible-work policy or full remote working strategy, physical offices still have a role to play.

While we might not ‘need’ it, there is scope for the office to take on a different purpose, acting as a hub for certain activities.

First, is in the case of onboarding. Ensuring that new talent is integrated smoothly is almost as important as finding it in the first place.

At Auth0 we operate onboarding classes once or twice a month to ensure all new starters can meet colleagues face-to-face and get immersed in the company for a full day.

One thing to remember is that remote working is part of company culture, not a substitute for it.

This is also supplemented by a yearly off-site event that brings together all employees for one full week of training, creative workshops, and social activities.

When it’s less common for the majority of the team to all be together at once, those times should be used to the fullest.

Rather than being where the majority of labour-intensive tasks are done, the office becomes an environment more devoted to discussion time, brainstorms, and learning.

When staff are in the office, they should be encouraged to make the most of this time with their colleagues.

More and more people are claiming to be or have been lonely in the workplace (as many as 60%) and this will help minimise isolation and foster inclusivity.

All about the culture

For the most part, the old-style of working where everyone clocks in at 9 am and leaves at 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday is something of a relic.

Advances in technology mean that being chained to the same desk isn’t necessary.

For employers, this should be seen as an opportunity – there’s no need to hire by location and talent can be the deciding factor.

Finding the talent is one thing, but keeping them is another – a company’s culture is what will do that.

One thing to remember is that remote working is part of company culture, not a substitute for it.

It should reflect certain values such as an employee-first mindset and independence and innovation in employees.

This should be complemented elsewhere through wider company policies that encourage collaboration between team members.

When that team is diffuse, that culture becomes arguably more important and requires greater effort from the company itself.

Leadership teams need to have robust internal communications structures in place that keep the team up to date on everything from company strategy to successes and also provide a human touch – the virtual equivalent of the chat over coffee in the morning or a lunch with a colleague.

Remote working is the new normal and it’s not without its challenges.

With a little planning and a lot of effort, however, it can make a huge difference to the future of your business.

Interested in this topic? Read Remote control: how to build culture across a team of remote workers.

Author Profile Picture
Melinda Starbird

VP People & Employee Experience

Read more from Melinda Starbird

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