Chief Executive Insights

Yes, you can create culture in remote and hybrid organisations. Here’s how.

Charlotte Rush

How can organisations create a great culture, build connection and camaraderie when we aren’t always working within the same four walls anymore? 

This was the question posed to Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab at Inventium’s recent Workplaces of the Future virtual event. His answer did not disappoint. 

Murph started by flipping our question: How can we greatly enhance our culture now that we are not beholden to four walls and a roof? At the heart of this question is a shift in mindset – a shift away from scarcity (‘We can only build culture if we are working together in the same location’’) to opportunity (‘How can we enhance culture now that we have the entire world at our disposal?’). 

Intentionally designing spaces to foster informal communication and build connection is not new and the same requirement exists for the virtual world. I recall a few years ago, working in a 500-person office and moving from a traditional office of cubicles to an open-plan office. There was a significant (financial, people and time) investment that went into designing spaces for people to bump into each other, converse and connect – the expansive kitchenettes oriented around family-style breakfast bars, the bustling cafe and the internal staircase. (Funnily enough, I also remember avoiding those stairs when running from meeting to endless meeting). 

So, what investment has your organisation made in designing a virtual environment that creates camaraderie? And are you exploring the opportunity of building culture by leveraging the spaces outside of a traditional office? 

Here are two examples of culture-building rituals from Gitlab and Inventium (two remote organisations) that invite exploration of the world outside of a traditional office:

  1. Repurpose Happy Hour: Instead of gathering hoards of people together at the same time for a virtual happy hour, Murph shared how Gitlab instead invites people to don their company swag and at any time in the week, go out into their community and do something that is meaningful to them and moves their community forward – for example, volunteer at the community garden or read at the local library. The only ask is that they take a selfie while doing the activity and share it. As a result, leaders not only have a collection of content to use at the next team day to share, but have also created a sense of belonging by helping people connect their colleagues with what matters to them in their local community, despite never coming together physically. 
  2. Live your company values, asynchronously: In the last five weeks of 2021, Inventium got on board the “Big for Small” campaign. The premise was to support and invest in small local businesses hit hard by the pandemic and various lockdowns across Australia. As a BCorp, we look for any opportunity to ‘do good’, whether that is through the services we offer or the way we impact our community. Each employee was able to use their company credit card and, each week, spend $50 at a small local business. We were then invited to post a photo and shout out to the local business in our social WhatsApp group. All up we spent $2095 at local candle makers, family-run restaurants and nail salons. In the process, we learnt about our team members’ local communities, while experiencing a new opportunity to live up to our organisational values of doing good each day.

    Both of these initiatives are built off of the premise that team members are not physically co-located, and this is an opportunity to be taken advantage of. They provide opportunities for employees to connect in ways that are unique to them and the space they now work in while also connecting people to the values of their shared organisation.

As we continue to hear about the ‘great reshuffle’ here in Australia, Murph hypothesised that The most progressive organisations will empower company culture to largely be built outside of work” and those that embrace this early on will be able to attract great talent. So, how will you embrace the opportunity of many four walls to build a culture of connection and camaraderie?


Written by Charlotte Rush.
Have you read?
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Shift Happens: Crossing the Ethics Threshold by Chance or by Choice by Christopher Gilbert, Ph.D.
6 ways to turn meetings from a cost into an asset by Alan Manly.
Is It Time to Integrate Greater Healthcare Experience into Your Board by Jena Abernathy.

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Charlotte Rush
Charlotte Rush is Inventium’s Head of Learning and is an Organisational Psychologist. Australia's leading behavioural science consultancy. Helping organisations to adapt, innovate, change and grow. Charlotte Rush is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.