Culture Plays for Remote Work… and For Returning to the Office

February 9, 2021
February 9, 2021 Maddie Grant

Still working remotely for the foreseeable future?

Now that many of us have settled in (ish) to working remotely,  and it’s less about all pulling together to keep the wheels turning (like last spring) and more about getting through the next 6, or 12, or 18 months with our organizations still standing (and still growing), it may be time to revisit how your culture might be helping or hindering those efforts.

You probably felt some friction in your culture the last few months–that is, the “way you did things” in your organization when everyone was in the office may not have been working as well (or at least not working as planned) once everyone started working from home and in different locations.  I saw it very clearly with some of the organizations I’ve been working with… if there were silos before, they were completely isolated islands now.  People trying to be extra supportive, but hunkered down within their own teams and at the same time completely disengaged from what was going on with other teams unless there was a direct task linking the two.  Results  suffered, conflicts and miscommunications arose, progress in some areas slowed way down while in other areas (hello virtual conferences) all eyes were on you and innovative experiments happened. If you had pre-existing culture challenges, they might be magnified under these new circumstances.  If you had inequities among who gets the attention of leadership, they were magnified.  And you would be forgiven for just laying low so as to not attract any attention and keep your job.

So to the leaders out there – there are adjustments you can make to your culture to bring it in alignment with what drives your success in this remote-work reality. It is best to be strategic about those adjustments, but we also realize you didn’t have a lot of warning before making this huge change, so we did some of the strategic leg-work for you.

We analyzed our database of over 400 action items that our clients have developed over the years in their culture work (we refer to them as “plays” in a playbook), and narrowed the list to find actions that were relatively easy to implement and could generate improvements quickly.

Download: Culture Plays for Better Remote Work

Going back to the office?

As the discussion shifts towards opening things up again, we’re all suddenly realizing that going back to the physical workplace is not going to look like it did before—at all. While we don’t know exactly what the “new normal” is going to look like, we do know it’s going to require some significant shifts in how we do things, possibly including more employees going remote permanently, significant reconfiguration of office space (more on that in a future post), and changing some of our core management concepts, like what it means to supervise and manage employees.

Unlike the adjustments you had to make when we suddenly went remote, these new changes you’re facing will go deeper into your core workplace culture. So we went back to our database of culture change action items (that we call culture plays in a playbook) and looked at the plays that address the culture patterns related to developmental growth, meeting employee needs, innovation practices, and digital transformation—the more underlying forces that can make or break your “new normal” (sorry for the cliché). Here’s what we came up with.

Download: Culture Plays for Returning to the Office


Photo by Maxime