It’s not enough to just offer work-from-home benefits to your employees. If you really want remote workers that thrive, innovate, and contribute to your bottom line, you need real organizational change. You need to fully commit to a remote culture.

Without remote culture, work-from-home programs are less sustainable in the long run, and you risk losing the engagement, productivity and loyalty of employees that value flexibility. You also risk losing out on the business benefits: flexibility, mobility, agility, etc.

So what’s the difference between building a remote culture and just offering work-from-home options? Here are five signs your company lacks a remote culture:

  • Sign #1: Flexible work isn’t an option for everyone. If you’re treating flexible work as a privilege for a select few, remote work will always be an exception, not the norm. As a result, remote workers may feel compelled to work longer hours to compensate for not being in the office, and in-office workers may feel stuck, burnt out or disengaged.
  • Sign #2: Teammates become lone wolves outside the office. Teamwork doesn’t have to suffer just because teammates aren’t physically together, but without cultural change, remote workers will always feel like missing persons. Without proper support, strategy, protocols and technology, remote workers may feel isolated, out of the loop and disconnected from teammates.
  • Sign #4: You still use the same technology. Unless you already have technology that makes workers more mobile, productive and connected from anywhere, your tools need to be updated. Don’t let flexible workers fend for themselves to find ways to stay in touch. Ask them what they need.
  • Sign #3: You manage remote workers the same way as in-office workers. Remote collaboration shouldn’t look the same as in-office communication. Remote work requires different ways to communicate, an increased cadence of collaboration and strategic time set aside for face time (via video conferencing). Since remote workers cannot rely on physical closeness, shared office space and chance encounters in the office to communicate, you need to create virtual options.
  • Sign #5: When flexibility isn’t working, it’s back to the office. If you give up on remote work when you find a flaw, that’s a sure sign you never created a remote culture to begin with.

Even having one foot in and one foot out the door to remote culture can undermine your work flexibility initiatives. According to help desk software company Help Scout, “you have to choose remote culture or office culture and stick to it, because there is no in between… Trying to optimize for both will likely result in remote employees feeling like second-class citizens.”

Learn more about the technologies, management techniques and values you need to build a remote culture by downloading this free eBook by PGi:“7 Telecommuting Personalities.”

photo credit: istockphoto.com