How to maintain your company culture while transitioning to remote working - StartUp Magazine South Africa
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How to maintain your company culture while transitioning to remote working

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, Flow Communications was developing a strategy to explore remote working as part of an ambitious global growth plan that would catapult Flow into the international market. Fast forward to 2020, Flow became a fully remote company servicing global clients, recruiting skillful talent across the world – and is now, in 2021, solidly set on a growth trajectory.

The experience of remote work for some companies has been less favourable, which has prompted them to revert to working in office settings or hybrid working models. But, for others, the experience has been better than they ever thought possible, and this has certainly been the case for Flow. 

Our decision to become a fully remote company was a conscious and intentional one. 

We did extensive research and found shining examples in companies such as GitHub, which has been progressive in remote working for more than a decade. GitHub is one of the largest all-remote companies in the world, with over 1 400 team members located in 65 countries around the world. Its story, among many others, provided various learnings and helped us create a remote working culture that is hard-working, committed, agile, flexible and innovative. 

Back in South Africa, a study conducted by Michael Page Africa, an organisation dedicated to the recruitment of talent on the African continent, found that “the [Covid-19] lockdown resulted in one of the biggest flexible work experiments in history”, and that, according to professionals who took the survey, the remote work experience was “more than successful”. In fact, the organisation stated, “54% of job applicants based in South Africa reported that they feel as committed as before to their jobs – given the way their current employer managed their workforce during the lockdown, and 28% feel even more committed than before”. This is an incredible discovery. Remote work is the future. 

Kudos to our Flowstars (which is how we refer to our Flow employees), who have also adjusted swiftly to the new flexible working arrangement, and have created new revenue streams through curating and managing virtual events. Flowstars continue to demonstrate a deep commitment and passion for the work we do. 

But how did we manage to do all this and maintain our company culture in the process? 

Our Flow culture is ingrained in everything we do and stand for – from our goals, roles, processes and systems to our attitude, values and all our work. It’s tangible throughout our business. We have worked hard to ensure that our culture is something that differentiates us from our competitors. 

Here’s how we maintain our company culture while growing our business: 

  1. Our values are clearly defined

When you have clearly defined values, it is easy to mould your company culture. Very often, when we have a big decision to make at Flow, we go back to our values and check how it aligns with the values our business stands for. Our values drive our decision-making and a sense of what’s important and what’s right. We are an integrated communications provider that tackles communications challenges daily, but we have to ensure that we execute every task with integrity, reliability and transparency, because those are our values. 

  1. We prioritise innovation

American business leader C William Pollard is quoted to have said, “Without change there is no innovation, creativity or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” This rings true for our organisation. Constantly innovating has allowed us to differentiate ourselves from the competition. 

At Flow, we are relentless about continually looking for new and better ways of doing things. Often, we are willing to take risks to innovate and remain at the cutting edge and this is what has helped us migrate to remote working, maintain our culture as an organisation and thrive through change.

  1. We lead by example

Leaders need to lead by example when they set the standards for their employees. Values are core to any organisation’s culture and they show the team that what you say and do matters. When it comes to company culture, it is essential to set an example from the top down. Remote working requires strong leadership and robust systems that are constantly developing. This has been an exciting journey for us as we embrace change to grow our business and become a global force. 

  1. Our team connections are key

One of the ways Flow keeps its people connected is through our fun, punchy and informative internal newsletters. I have learned so many more interesting facts about our Flowstars through these newsletters than I would have in an office setting. 

We also have many scheduled weekly activities to keep our Flowstars connected. From weekly quizzes to fun gift deliveries and socials, we do it all. Many of us have found that, through these weekly activities, we have become even more connected than we were in the office. 

Additionally, as we forge those connections, our organisation has become more democratised. Everyone has a voice in our organisation and we continue to be transparent and open with one another.

  1. Our employees are rewarded for their efforts

Rewarding Flowstars is a big part of our organisation. We firmly believe that people who work hard deserve to be rewarded. Through our monthly and annual Starbar Awards, we recognise Flowstars who have gone the extra mile for clients and in other areas. Daily, in our 9am meetings, Flowstars publicly acknowledge one another for a job well done through shout-outs. Not only does this help build morale, it shows that everyone is seen and appreciated.   

Overall, the remote working space requires organisations to be intentional about cultivating their culture, keeping a keen focus on the company’s mission and values. When businesses do this consistently, it is a sure-fire way to build a company that is a force to be reckoned with, anchored by a strong company culture. 

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Tiffany Turkington-Palmer is the managing director of Flow Communications (www.flowsa.com), one of South Africa’s leading independent agencies. Founded in 2005 in a small spare bedroom, Flow now has a permanent team of approximately 65 remote-working, professional staff, with more than 700 years of collective experience in communications.

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