Is Culture Threatened by Remote Workers?

Back view of female employee speak talk on video call with diverse multiracial colleagues on online briefing, woman worker have Webcam group conference with coworkers on modern laptop at home


Remote work continues to be a trend. Gartner Inc. estimates 32% of workers globally will be remote by the end of 2021, up from 19% in 2019. An estimated 51% of all knowledge workers will be remote by the end of 2021, up from 27% in 2019. The question most leaders are asking is how the absence of a physical workforce will affect the organization’s culture.

Is the culture threatened by remote workers?

The timeless answer is, it depends.

It depends on what cultural values are embedded, enabled, and lived. A company’s culture is at the epicenter of the organization’s shared values, goals, and narrative. If any of these areas are weak the culture is at risk of being damaged.

We often see culture weakening during mergers. According to Tip Hero in 2021, Kraft Heinz is the worst company to work for. How did a company full of iconic brands—Kraft, Heinz, Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, Planters, and Lunchables—morph into the worst company to work for? Many employees cite the merger between Kraft Foods Group and H.J Heinz Holding Corporation as having had a negative impact on the company’s culture. One former employee from Pennsylvania echoed many other complaints by writing, “corporate leaders don’t truly respect or care about their employees. They only care about making money off of them.”

When employees discuss a lack of respect or care on company surveys, leaders should look at the foundation of their culture. Do the goals and values align? What is the story employees tell about the organization? Is this the intended story?

By contrast, Cisco’s culture is not only known for achievement, but also for fostering compassion. According to Fortune, Cisco ranked first in the World’s Best Workplaces both in 2019 and 2020. During a time when most businesses scrambled to gain traction, Cisco thrived. They doubled their efforts to focus on employee welfare. One employee said, “The attention that the executive team pays to the health and welfare of the surrounding community is extraordinary.”

Cisco has invested in a culture whose values are lived by its employees. When challenges arise, such as the pandemic, they stood up together to meet the new challenges of our time.

Be purposeful. Make the intersection of goals, values, and narrative the bedrock of your organization’s culture; then during organizational flux, the culture will remain intact. The culture will be the glue that holds the organization together and propels it forward in an engaged, collaborative, and meaningful manner.

About the Author

Ron Hirasawa
Vice President & Executive Coach, Robertson Lowstuter, Inc.

As a seasoned Executive Coach with large-cap, small-cap, and start-up company management experience, Ron Hirasawa fosters effective client interpersonal skill-building and team leadership skills. He commits 100% to his client’s success in achieving strategic organizational goals. Clients become more successful and influential by being conscious of and practicing the emotional intelligence components of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Read Full Bio



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