The job has left the office: 5 tips for building culture

For most people, the office has become part of a new routine in a hybrid workday.

Jan 24, 2023

Man on laptop, taking a digital meeting in an office building
Man on laptop, taking a digital meeting in an office building

For many, the job has left the office

This is possible because companies largely consist of the people who work there, not the address where they work.

At the same time, this leads to new issues, and perhaps the most important question we hear many ask today is; how do we build culture outside the office? Here are 5 tips from someone who has worked remotely for a long time, and helped others take the step themselves.

1: Be transparent

There are many ways to define culture, but perhaps the most central is unity and a sense of belonging. With a physical office, you have at least one physical affiliation that can be important, but there are many ways to make sure that everyone feels that they are part of the team and are important for the journey.

A common feature among many smaller companies is that they are informal and have little hierarchy. This means that most of the information is available to everyone and that you feel you are on the journey. When strategic decisions and difficult discussions are kept separate from the people who work in the company, you can quickly experience that you are no more than a piece in someone else's game.

By implementing new routines around openness and sharing, many more will be able to feel a sense of belonging to the company's journey and vision. This will build unity and belonging, but means that managers must dare to open the doors and let employees in with the intention of taking their opinions seriously.

2: Celebrate achievements together

A sense of common progress towards the same goal is often absolutely essential for building culture. The challenge when more people work outside the office is that you do not know what others are working on or how the work done is connected. Then it becomes extra important to make this visible to everyone.

Two women sitting on a couch in the middle of a coworking space

Image: Mia and Emily at an Orbit space: House of Fellows, in Fredrikstad, Norway.

Weekly joint emails or video meetings where you celebrate the week's achievements, and physical celebrations at restaurants or bowling for the companies that can, are easy ways to create unity. This can be done at team level or common to the entire organization.

In addition to unity, it is important to feel that you are involved and contribute yourself as well. Therefore, it is important not only to celebrate common goals, but also to highlight individuals so that they can feel that their colleagues appreciate the effort. We use a chat solution called Slack where we celebrate together

3: Promote informal conversations

When the work takes place digitally, there is quickly a lot of focus on productivity. It is not natural to invite others to a conversation unless it is relevant to a task to be done. This is a big difference from the office where you naturally talk about things that are not about work.

In addition to setting aside time for some small talk in joint meetings, you can facilitate this in other channels. The chat solution Slack is a good example where we have created a separate channel for conversations that have nothing to do with work. There you discuss series, share news you have found online or plan weekend activities. In addition, we have a channel we call inspiration where everyone shares things that can help inspire others.

4: Plan physical cooperation

The office has never been optimal for building culture. The reason is that most people perceive that the office is a collection of desks more than a collection of people. Tasks that require focus and high productivity are done just as well, if not better, outside the office. The exception is the tasks that require collaboration and several perspectives. Here the physical encounters between people are best.

A pyramid chart that shows physical encounters between people

By planning physical collaboration and then focusing on the tasks that are best solved together, two things are achieved: employees feel productive, and the office gets a relevant and social role that separates it from the home office.

5: Take regular meetings

Ask yourself when you have the best meetings with your colleagues. Is it when you sit on top of each other in the meeting room, or is it in more social situations? The meeting room is well suited for solving specific tasks, but there are video meetings as well. When the goal is to build culture and unity, it is smart to think differently.

We have experienced great success with ongoing meetings where we ensure that employees get their heads out of the daily tasks and have the opportunity to talk about larger issues and longer perspectives. This is also a good tip for having pleasant conversations with spouses, friends and children as well.

Culture is not about the office, but about people. We recommend that all organizations set a goal for which company they should be and then find measures that suit their vision and way of working - regardless of where it happens.

-Jørgen Flaa, CEO, Orbit

Black and white photo of Jørgen Flaa, CEO of Orbit

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