Remote workers: What about company culture?

Remote workers: What about company culture?

13 Jul 09:00 by Chris Davies


Following on from my last blog on what will become of company culture with more remote/off site workers, this week I sat down with CEO of one of the largest virtual contact centre businesses in the world, Daniel Turner of Unity4.

With operations in Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand, Unity4 employ a workforce of more than 1000 staff who work from home on various projects for blue chip organisations.

Having had employees work from home for the past 20 years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to find out what they have done in order to create, maintain and uphold the company values and culture for such a long time.

I asked Daniel Turner ‘how do they instil values and culture with a remote workforce?’

DT “For me culture isn’t about whether people work from home, or in an office. We have two physical offices, one in the UK and one in Sydney. I don’t think there is a particular strategy to instil a culture regardless of where your employees are. For me it comes down to the management style or process that you have in an organisation.

" The culture we have all comes down to trust. We trust the employees that we hire to do the right thing"

We have designed and built our own technology that allows us to see absolutely everything that a member of our contact centre staff is doing even if they are working from home. This has allowed our organisation to have an enormous amount of transparency from top to bottom. The culture we have all comes down to trust. We trust the employees that we hire to do the right thing. Of course, we have the tools to validate, but for us it’s really about empowering our employees. We give our staff the support they need and try to create a larger cohesive team unit. For example, we do not incentivise anyone in the business around individual performance. It’s all about the overall success of our business. All departments win and lose together, that’s our work culture.

"Culture isn’t about dress up days, or specific events it’s about how you treat people."

Another very important thing to mention that helps breed the right culture for our business is that we reverse schedule our rostering for our staff. They tell us when they can work. We don’t push shifts on them, it’s on their terms. It’s amazing what this does for people’s productivity when it’s not an inconvenience to work and it also results in a very low turnover of staff. All our staff on an internal chat system and can speak to anyone in the business via this platform at any time. That is essential for remote workers. I know a lot of the staff have their own Facebook groups too, these are unmoderated, but again this about having that trust. We have the Unity4 Tavern that opens at 4:30pm every afternoon. This is our virtual chat room where anybody across the globe can jump in and socialise. We also have our essential quarterly town hall meetings that we do in a similar way.”

Finally, I asked Dan to summarise his thoughts on working from home

DT Living with reality of working from home is different. Anyone can get calls or chats from home, but can they work properly as if they were in the office, that is crucial to success. You also must only hire people that have the correct profile to work from home, i.e. attitude and skills. This is what we’ve done for the past 20 years.”

In summary, my conversation with Daniel offered some insights that didn’t even cross my mind and others I wholeheartedly agreed with. This blog only scratches the surface of what we discussed and over the next couple of weeks I’d be happy to share some more with you.