Location doesn’t build culture, the team does
Author: Mark Roberts, CMO, PGi
A misconception has permeated workforces for years that an organisation’s location is the primary driver of its culture. Under this line of thinking, employees must work from the same place at all times to build a cohesive culture.
But, that is entirely wrong.
As the workplace has evolved, it’s increasingly frequent that teams do not all sit in a single location. Some work from places other than a traditional office, while sometimes organisations employ remote teams with a specific specialty.
Regardless of the reason, it is imperative organisations build an atmosphere where an evident culture can thrive. And, a positive culture isn’t merely defined by the perks, it is determined by the people who make up the team, and it’s built because teams feel like they are working as a cohesive unit with opportunities they can seize.
What makes culture?
An organisation’s culture is generally defined as a group of shared values, goals and attitudes embodying the company or institution. Yet, according to ERC, one major mistake organisations make is allowing a culture to establish itself without first defining it.
Many surveys conducted over the years, such as a recent one from Robert Half, found it’s the “less tangible things” that drive worker satisfaction and ultimately culture. For employees, these drivers include being treated with fairness and respect and a sense of accomplishment.
Building a culture, requires a clear vision, constant communication and strong leadership. It also requires the right team at every level to bring the vision to fruition.
Culture — whether positive or negative — has a way of snowballing. Research from FTI Consulting and Mine The Gap found a workplace’s culture is vital to recruiting, maintaining and growing its talent. Building a thriving culture early can help set the stage for future success.
Collaboration, not cubicles
Putting a bunch of people in a single location doesn’t guarantee a rich culture. A company’s culture isn’t defined by its physical workspace, just as free coffee and mandatory team happy hours cannot mask a bad environment.
There are plenty of examples of companies where everyone works from the same location in a posh environment but have a lousy culture. A culture comes when a team coalesces behind a shared vision and executes against it, and physical location rarely enters the conversation.
But, it’s about more than just a vision on a sheet of paper. Executing a vision requires organisations to follow through and implement processes and technological solutions that allow teams to connect — both for collaboration and camaraderie — as they work.
More work, better work
With the proliferation of technology, more workers are remote or changing locations throughout the day. Organisations with a culture built on in-person teams often worry that this style of working will be a detriment to results, but their worries may be unfounded.
Consider an assessment from an associate professor at Harvard Business School’s Technology and Operations Management Unit who examined what effect “flexible work arrangements” had on employees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Employees experienced a 4.4% increase in the number of patents examined due to the flexible hours, the study revealed.
This is where technology can foster culture. Because the team was given the tools necessary to perform, the team delivered and did so all the while spending less time commuting to the office.
It begins with a strong leader
A University of Minnesota report on behalf of the American Institute of Architects Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee found the ideal culture is strong and healthy.
As the report noted, it needs a clear direction that everyone can articulate and staff that are aligned with that culture. It is also built on a team that is engaged and only deepens when diverse needs and thoughts are recognised, included and incorporated into the decision-making process.
Leaders set the tone and tenor for everything that happens within an organisation’s four walls — whether physical or virtual walls.
They can also empower a team to make decisions. No technology can do that just as no location can. Stop focusing on location, and start concentrating on the team.
Empower employees to find the ideal space and work wherever is convenient for them — in the office, from a local coffee shop or at home — to deliver success for their team and their customers.
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