January 31, 2022

How to Keep Company Culture in a Hybrid Remote Work Environment

How to Keep Company Culture in a Hybrid Remote Work Environment

How to Keep Company Culture in a Hybrid Remote Work Environment

Erika Boucharechas

Head of People

The year is 2022, and the world runs on hybrid remote work environments. At this point, we know it’s here to stay.

While most companies have tried (and resisted) to adjust business models to adapt to the new norm, there’s one area that seems a bit more resistant to welcome the changes — company culture.

Company culture is what brings and holds people together. It’s one of the core reasons why a person joins a company and why they remain. When a new person joins, enjoys the culture, and stays, the company then has happy and engaged teammates who can deliver good quality work. Business goals achieved!

So, how do you create an awesome company culture that people will want to stick around for? Here are key points to consider when building it.

  • Be authentic. A good place to start is looking at your mission and vision. These should be the foundations for your entire business model (and that includes company culture.)
  • Be adaptable. Now that you are guided by your mission/vision, you need to remember to adapt to the world you’re in right now and the people that you have right now. If you aren’t open to adjusting your culture, you’re going to be stuck in the same spot as the world moves on.
  • Culture comes from top-down. Something doesn’t work? Look at it from top-down; that’s where it usually stinks.
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s not difficult to find out what people want. Go to the roots and listen to your people. Think about how the company changes and how people are changing.
  • Size makes a difference. Realize that your values and culture might be different when you were a team of 5 and now you’re a team of 70. You need to be OK with it.
  • Choose the right tools. With all of that in mind, make sure you choose the right tools for the right people on the team. (This includes remote workers if you have any. And if you’re reading this… you probably do.)
Offsite in Croatia 2021

Our Model

Every company is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to company culture. That being said, we can share what we do here at OAK’S LAB in an attempt to show you options or give you ideas. You can love them. You can leave them. You can make them your own! We’re happy to share.

Here are the key pillars that define our company culture at OAK’S LAB:

  • Values — The guiding principles and behaviors that define us and that we live by every day. They are 1. Raise the bar 🌟 2. Own your outcomes 🏹 3. Just be honest 💧 4. We are kind and compassionate 💙, and 5. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride 🙂.
  • Diversity — We’re proud to be such a diverse company and not just when it comes to nationalities. Our team is diverse across their passions, stories, and free time. They are diverse in their work and personal lives, and that is something we celebrate.
  • Individuality — Because we are a middle-size company, we can focus on everyone and their individual needs.
  • Camaraderie — We used to call ourselves a family, but now we like using the words “teammates” or “champs” instead. We foster an environment of mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.
  • Office vibes — Where we are located and the way our home office is structured affects our team. For those of you who have no idea what that’s about… our office (The Embassy) is located in the old French Embassy (see what we did there?) directly on Old Town Square in Prague. It’s pretty neat. The dichotomy of the historical and modern elements isn’t lost on us, and we value this location a lot.
Volts 28x4 Party at The Embassy

(See party pics.)

Our Solutions

Now, what about those remote workers (AKA “remoters”)? At OAK’S LAB, we are not remote-first… we’re remote-friendly. Approximately 30% of our team is spread out over 5 different countries, and we promote “home office any time” for those in Prague. A big challenge, therefore, is how to connect with our teammates.

Here are just a few ways we do this:

  1. English-first. Even though we are based in the Czech Republic and have a large number of Czech/Slovak teammates, we only speak English — in the office, in meetings, in the kitchen, in emails, in Slack — everywhere. This is extremely important for our remote workers (who most likely don’t speak Czech) to feel connected across the board.
  2. Remote-friendly events. Obviously, we’re still learning, but 2021 was an eye-opener that showed us it can work. When we throw remote-friendly events, we really do it remotely. And when we have onsite events, we always include our remote workers in some capacity. A great example would be our 2021 Thanksgiving party. We shipped prosecco and apple cider to all our remoters and enjoyed a hilarious online pub quiz while sipping our homemade apple cider mimosas. It was a hit.
  3. Individuality. We make it a point to get to know every individual in order to help each person build their best work/life balance. Whether it’s 1:1’s or just checking in, we take it beyond work so we know how to be the most supportive work environment possible.
  4. Buddies. When someone joins our team (onsite or remote), they always have an assigned, Prague-based buddy. Their buddy is there to share work-related knowledge and OAK’S LAB life-related stuff.
  5. Slack is king. Death to internal company emails. Slack is the best communication tool for engaging remote workers, and there are many ways to use it. One way we take advantage of this is through a high number of various channels (social_netflix, cool_tools, market_news, startups_visits, etc.).
  6. Clubs. In order to help everyone here connect beyond their departments/divisions, we created clubs. Not all are remote-friendly (club_football, for example, actually plays matches), but several are. Club_abs and club_yoga include a stream-in option for remote exercise. Club_foodies, club_product_people, and other clubs that focus on shared interests live in Slack.
  7. Legend of the Week Lunch-In. Every Friday, we choose a “Legend of the Week” — someone who excelled at their job that previous week. The following Wednesday, that person is interviewed by our CEO Jake over Google Meet. This allows our remote workers to be able to meet their teammates and get to know them on a more personal level. The interview typically covers where they’re from, how they got into tech, personal stories, the best piece of advice, and more.
  8. Prague visits. Whenever we hire a remote teammate, we always try to bring them to Prague within their first three months at the company. This is a great time to have onboarding meetings, engage with people, and get the whole OAK’S LAB vibe and feeling firsthand.
Club_football in action.

These are things that have worked. Were mistakes made and lessons learned along the way and as we’ve grown? Absolutely.

One lesson we all collectively learned the hard way is that COVID always hits, and you never know what’s going to come. We also learned that we need to over-communicate with our remote workers. We need to keep our attention on them and be a support system because it can be lonely living the remoter life.

And last, but not least, we discovered that we need to do more. There is definitely a gap that we can fill between our remote and in-house teammates, so how do we integrate? That’s exactly where we are today. Looking for more.

The Future

Here are a few ideas in our pipeline:

  • Bringing in new and engaging remote tools. As work models have shifted over the past few years, tools are expanding. A few apps we have our eye on are Hey Taco and Gatheround — both of which will allow our remote workers to connect better with our whole team.
  • Bringing on more remote events and clubs. We need a better balance, and we can definitely be better in this area.
  • Getting more people to visit Prague. We are working on how we can get our remote people to Prague more often (and not just for onboarding). We’d love to have everyone at our company-wide events.

The final question to ask is… how do we know if it’s working?

Ask. Listen. Act. We can’t stress enough that not only do you need to listen to your teammates’ pain points, but you also need to be actionable to alleviate them. One way we do this is to include an Engagement section in our Quarterly Pulse Survey. People give up time to give us feedback, so we take it very seriously. We ask. We listen. And then we act.

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the hybrid working model that we can’t escape from! Take it as a win-win situation. Even though you have a great challenge ahead of you in keeping your company culture strong across the board, you can still build success and relationships with people from all over the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

We hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into our company culture and the way we do things at OAK’S LAB! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to our amazing Director of People & Community, Erika Boucharechas. She’d be happy to discuss further.

Thanks for reading!

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