Pros and Cons of Working from Home: Part 4 – Culture

9 mins read

This article goes over some of the advantages and disadvantages of the business’s culture when working from home.

Due to the global pandemic, many decisions have been made about what is considered essential vs. non-essential. These decisions have affected many businesses in a drastic way and have required employers to allow employees to work from home when possible. This shift to remote work has many different implications for businesses, and has left many companies considering what is essential and non-essential for business to continue operating. One of the fundamental aspects of business that has been affected by working from home is company culture. This article will take a look into the pros and cons of company culture that can be encountered when working from home.

Culture – What is it?

A company’s culture forms the identity and the personality of the business. It’s visible in the day-to-day life of the organization, and the overall atmosphere that can be felt. Culture involves the values, beliefs, mission, and vision of the company, as well as the unwritten rules, actions, behaviours, and attitudes of the people within the organization, and management style. Company culture is fostered in large by the employees coming together and engaging as a team. It involves being an ambassador for the company, and representing one’s place of work both inside and outside the office. Positive company culture has meaningful effects on employee retention, satisfaction, engagement and productivity. A Gallup study from 2020 also showed that companies with high employee engagement have higher customer loyalty, productivity, and profitability.1 Working from home has major impact on company culture, which can produce both advantages and disadvantages for the employees and employers.

PROS

One of the positives that has been experienced for company culture with the shift to working from home is employee loyalty. For some employees, working from home has created loyalty by seeing what the company is willing to do to support their employees through these tough times, and to be able to continue operations. On the other side of this, employers get to see the employees showing their loyalty by adapting to the changes and continuing their work for the business. This sense of loyalty improves the culture of the business and solidifies retention of the employees.

Another pro is the adaptability required to confront the many changes of working from home. The shift of location creates an opportunity for employees to learn and grow together through change. This can bring employees closer together by sharing common experiences and struggles. While they may not be physically there with each other, they are able to communicate by other means which can foster improved relationships and culture. This shift to remote work also gives the company the opportunity to see what areas of culture truly matter to employees. By working from home this will give the company the chance to see where the culture excels, and where it could use improvement as it will be put to the test of distance. While there may be certain areas of culture that suffer, it will at least identify the areas that need focus in order to come up with an action plan and create the necessary improvements.

CONS

The first major disadvantage for company culture involves new employees who are added to the team. The onboarding process tends to be one of the first experiences new employees have, and it can be very difficult to represent the true sense of a company over a screen or phone. When working at a physical location with each other, employees are continuously exposed to the behaviours and actions of their coworkers which makes it much easier to understand the standards of performance and communication within the company. When working remotely, it is a lot more difficult for employees to observe the culture that is present, which can be detrimental to their success in the company.

For current employees, a lack of consistency within the culture can also be created as there will be significantly less forms of interaction happening between coworkers. While remote communication will be in place, there isn’t technology that can truly replace physical human interaction which includes seeing another person’s body language and experiencing the emotion behind their words.

For employers, a great deal more time and effort will need to be put into creating and maintaining a consistent company culture. They will need to be aware of who represents and demonstrates the culture they want to maintain, and have more communication around what that looks like for the company and all the employees. It can be significantly more difficult to ensure the culture is being maintained, or to even get a good sense of what the culture is as they will only have remote communication to go off rather than having interactions where body language can be observed, and energy can be felt. When the camera is off or the phone has been hung up, and the employee is left in isolation there is no way to truly see what the culture looks like.

The final negative impact on culture we are going to discuss is what the feeling of isolation can do to employees. Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted some might be with a need to recharge alone, they still need some form of human interaction present in their life. Working without being able to physically see and feel the presence of another human can lead to that feeling of being isolated and cut off from everyone. This lack of contact hinders the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose between co-workers, which are all important aspects in developing a thriving company culture.

Creating a Culture from Home

When it comes to creating a culture from home, there can be some opportunities as well as struggles. The changes can create and show employee loyalty to the company, bring employees closer together by learning to grow and adapt together, and can highlight the areas that are working well for culture as well as create the opportunity to improve the areas that are lacking. On the other hand, remote work can make it extremely difficult for new employees to observe and understand the company culture, more time and effort will be required for the employers to monitor and maintain a consistent culture, and the effects of isolation for the employees may have a negative impact on the culture as well. When looking at the possibility or the continuation of working from home for a business, it is important to consider both the pros and cons that can be experienced for the employees as well as the company.

This concludes our series on the pros and cons of working from home, which has covered communication, collaboration, workspace, and culture.

1 Harter, James K., et. al. “The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes.” Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/321725/gallup-q12-meta-analysis-report.aspx

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