Lori Tansey Martens on the Continued Challenge of Remote Work and Corporate Culture [Podcast]

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By Adam Turteltaub

While the pandemic seems, at least for now, to be receding into our past, many of the changes from it have not, including a large percentage of the workforce that works remotely. While in some ways we have gotten used to this new normal, Lori Tansey Martens (LinkedIn), President, International Business Ethics Institute warns that there remains cause for concern. Specifically, the prevalence of high number of remote works has been and continues to negatively impact corporate culture.

Culture is made up of the shared values and beliefs, norms, values, mission and purpose, and in many ways it differentiates one organization from another. Recent research shows that the common fabric binding people together into one culture is fraying. Survey data she shares shows that employee feelings of alignment has decreased substantially, and while those declines have leveled off among in-office and hybrid employees, they have not among remote workers.

Remote workers also have the highest turnover rate and intent to change jobs, which suggests that they view their work as more transactional and are less committed.

That can have a huge impact on ethics and compliance. Research suggests that employees who feel less loyal and committed are less likely to take into consideration reputational risk and long-term damage to the organization. Add to that data suggesting they are less likely to speak up, and it’s a dangerous prescription.

So what should organizations do? For one, strive to connect people more fully. When workers are in the office together it’s okay to bring in remote workers via Zoom, but be sure that the people in the room are not just staring at their own individual laptops. You don’t want to exacerbate the issue by making in office people wonder why they should bother, given that they are still on Zoom.

Look to do more in person rather than virtual training, people are already staring at their computers enough.

Managers also need to be trained on how to manage and build teams with hybrid and remote workers. As she notes, we have totally upended the way we do business without giving them any real training.

When bringing on new remote employees seek to make them feel connected. Send them a package with items reflecting the local flavor of the office and notes from their new colleagues. Make a commitment to bring them into the office occasionally.  You can’t immerse them fully in the culture without doing so.

Finally, track separately in-office, hybrid and remote workers on training, helpline calls and other metrics to make sure that the culture is present throughout your workforce, not just the in-house one.

Listen in for more.