By Corporate English Solutions

07 August 2023 - 14:04

Embracing organisational culture in flexible working

Flexible working is revolutionising how we work. But there is one challenge that can’t be overlooked: maintaining organisational culture. A strong culture matters: It defines your vision, values and purpose – fostering trust, belonging and teamwork.  

How can you keep your organisational culture alive in flexible working environments? We share some actionable steps you can take to preserve your organisation’s unique identity.


Reading time: 5 minutes

Has your organisation caught on to the rising trend of flexible working? 

Flexible working is redefining the modern work landscape, ushering in a new era of autonomy and balance that empowers employees to shape their work around life's demands while delivering results for their organisations. According to a recent report, 52% of employees consider flexible working options an essential requirement. And a global workplace survey revealed 80% of workers, when faced with two similar job offers, would turn down the one without flexible working. 

What is flexible working? 

Embracing flexibility at work is more than just offering flexible working hours or a remote and hybrid work model—it's a transformative approach to work that empowers employees with control and freedom.  

Picture this in your organisation: compressed workweeks, customised schedules, job sharing, sabbaticals and flexible paid time off (PTO), where employees take time off when they need (without it being earned or accrued).  These flexible working arrangements are all designed to cater to employees’ diverse needs, promote work-life balance and enhance well-being. 

But there is a significant concern that many leaders share. How can they maintain a consistent organisational culture and embrace flexible work solutions?  

The importance of organisational culture in flexible working arrangements 

A vibrant organisational culture cultivates a sense of unity and belonging among employees. It helps them identify with the organisation’s core values, mission and goals. This shared vision motivates employees with flexible working arrangements to work collaboratively toward common objectives. And when employees feel connected to the organisation’s culture, they feel a strong sense of purpose

Challenges to organisational culture in flexible working environments 

Flexible working can dilute an organisation’s culture, putting that culture at risk. From reduced organisational visibility to inconsistent policy implementation, team fragmentation to less direct supervision, employees may miss out on fully immersing themselves in the organisation’s unique brand, mission and values. Which can greatly impact the shared sense of purpose and identity, as well as hinder alignment of desired cultural norms and behaviours across the entire organisation.  

So, how can you keep your organisation’s unique identity alive in flexible working environments? Follow these ten practical steps. They’ll help you nurture a strong culture while embracing flexible working arrangements. 

 1. Clearly define and communicate organisational mission, values and behaviours

Are all your employees aware of your organisation’s mission, core values and behaviours? To ensure everyone knows what they are, clearly define them (and make them visible). Regularly remind employees through internal communication channels, team meetings and training programmes. Showcase your company culture by using consistent branding, slogans and visual cues. And create a style guide to share with all employees, encouraging them to use messaging that aligns with your culture in virtual spaces, emails and presentations.

2. Leverage leadership support to foster a strong organisational culture

Your leaders are some of your best culture ambassadors. They should embody your organisation’s values and demonstrate a strong commitment to your flexible working policy. Invite senior leaders to actively share their experiences of fostering a sense of belonging among teams with flexible working arrangements. Ensure managers have regular check-ins with team members (including non-work-related discussions and personal updates). Because when employees receive consistent feedback and recognition of cultural alignment, they feel valued and connected beyond their everyday tasks.

3. Support managers to implement flexible working policies consistently

Managers hold the key to keeping your flexible working policy consistent, so offer them full support. Where to start? Ensure managers receive regular policy reviews to check their understanding and answer any questions or concerns. Provide them with specialised training on policy implementation and enforcement when needed. Set up monitoring mechanisms to track policy adoption within each team. And regularly review compliance data and provide constructive feedback to managers, which will encourage them to maintain consistency.

4. Integrate culture into onboarding and performance enablement

How do you deepen new employees’ understanding of company culture from the start? Weave in culture-related elements into onboarding. Assign new hires an onboarding buddy and make sure remote employees have access to inspiring online training modules about your organisation’s culture. To retain top talent, integrate culture into coaching, mentoring and performance management, making cultural alignment a key part of performance enablement. When you recognise employees for contributing to the organisation’s mission, they’re more likely to stay.

5. Establish a cultural ambassadors programme

Start a cheerleading squad of all-star employees who embody your organisational culture. Select a variety of employees from different teams to be part of a cultural ambassadors programme. Or ask for cultural champion volunteers. Their role? To promote and model your organisation’s values in their attitudes and behaviours. Cultural ambassadors can be peer mentors, onboarding buddies and event organisers to inspire colleagues with various flexible working arrangements.  

6. Promote virtual cross-departmental collaboration

Want to inspire a culture of unity and teamwork? Encourage different teams to work together on projects and share ideas through virtual cross-departmental collaboration. This collaborative approach will also drive creativity and innovation across the entire organisation. Invest in remote collaboration tools to make the process seamless for all employees. Emphasise the value of employees with various flexible working arrangements coming together for unified missions. Particularly how their efforts contribute to your organisation’s objectives. 

7. Nurture virtual team building

To boost remote employee engagement, schedule regular virtual team-building activities. Get them involved in online games, virtual escape rooms or online coffee breaks. Managers and team members can also weave in team-building activities during scheduled virtual meetings. These opportunities allow remote employees to bond and build rapport, enhancing team dynamics.

8. Cultivate a strong sense of community 

How well connected are employees with different flexible working arrangements? Bridge this gap by planning social events, support networks or bringing together employees with shared interests, backgrounds or hobbies in virtual Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). And make the most of internal communication channels. Discussion forums, intranets, social media channels are ideal platforms for sparking conversations, sharing updates and creating a sense of community. This way, everyone –regardless of work arrangements – can actively participate and contribute to building a vibrant organisational culture.

9. Celebrate stories that embody the organisation’s culture

Stories have the power to bring your company culture to life. Create a virtual “Culture Wall of Fame” that showcases compelling stories and examples of employees living the organisation’s values. Support employees to create and contribute personal experiences that embody your mission, values and behaviours. Encourage them to share inspiring stories through short videos, blog posts or artwork that celebrates your organisation’s cultural identity. By celebrating these stories, you also inspire other employees to follow in their colleagues’ footsteps.

10. Reinforce organisational culture in learning and development initiatives

Inject new life into your training sessions, workshops and e-learning modules with elements that reflect your organisation’s unique culture and values. Use real-life examples and case studies to show how employees can embody the culture in their roles – regardless of their working arrangements.

The compelling advantages of maintaining organisational culture in flexible working environments

By following these actionable steps, you’ll keep your organisational culture alive (and thriving) in flexible working environments. To help you build the business case, here are a few significant benefits:

  • Employee happiness and enthusiasm: When employees have the freedom to work flexibly and feel a strong connection to organisational culture, it boosts their motivation, satisfaction and engagement levels.
  • Consistent performance and productivity: A strong company culture helps employees consistently make good decisions. And behave in ways that align with the organisation’s values, leading to enhanced performance and productivity.
  • Attracting and keeping top talent: A positive and well-maintained culture not only attracts highly skilled talent, but also encourages them to stick around. When employees feel connected to the culture, they are more likely to remain loyal and committed.

British Council has been supporting organisations worldwide to identify and develop skills to ensure your talent is equipped for success now and in future. Partner with us to upskill your workforce in the crucial skills for flexible working success in 2023 and beyond.