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Fostering good people culture in the virtual workplace

Organisational culture is pivotal in defining a shared set of values, influencing how colleagues engage with each other, their customers and generally behave as a collective. Whilst not technically fundamental to organisational culture, ‘place’ has often held an important role in creating a sense of belonging within the workplace, with design and layout reflecting brand identity and facilitating the way colleagues communicate.

As more businesses advertise for remote-based roles and continue conducting much of their activity virtually, it’s fair to say the typical organisational structure has evolved and the physical workplace and many team structures become less rigid.

So how does this translate to company culture – and does it affect how your customers see you?

Disruption to natural communication

With team or client meetings now taking place remotely, video conferencing and digital communications are the norm. Aside from issues around technical set-up, internet access, poor video quality and unexpected network disruptions, our interactions are less natural and more impersonal as a result of this shift.

Whilst applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams can facilitate face-to-face communication from afar, the emotional elements of communication that are key – facial expressions, tone of voice, non-verbal cues - are easily missed. And, there is no denying the fatigue that comes with forced focus, grainy images, disconcerting silences or jarred conversation when several people speak at once.

If the quality of communication within a physically-distanced workforce is diluted, relationships may become more distant, with negative impacts on organisational bonds and culture.  What is more, some professions may be hit particularly hard, those that naturally centre on collaboration, relying on more creative discussions and brainstorms to solve problems and reach decisions, which often tend to unfold in the moment.

Bridging the gaps in interaction

At the same time, digital technologies can help reinforce the ties that create a collaborative culture and provide a framework for communication and sharing. This in turn creates more consistent ways of working and establishes best practice behaviours that strengthen a unified approach.

Whilst not a replacement for the ad-hoc chats and natural interactions within the physical workplace, real-time collaboration software such as Slack can also make some of those informal, often sporadic communications possible still. Combining simple instant messaging for quick fire communication with GIF sharing and emoji reactions to convey tone, it can be effective for side-topic discussions whilst email is reserved for formal communication.

Once a framework and appropriate channels are in place, collaboration can be reinforced by the ability to easily and instantaneously access and share content and resources.  For example, if a colleague needs help, they can quickly fire off a request to a relevant group or individual through Slack, be pointed to a shared drive, or sent direct source links to find what they need quickly and easily.

Changing mind sets

As experts at Microsoft have argued, we’re now at a point since the pandemic where business leaders must look not just towards business recovery, but also to reimagining the make-up of organisations going forward[1].

Digital transformation and remote or flexible working has arguably been coming for many organisations for some time, with some quicker to the draw than others. The 2019 global workforce survey by the International Workspace Group[2] highlighted that not only is flexible working a priority for employees, it provides significant benefits for the company itself in terms of productivity, higher talent retention, and greater agility.

Therefore, organisations that are responsive to employee needs, offer flexibility and choice, and empower staff to work remotely with inclusive and accessible resources, will maintain that all-important culture and sense of belonging that will enable them to thrive.

Feeling connected

Whilst embracing the benefits of technology it is also critical that employers find the right balance of human and digital interaction. Too many tools, complex processes and multiple channels through which to relay messages can be overwhelming rather than contributing to productivity and staff well-being.

Also, for those all -important emotional connections, difficult or sensitive conversations, it is important to choose the right approach. As we said, it is hard to make an emotional connection via video and very easy for misunderstandings to occur when an email or written message is misread or misinterpreted.

Not only that, human contact builds trust, which is a fundamental building block of a positive and healthy culture. Employees need to feel included and part of a wider organisation, which requires a personal connection where they feel their employer cares and is invested in the relationship.

Happy employees, happy customers

Cultivating a positive company culture where employees are happy and engaged and feel trusted to do a good job in a virtual setting will directly translate to a more positive experience for all – employees, employers and customers alike.

Maintaining a human connection is key to creating trust and developing relationships across all stakeholder groups and, with constraints on our ability to meet in person, a phone conversation can  bring that personal touch. Employees who feel happy and supported by a caring workplace culture, will share those emotions in their interactions with customers and create a more positive and personal customer experience.

Since 1990, The Telemarketing Company has delivered specialist phone-based services, helping its clients establish trust and create an engaging, authentic human experience for valued prospects and customers. If you would like to discuss how we can help improve the quality of your customer interactions, get in touch today.

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