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  • Heather Polivka

Remote-First Culture

In this blog series, we continue to explore considerations for the NEW, new normal emerging in the months and year ahead.

In our last post, we looked at how the challenges facing companies in gender and racial representation became even greater as the economic impacts of the pandemic most impacted women and People of Color. In the NEW, new normal, it is not enough for companies to say the right things, but to be taking actions and demonstrating their commitment to the attraction, retention, advancement and belonging of underrepresented populations within their employee base.

Now we are shifting from the realm of talent to the work experience itself. And more specifically in this post, culture.


One think we are hearing from SOME leaders (insert fixed mindset, old school, or command-and-control leaders) is a default thinking that everyone needs to return to the office because we need to be in-person to maintain or advance our culture.

I say bull-wacky. Here’s why.

Have you ever gone to a website on your desktop, had a great experience, bought something, found great information, no problems? Then, maybe later you are telling someone it, and you go to your mobile phone to look up the product on the website and the mobile experience is totally WHACK???!

Does that mean the company is obsolete? The products and services are not good? No! It means they designed for one consumer experience…the desktop, when you are at home or at your office….and simply did not design the purchasing or consumer experience for when you are not.


The same is true for culture. Most companies designed their culture…defined their behaviors, how decisions were made, how work would be done…for an in-person work experience. And when COVID hit and people had to work from home, they discovered that their culture was like that wonky mobile website….designed for in-person only versus virtual.

Imagine a CEO who, instead of solving for root cause like designing a mobile-friendly consumer experience, proposes that all their consumers only use a laptop for buying their products or researching their company? Or should only go to brick-and-mortar locations to make purchases or apply for jobs? I can’t imagine that the Board or customers would be very happy with a CEO’s decision to ignore the realities of today’s commerce demands.

So why has it been crickets when CEOs have demonstrated equally narrow thinking when it comes to their company culture? That instead of solving for root cause (i.e. evolve our culture to be remote-first) we will just force employees to be in-person and ignore the realities of today’s labor market demands.

It’s as bad as Blockbuster not recognizing that people driving to a physical location to get a VHS was becoming obsolete!

Today, most consumer businesses take a mobile-first approach to their website and purchasing experience. They figured, if they could get online purchasing where it was easy on your iphone, it will be just as easy…if not easier…on your desktop.

So I ask my clients: If the culture experience was like a wonky mobile site experience when everyone was remote, Why wouldn’t the solution be to create a remote-first or remote-friendly culture and work experience? Would it then be all the better when people are in-person, much like the consumer experience?

Then we go to work to do just that.

We look at things like what behaviors reflect the values of the organization in email, video calls, and chat. What virtual channels are best used for what types of conversations and decisions as a demonstration of the values?

How do decisions get made? How do we share context to empower our geographically diverse teams to make informed decisions? How will we document decisions for transparency?

We explore how work gets done and what gets rewarded. Are people rewarded and promoted based upon being SEEN by executives or by the outcomes, the quality of the work produced, and how it was produced?

How does passive collaboration happen remote-first? How do innovative whiteboarding sessions happen remote-first? These last two are the most challenging aspects, by the way.

I help lead my clients through this work, because I’ve actually done this work and designed a remote-first work experience multiple times, and years before the pandemic. I have asked these tough questions of myself and my team. I have created and implemented a work experience, a work culture, to be remote-first, to meet the needs of our business, expand capacity to produce stronger ROI, and to drive revenue and growth. The best part? The lowest turnover of any comparable team in our company.

It is the companies and teams who figure this out …this remote-first work experience…who will be the most competitive for talent who has a choice. For talent that needs more flexibility. For talent that is critical to your business. Really, for talent.

Join us in future weekly blog editions as we explore onboarding, the role of the office, technology, managing remotely, and more!

Interested in exploring what’s next for your organization? Schedule a no-obligation 30 minute strategy call with Heather by clicking here.

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