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Is Remote Work to Blame for a Company’s Demise? Maybe, Maybe Not.

March 21, 2023

It’s been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated the great work from home experiment. During this time, some companies have succeeded, while others are now bringing their employees back to the office and some are even blaming remote work for their company’s collapse.

Yet, the challenges with remote work are not new. In fact, an APCO survey in the months leading up to the 2020 pandemic uncovered many of the issues facing remote workers. Our data suggested that the lack of day-to-day visibility and interaction led these remote workers to feel lonely and unsupported.

When remote work situations don’t work, who or what is the blame? Is it that remote work limits the in-person relationship building that organizations need to develop new ideas? Or is it that the organization never had an enterprising culture in the first place and remote work only exacerbated the weaknesses?

For the foreseeable future, remote and hybrid working situations are here to stay. In the January 2023 Conference Board C-Suite Outlook survey only 5% of CEOs in the US and 2% in Europe say returning workers to the workplace is a priority for this year.

So, if the status quo remains, what does a successful corporate culture look like?

A few years ago APCO and our now new colleagues from Gagen MacDonald did the homework to identify the three key factors that drive successful organizations, specifically: active leadership, shared advocacy and enterprising culture. Notably, of these three areas, how companies are facilitating an enterprising culture stood out as one of the most important elements.

Based upon our research, we know that thriving workplace cultures have these four things in common:

  1. Employees feel empowered: Employees at these organizations feel comfortable to take risks and challenge the status quo. They feel they have a voice in shaping the values and direction of the company. At these organizations, teams are open to doing things differently.
  2. Risk taking is rewarded, not shamed: In these organizations, leadership plays a critical role in encouraging experimentation and risk-taking.  When things go wrong, the focus is on learning from that failure.
  3. Diverse perspectives are sought: The loudest voice doesn’t win at these successful companies, rather, in these organizations we see that leadership values a wide range of perspectives and opinions.
  4. Protocols to create change: Change is incredibly hard for any business, just ask Kodak. A company can have people with great ideas but unless those ideas can be implemented, change can’t happen. Successful companies implement effective processes that help to implement change. On top of that, leadership is decisive and deliberate in evolving the business strategy.

Regardless of if your company is hybrid, remote or in-person, these are the factors that are essential in building a corporate culture that will drive business success. If a company has a weak corporate culture, simply bringing employees to the office Isn’t going to solve all of the problems.

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