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Building company culture within a remote workforce in the UAE

Building company culture within a remote workforce in the UAE

In this work-from-home world, organisations should look at building a culture based around trust and freedom

As companies learn how to manage an entirely remote workforce, one of the major challenges they now face is how to maintain and even build a company culture that supports remote workers.

This drastic change, going from in-office to remote working practically overnight, has put a huge strain on organisations. It’s important to remember that this isn’t business as usual, so organisations should not try to replicate the culture they had.

For the time being, everyone has a new culture, built inside their own home.

It would be impossible to replicate the culture you had in an office – the physical space and breakout areas to chat are gone. Employees are not close enough to each other to have casual conversations anymore. Of course, there are many wonderful collaboration tools available that can help foster a connection but they simply cannot replicate face to face interaction. The reality is you can’t transport the culture you think you have to a remote workforce.

In these times we can look to open source communities for inspiration. By their very nature, open source communities are distributed and what brings them together is a shared interest in working collaboratively to put something together.

Each open source community has its own culture, whether it’s creative and artistically oriented or whether it’s more focused on work. There are often rules in place in each to help an open source community thrive but not so many that it stifles engagement and creativity.

In this work-from-home world, organisations should take this into consideration for individuals and for entire teams and look at building a culture based around trust and freedom.

If you are mandating employees to be ‘at work’ at 9am, or expect 8-10 hours of work from them a day, then you are missing the bigger opportunity to focus on goals and manage results and benchmarks.

If you can empower your organisation, all isolated at home, to work in a way that best suits them, you’ll be rewarded with employees that find the solution that works best for them and are more likely to be productive.

This only works when you remove the rules and barriers that could stifle this creativity.

Culture is a process, not a goal
It’s important to remember that no company has one culture.

There may be an umbrella idea of what that culture would be but the implementation will be local, in a geographical sense, in a departmental sense and individually too.

Teams based in the UAE will interpret a company culture very differently to those based in the UK. Sales teams will have a very different view of culture compared to human resources or marketing. The umbrella idea is what brings a company together and it’s the local interpretation that helps teams bond.

We should view our current work-from-home environment as another derivative of company culture. What we can do is accept the new reality and use it in a productive way. It has created a huge opportunity for organisations to revisit its culture. It can, and most probably will, uncover talents in people that you couldn’t see in the normal ways of working.

We have a huge opportunity to embrace these wonderful ideas that help bond people and teams, and foster a closer-knit community within organisations.

The lockdowns will eventually end and people will be able to return to their offices, but we shouldn’t return to the way we were before. We should try to embrace what has worked so well in remote working and we should remove what didn’t work in office environments.

Jan Wildeboer is an EMEA Open Source Evangelist at Red Hat

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