he office went into people's homes. In some cases it even goes with people wherever they go. It ceased to be a physical place and now occupies a mental place. But what about organisational culture? Is it restricted to the four walls of the workplace, or does it, like the office, occupy a place somewhere in everyone's mind?

“It's necessary to respect, care and trust. If people trust us, we have to reciprocate”, Anabela Chastre, CEO of Chastre Consulting, begins to say. Nurturing is, for the specialist in training and coaching for leaders, crucial to creating and maintaining a corporate culture at a distance. “Caring for people will remain as something positive in the minds of employees. Sometimes, even more than a physical reward, a friendly word or a sincere conversation to understand how we can help that employee who has a sick family member makes all the difference”, she says.

It is through this presence, proximity and attention to the needs of employees that companies are able to maintain and convey their values, even in a remote work scenario. The corporate culture must exist much more than in a physical space and must be reflected in the way the company is and acts, defends Anabela Chastre, quoted in Pessoas by ECO.

But, in a remote context, how to create this organisational “glue” that connects people to the company? Sharing the story, being present. Listening to and trusting people. Providing different and valuable moments and experiences. These are some of the ways to create and maintain organisational culture.

1. Tell the story of the company 

Start by telling the story of the company. Make sure that all employees know how the project started, where the idea came from, what it was like at the beginning, what were the difficulties along the way… Knowing the whole story will make people identify with it more easily. It will also make them feel that, even though they may not have been there from the beginning, they are aware of the journey up to the moment they joined the company.

Stories bring people together. Therefore, it is important to share with each employee the mission, vision and purpose of the organisation. This story should be known to the company as a whole.

2. Ensure presence, proximity and attention

Despite being physically distant, it is crucial that employees feel that the leadership is very present and close. Managers and leaders have to be attentive to the needs of their people, in order to prevent and avoid possible situations of anxiety and burnout, lack of motivation or any kind of discomfort.

Leroy Merlin, for instance, created hotlines for psychological counselling and nursing while the team was working remotely. Repsol organised a webinar on sleep, giving employees the opportunity to clarify doubts and taboos on the subject. Ikea developed the “CÖNTIGO” program to financially support those who were experiencing exceptional situations that were not covered by the public system, whether health, education or housing. Alongside this program, the Swedish company also created the “Good Neighbours” initiative, which promoted mutual support among colleagues, helping with shopping or other tasks that have become difficult to fulfill when someone is, for example, in isolation. The Ageas Portugal group took sports activities, mindfulness therapy sessions and workshops on healthy habits into the employees' homes. All these types of initiatives, which aim to promote the well-being and quality of life of employees, become even more fundamental when working remotely.

3. (Actively) listen to your people

Equally important for building a sense of belonging is active listening. Listening to employees is giving them space and openness to give ideas, contribute and add value, and be leaders in the organisation as well. Organising leadership conferences, scheduling team meetings and also regular one-on-one meetings are some ways to ensure that all company voices are heard.

But there are organisations that go further. To include employees in company decisions, Bee Engineering created an app – Bee Genius – where people can contribute with ideas they would like to see implemented in their company, as well as vote on suggestions proposed by their colleagues. To do this, they just need to swipe. “Employees are at the heart of companies' ecosystems and, as such, their suggestions should be taken into account. Bee Genius guarantees a democratic decision-making system, since all elements have the opportunity to propose ideas and vote on those they consider to be the most relevant”, explains José Leal e Silva, executive director at Bee Engineering.

4. Trust and communicate with transparency

Relationships between people must be based on trust. And trust does not depend solely and exclusively on proximity and geographic location. “There are hundreds of companies that were already working remotely around the world before the pandemic and there is no record of them not having a corporate culture. On the contrary, because they are remote, they are a reference in this”, says Henrique Paranhos, founder of WEBrand Agency, which, like Coverflex, started on a fully remote set-up.

The only secret applicable to all companies that want to ensure an organisational culture while working remotely is, argues Henrique Paranhos, learning to trust, to be transparent and to communicate a lot, giving feedback and managing the expectations of managers, colleagues and employees. “And this doesn't mean being together all the time for anything and everything”, he adds.

5. Provide new experiences

To provide people with new work experiences, consider establishing partnerships with co-working spaces, for example. This way, employees could use these spaces on certain days of the week and thus vary from their usual place of work.

And, to develop a particular project, you can choose to provide a couple of days or a week, depending on your needs, in a kind of retreat that encourages creativity, but also team spirit and collaboration. Cerdeira - Home for Creativity is one of the companies that organises these retreats for companies that want to disconnect from the fast pace of everyday life, screens and the flood of notifications, and connect with nature and with people; or who want to join the team to work on a new project. During the retreat, professionals can also do a series of creative experiments, such as building miniature schist houses, making ceramic bowls and cups, making ceramic figurines, making wooden toys or even learning to cook "chanfana", the most famous dish in Cerdeira.