Is digital freedom really free? Observations from a fully remote work culture

Is Digital Freedom Really Free? Observations from a Fully Remote Work Culture

Your organization’s culture shapes everything, from what your employees believe and value, to how they act, and what they want to hear in order to feel engaged and motivated. Culture affects and informs everything you do and how you function. People make businesses tick, so it’s critical that your people feel positive about their work environment, as well as believe strongly in what you are trying to achieve and how you are actually achieving it.  

 

But how difficult is it to promote a positive work culture and environment when you are all physically apart? 


While many organizations have been forced to work remotely since the pandemic beganTranscends was founded on a value of remote work and digital freedom. Now, three years into this experiment, we have tried, tested, and measured a plethora of innovative philosophical approaches and cutting-edge business frameworks. Here are some of our top observations. 

 

A shocking realization: digital freedom isn’t so free  

 

As we’re sure many people have discovered over the past year, working from home does bring more freedom, but also a whole host of new challenges that businesses and individuals need to consider. 


Take virtual onboarding and training. Without physically being there to shadow a new employee and guide them, it can be difficult to measure progress, satisfaction and knowledge retention. Onboarding can take longer, and needs to be more carefully considered, mapped out and communicated. 


Many business areas can also be seriously affected by the differing time zones of teams working remotely. Collaborating and ensuring you hit deliverable deadlines can get very tricky when you and your teammates are seeing sunsets at completely opposite times of day! At Transcends, with team members sitting across five or more countries, this means we’re all used to taking the occasional very early or late call. It’s an inevitable part of having a global remote workforce, and something you’ve simply got to make peace with if deciding this lifestyle is for you. 


Overwork is another area where companies and individuals alike need to pay extra attention. Setting boundaries for your team (and yourself!) and taking care of mental health becomes incredibly important in a world where everyone is connected 24/7.  

Gone is the outdated mentality of worrying if employees working from home are actually working. We now know that instead of playing video games or being distracted by chores, remote workers are more likely to suffer from overwork.  


Urgent tasks at irregular hours might be necessary on occasion, as it is in many environments, but in remote work culture it’s far too easy for long hours to become the norm. Such issues need to be prioritized by setting clear and defined timelines for work, incorporating regular hard-stop breaks throughout the day, and encouraging the practice of mindfulness to ensure opportunities to refresh and refocus. 

 

DON’T BE SUSPICIOUS: not just a TikTok hit  

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Something we’ve learned that your elementary school teacher probably taught you  we need to trust each other 

Trust is more critical than ever in a remote work environment, and we need to find new ways to create it. Gone are the water cooler chats featuring hilarious (and often vulnerable) anecdotes from our personal lives that naturally build empathy, a foundation for trust. 

If we can build an inclusive culture grounded in mutual respect and trust, we can do so much more. Employees are more productive, stay with their companies for longer and are just generally happier. Total win-win.  


Oh, and here’s another tip that may sound obvious – turn on your video! Having video calls establishes trust and helps people to feel part of the team.1 We all know that body language and facial expressions are hugely important in social connection and conflict resolution. If you can, use video, and if you can’t, be sure to work extra hard to listen for verbal and non-verbal cues and consider how your words are landing.


Meaningful meetings, measured and more often  

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Remote meeting must-do’s:  

  • Keep it short, 45 minutes or less, to maintain virtual engagement. 

  • Research shows your brain needs breaks. Have 15-minute buffers scheduled between meetings for bio breaks, to relieve eye strain, and to encourage quick wellness practices like stretching 

  • If you aren’t doing a daily ‘Stand-up’ already, get started. We do these once or twice a day and find them an invaluable addition to our ability to connect on both a work and social level. 

  • Host a culture session once per fortnight, a values-centric meeting to encourage authentic moments of vulnerability and empathy. This has been transformational for us. 

  • Introduce ‘Coffee and Cocktailsa relaxed social hour, ideally on a Friday afternoon, open to all and with only one rule: NO talking about work. Our team has some fun using the together mode feature on Microsoft Teams. 

 

Now, get to work on making remote work, work for you! 

 

Company culture is crucial as it affects how your employees and customers perceive you, which ultimately determines how successful your business can be. 


To build a high-performance culture, unify your team around a shared purpose and the pursuit of meaningful goals. Push for a bit more fun and personality to spread through the business, and finally, practice and encourage self-care and healthy work-life balance.