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What Is ‘Corporate Culture’ in Our (Mostly) Remote World?

I don’t dare to say that everything changed in 2020. But I’m not naive, either. That year certainly felt pivotal to the business world. That’s not just because of the economic impact of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and supply chain disruptions, mind you. People themselves changed, especially in their outlook on work. And that had a massive effect on how work looks right now.
Daniel Zacharias

Matt Sopiars

October 24, 2022
corporate culture

If I asked you to explain the meaning of corporate culture, what would you say? Chances are you’d say something akin to “It’s how a company gets things done.” As broad as this definition is, I can’t argue with it. After all, the definition of “culture” talks about the ideas, customs, and behaviors of a particular group of people. Following that definition, you could reduce corporate culture to the way in which a company does things.

However, I feel like corporate culture has always been more than that. I don’t think I’m alone here though. A lot of people would add that culture isn’t just about operations and overall attitude towards products, services, clients, and industries, but also about a business’ team members and how they engage with the company and with one another. That understanding is what drove companies to the age of ping-pong tables, yoga classes, and casual Fridays.

Yet, at some point, people started confusing perks with culture, even forgetting the operational side of things. Suddenly, companies were “fun” because they had karaoke after-parties or “relaxed” because they allowed team members to wear Iron Maiden t-shirts , which would have been banned by the business inquisition, just a few years prior.

Now, I’m not saying that those things don’t make up corporate culture. They are parts of it. But, to me, they certainly aren’t the core facets that define the corporate culture. Circling back to the definition of “culture”,, it felt like companies had forgotten about the ideas in the pre-pandemic times. In other words, business leaders simplified their mindsets and let coffee breaks and video game consoles take center stage. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

A whole new world

I don’t dare to say that everything changed in 2020. But I’m not naive, either. That year certainly felt pivotal to the business world. That’s not just because of the economic impact of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and supply chain disruptions, mind you. People themselves changed, especially in their outlook on work. And that had a massive effect on how work looks right now. 

You already know where I’m going with this: the rise of remote work, the great resignation, quiet quitting, and so on. All of that redefined the business landscape to a point where people are raising their voices and demanding a new way of working. That naturally ends up redefining what corporate culture means today. If people want to work from home and aspire for jobs with flexible hours, companies won’t be able to build their cultures around rec rooms anymore.

In fact, this whole new world threatens the idea that “corporate culture” is “how a company gets things done” because, for many companies, how things were done in pre-pandemic times is no more. Remote work shoved the office aside and took the stage by storm. So, it’s only natural to ask ourselves: what does corporate culture look like for remote companies?

Embracing dynamic micro-cultures

Having worked remotely for a considerable part of my professional career, I know firsthand what corporate culture means in a remote setting. And let me tell you, it doesn’t resemble a monolithic culture but rather a living organism where each team develops its own ideas, customs, and behaviors within the company’s ideas, customs, and behaviors. 

In other words, different teams working remotely in the same culture, make their own interpretation of the company’s mission, vision, and values. It’s essential to clarify at this point that I’m not saying that teams do whatever they want when they work remotely. I’m saying that each team reads your guiding principles and values differently, giving birth to “micro-cultures” which organically interact with one another inside your business.

How we do it here at Code Power

Let me give you an example of how it works here at Code Power. One of our guiding ideas is that we care about our team members. We understand the crucial role they play in our success, so we always aim to provide them with what they need to feel happy with their work. But that happiness looks different to each team. It’s no surprise, really. People in sales operate differently from people in development, who, in turn, see work differently from people in marketing.

Those teams have their own ways of interpreting our “We care.” motto — and that’s totally fine. As long as the underlying value of that motto remains intact, it’s up to each team to decide what it means for them. For instance, all our teams have flexible hours but use them differently. And it works because it isn’t an imposition on them by the C-execs but rather an exercise in autonomy. 

You could say that each of our team members embodies a vibrant micro-culture which constitutes that living organism, representing Code Power’s overall corporate culture. Basically, our corporate culture “feeds” from those micro-cultures, which, in turn, engage and modify that overall culture by continually evolving into something different. On the one hand, there’s the company’s people-first mindset. On the other hand, there’s the people at the center of that mindset.

What I’m trying to say here is that corporate culture in the remote world isn’t about a unique way of thinking you force on your team members, regardless of where they are. On the contrary, you define some horizons through your ideas which are then actively developed and evolved by your team. Those behaviors then inform your ideas, creating a virtuous cycle of continuous evolution that’s an integral part of what we call smart working

Your people are your company culture

Remote corporate culture has a strong focus on freedom and autonomy tied to a mindset where the team members are essential actors. It’s the result of a constant process where your vision meets your team members’ vision, leading to a richer way of doing and understanding things. That’s especially true because remote work allows you to bring more diverse people into the fold, introducing new perspectives which can take you to places you’ve never even imagined.

So, sure, remote corporate culture is about “how a company gets things done” and the perks you may provide to people working from home. But it’s also more than that. It’s about taking into account what the people working with you want, desire, and aspire to, and making it a part of your company. It’s not about your processes or pinball machines. It all comes down to making your people care about their work by making them feel like they belong. Because they do!

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