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In work or life, it’s the challenging moments that teach us the most and help us grow. But last March, when COVID-19 changed everything and flipped our personal and professional lives, the challenges seemed insurmountable. 

Entire industries went from working onsite to working remotely. Communication norms, working styles, and HR best practices had to be reinvented. In a Lattice survey of over 1,000 HR professionals, we found that nearly two-thirds of companies went from being “less than 10 percent remote” to entirely remote overnight.

The remote reality

The change created a raft of challenges. Teams became hyper-focused on employee morale, communication, and productivity. Prioritizing employee well-being and mental-health support went from being an HR best practice to a must-have. And understandably, leadership teams posed a question many were afraid to ask.

“What does this mean for our culture?”

Remote work is hard, but it doesn’t have to be a culture killer. At Lattice, we’ve realized that moments like these strengthen your culture and put you in a better position to come together more effectively in the future. Without a strong culture, executive teams spend more time working on repairs. In contrast, good cultures are self-healing — they take care of themselves, even under duress.

Culture is also bigger than real estate. Being a cohesive team doesn’t mean sharing an office or time zone. Three was a time when it felt like that way, but we’ve already moved beyond thinking culture was made up of foosball tables and snacks. It’s time to take that a step further by ditching the notion that engagement requires everyone to be under the same roof.

The pillars of culture

Culture, and what employees expect from an employer, comes down to three pillars: purpose, community, and growth. All of those things can happen remotely.

With purpose, employees understand how their work impacts the company, and how the company impacts the world. Companies that can make this connection feel authentic are rewarded with higher engagement, lower turnover, and praise (consider reviews on sites like Glassdoor).

Community makes employees feel they’re part of the same team. Communities are built on trust, communication, equality, collaboration, and respect for differences. If you’re running into trust issues or not communicating effectively enough, those problems likely didn’t start with remote work. Communities come together and take each other’s words at face value no matter the setting.

And finally, there’s growth. This is the part of culture that includes long-term aspirational goals. Remember that respect is reciprocal: If you expect employees to contribute to your growth as a business, it’s your obligation to help them grow as individuals. Leaders that make good on this promise end up with teams willing to power through any challenge.

At Lattice, we build tools that can help companies put action behind those pillars, facilitating remote feedback, employee surveys, and growth to bring distributed teams closer together.

Creating meaningful change

In times of crisis and change, leaning into these pillars goes a long way. For example, rewarding employees who exemplify your company values helps bolster that sense of purpose. Creating virtual safe spaces for sharing concerns helps reinforce a feeling of community. And creating policies around goal setting, continuous feedback, and career growth helps people achieve great things.

Of course, challenges like a once-a-century pandemic will always catch us off guard. Technology, nor the three pillars, can turn unprecedented moments like these into smooth sailing. But by using culture as your compass, you’ll withstand whatever the next storm brings.

To learn more about how Lattice can improve your company culture, visit https://lattice.com/.

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