Worried Remote Work Will Hurt Company Culture? Here’s What Actually Needs Fixing

When we lose the centralized, physical office to a remote-first or hybrid workplace strategy, where does that leave company culture?

Upflex’s Brett Hartle and Remote Work Advocate’s Nadia Harris discuss.

There’s no question that hybrid work is becoming more of a standard model for companies of all sizes. What are the pitfalls? Recently, Nadia Harris of Remote Work Advocate caught up with Upflex’s Director of Workplace Solutions – EMEA Brett Hartle in a conversation about the evolution of the workspace environment for both employers and employees.

“Survey after survey has shown that the majority of employees would rather quit their job than go back to the office five days per week,” Hartle says. “Right now, companies are dealing with this by allowing people to work from home, or by reimbursing coworking expenses. Once flexible work becomes a standard, these don’t seem like long-term solutions. That’s where solutions like Upflex will become a common way for companies to enable their flexible work programs. This way they’ll also differentiate from other companies in the war for talent.”

Sounds like a good idea — but where does this new model leave company culture? One of the questions Harris asks is one of the main deterrents for employers in committing to a remote-first or long-term hybrid workplace strategy: Does losing the centralized, physical office “hurt” company culture? Here’s what Hartle had to say:

I’ve thought about this a lot and have talked with a lot of HR professionals. I don’t believe remote work is a threat to a company with a strong culture. What remote work might do, is highlight the shortcomings in the company culture.

UCLA’s former basketball coach, John Wooden, used to say, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” I feel that the true test of a company’s culture is what their people do when they’re fully remote.

Now, there might be some companies who think their culture isn’t a good fit for remote work — and that’s fine. But one thing I think COVID has highlighted is that culture needs to be more than the look and feel of the office or the types of conversations people have in the break room. It needs to be something that continues when you’re working outside the four walls of your office space.

And in response to Harris’s follow-up question — If hybrid work is the compromise, is there a certain kind of company or a certain industry it’s best for? — Hartle says it’s really all over the board. “It has more to do with company culture, growth strategy, and trust they have in their employees,” Hartle said. “Trust has a lot to do with the amount of workplace flexibility and freedom a company gives to its employees.”

Check out the full interview here.