How to Change Culture in a Company Without Alienating Legacy Employees

Remote working is becoming more and more common, but knowing how to change culture in a company is paramount before allowing employees to go virtual.

If your business is either planning to go entirely virtual or allow a portion of employees to work remotely, then congratulations—you’re riding the wave of the future. In a survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit, 34% said more than half of their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020; 25% said more than three-quarters wouldn’t work in a traditional office by 2020.

Making that transition, though, shouldn’t happen before you’ve put some frameworks into place and you’ve learned how to change culture in a company effectively.

You’re going to have some workers who are thrilled to begin working remotely and will already have one foot out the door when you make the big announcement. At the same time, you’re going to have legacy employees that may be a bit older, set in their ways, and utterly terrified by the thought of not coming into an office every day. Will they be fired? Is their job at risk? How will they meet with their superiors when they have an issue? Who will they show photos of their Yorkshire terrier to during lunch? Your job is to get everyone on the same page and working together, no matter how far apart they’ll be during the work day.

How to change culture in a company by developing internal communication protocols

How do your employees currently communicate with each other? They probably drop by each other’s cubicles, chat while making coffee in the kitchen, grab lunch together, send quick emails, and of course, hold meetings.

Most of those communication methods are not going to be options when all or some of your employees go remote, so this is a major area where you’re going to have to learn how to change culture in a company. Job board startup Proven conducted a survey of 38 remote companies to discover their best remote work secrets and the top answer was overwhelmingly obvious: clear, constant communication.

All employees, regardless of location or time zone, should know how and when they can reach each other.

Will your employees all be following the same 9-5 schedule Monday through Friday?

Or will be flexible work hours be thrown into the mix? Create a living document in a platform like Google Docs that allows employees to update the hours that they are working and available for communication. Keep in mind that flexible work hours sound nice, but they can lead to confusion when people need one another to work on a project. Not knowing when a colleague or manager is working, and the inability to get an immediate answer to questions that lead to bottlenecks can become especially frustrating within a remote team environment.

Alternatively, a 9-5 schedule makes everyone accountable for being available during specific hours, and also encourages work-life integration that many remote workers struggle with when they’re given flexibility.

Choose the traditional communication channels workers are expected to use, like e-mail and phone, but also look for virtual communication tools.

For example, Hipchat and Slack are fun, flexible chat platforms that provide a virtual “water cooler” and private rooms for different projects and departments. NowBridge uses video to create the illusion of being in a room together and allows you to communicate in real time. Once you’ve picked out all the tools you will be using, create a document detailing each one and consider holding a meeting to answer questions and explain the new technology.

One respondent in Proven’s survey said:

“In a remote environment, people who don’t communicate don’t exist.”

It’s a harsh quote, but employees should understand that staying in touch is a job requirement.

Establish a code of conduct.

One reason your legacy employees feel comfortable in the office is because they understand what is expected of them, conduct-wise. Create a remote code of conduct so there are no gray areas when it comes to how employees should act, what type of talk or behavior is unacceptable, and what they should (and should not) be doing during work hours.

Your employees may be working from home, but they’re on your clock, so set boundaries and be clear about what you expect.


As your workers go remote, are you anxious about leading team conference calls? It’s not hard to take charge in a virtual meeting—just different. Learn about standards of conduct, working agendas, using video, and more when you take our course, Supercharge Your Conference Calls With Virtual Teams.


How to be mindful of including remote employees

If your company is not going fully virtual, you’ll have some employees in the office and others working from home. As a leader, it’s your job to make sure you’re working to break down the natural bias towards in-office folks and include your remote employees.

If you’re having a “quick team meeting” don’t brush off dialing in your remote workers because it seems like “too much” for something that you want to be fast. Calling your other employees should only take an extra minute, and it shows in-office workers that you value the input of remote workers. This also helps erase the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and reminds team members that remote workers are very readily available.

When you’re trying to figure out how to change culture in a company, just remember that the change starts with you—so lead by example.

Changing how you manage remotely

To change company culture, you may also need to modify the way you manage. You’re aren’t going to be able to walk around the office and check in on employees to be sure they’re doing what they need to do. No micromanaging! Instead, begin managing outcomes and results.

According to a survey from TINYpulse, 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely.” As you shift toward managing results, this could be a big shock for some in-office employees who will quickly learn that being visible doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re productive.

Other important considerations when determining how to change a culture in a company

If you’re going to let any of your employees begin working from home, you’ll need to reevaluate security protocols. Cybercrime and data breaches are a growing concern for companies, and you need to be sure your employees are protecting data, have proper security software installed, and aren’t working on an unsecured WiFi connection. Collaborate with the IT professionals within your company to set rules for remote workers.

You will also need to manage expectations. What can you change about the culture that is achievable and realistic as you create a remote workforce? You want virtual employees to utilize certain tech tools, but don’t forget to account for a learning curve, especially with older or less tech-savvy workers. Be 100% clear about what you expect from your employees as the culture changes, but be ready to deal with a few bumps along the way, too.

Overall, accepting the concept of work-life integration—not work-life balance—is the key to helping remote and in-office workers get used to the new culture. Creating the idea of balance in one’s life can be stressful, but if work and life are just integrated together, workers become more adaptable and able to “go with the flow.”

Have you ever managed a cultural shift when your company began to integrate remote working? Did you learn anything about helping legacy employees make the change without feeling alienated? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


As your workers go remote, are you anxious about leading team conference calls? It’s not hard to take charge in a virtual meeting—just different. Learn about standards of conduct, working agendas, using video, and more when you take our course, Supercharge Your Conference Calls With Virtual Teams.


Photo by Amy Hirschi