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Top challenges to creating culture in a remote and global workforce

Remote working has made it easier for companies to expand globally, but it comes with the challenge of maintaining a company culture across potentially many locations.

Software developer Aiven has employees in sites in Australia, Germany, Japan and the US. Anna Richardson, vice president of people, shared her top challenges of looking after a worldwide workforce, and how to overcome them, with HR magazine.

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The potential for communication breakdown

Communicating with a global workforce is more challenging due to different time zones and language barriers. As such, Richardson said there's a risk of workers becoming isolated and working in bubbles

She said: "There's certainly a risk around creating silos still, so I would say that's one challenge, as well as all the challenges around just generally how connected people actually feel to what we're doing as an organisation.

"People are still feeling quite isolated. If they're not surrounded by colleagues and come to the office regularly, there certainly is a greater potential for isolation and also potentially burnout which is definitely what we're seeing within our workforce."

One of the ways the company overcomes this disconnect is by embracing different sub-cultures across the business.

She added: "We lean into that – creating subcultures is perfectly normal and expected. For us, it's more about the managers setting expectations with what their team needs to deliver."


Virtual grievance procedures

Raising issues can be more difficult when there's not a permanent office base too, but Richardson and the HR team have worked hard to put the right channels in place.

She said: "We were just about to launch a whistleblowing platform where people can really speak up. If they see something that ethically is not aligned to what we're about, they can do that. It doesn't matter how sticky or pointy that question is, but it's really important for us to get engaged and what's on people's mind what's bothering them."


Ensure workers feel trusted

With so many staff all over the world, its impossible to watch over employees all the time. Richardson said that it's important for employers to show their workers respect and give them the space to carry out their tasks when necessary.

"Trust your employees to be able to do their jobs. You've hired them for a reason – treat them like adults. Give them the tools and the resources they need to be successful in their jobs."