We tend to think of workplace culture as a naturally occurring phenomenon, and what business leaders may underestimate is that workplace culture plays a significant role in a business’s overall success.

By Karina Brijlal, senior marketing manager at Red Hat Sub-Saharan Africa

When Boston Consulting Group explored companies undergoing digital transformation, they found that 90% of the surveyed companies that focused on culture reported breakthrough or strong financial performance.

Ignoring culture and its impact on employees has negative consequences, and it’s clear that workers need to be happy and feel valued in their organisations.

More people are starting to realise this, with the US experiencing a period of mass resignations as four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. The “Great Resignation” is the result of workers reaching their breaking point. High workloads, hiring freezes, other pressures exacerbated by Covid-19, and toxic workplace cultures are all contributing to this.

It is clear that a positive and accommodating workplace has never been more important to both businesses and their staff. What’s needed is a holistic approach, and adopting an open source philosophy can help leaders nurture a culture that will contribute to company and employee success.

The core values of the open source philosophy

Collaboration, community, and inclusivity are some of the most important values that make up an open approach to workplace culture. This approach seeks to construct and maintain a space where we can engage with our colleagues and talk openly with management, voice our opinions, and put our ideas out in the open.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in an open workplace is that when someone shares their point of view, everyone can learn something new every day.

Organisational hierarchies often determine opportunities for collaboration. The open source approach, however, gives everyone the chance to collaborate, and in doing so, gives them new ways to transform and innovate.

Meritocracy and transparency are also vital to an open culture. A person is hired by an organisation for their skill and talent, so the workplace must be a nurturing space for growth, and offer positions that accommodate that person’s passion, while remaining transparent when it comes to ideals and operations. It is a straightforward case of cause and effect: if a person’s passion fades due to an unhealthy workspace, their productivity and efficacy – and by extension the business’s productivity and efficacy – are compromised.

The rise of remote working

Remote working is here to stay in some way, shape, or form. The global upheaval of the pandemic did a great deal to highlight not only the potential benefits of the approach, but also its impact on the health and wellbeing of remote workers.

An open culture offers solutions to balancing life and work in the context of hybrid remote work models. This will become more important as these models are now likely a permanent business fixture.

Research from McKinsey indicates that 22% of employees in the US workforce can work remotely between three and five days a week without it affecting productivity.

An open workplace is one of flexibility. Employees are given options within their working conditions, choosing when, how, and where they will work on a given day. This promotes health and safety, and positively impacts work and life balance.

Management and leadership protocols can still apply, thanks to technological advancements in communication and off-site operations.

Team members can engage with each other and, despite the distance between them, can foster and contribute to the culture, while reinforcing feelings of trust and responsibility between employer and employee.

Empower employees with an open culture

There are several experiences to consider when embracing an open work environment, ranging from company leadership to entry-level workers.

Key to this environment is an employee’s ability to manage themselves. They should be responsible for their daily tasks and area of work, but providing ideal workspace conditions will help them achieve the best results.

To create an effective open work environment, company leaders may need to rethink their habits, or even take a closer look at and establish new values.

Leaders must conduct check-ins to ensure employees have the necessary tools and resources at their disposal to foster excellence, treating them as individuals and showing them that they come first.

Whether someone is working on-site or remotely, employees should always have a manager or line of support available if they need it. These support lines must be open and transparent, allowing for the free exchange of information and ideas, while promoting inclusivity and contributing to engagement levels.

All of these practices are essential for any company that cares about its workplace culture. They show employees that a company appreciates and supports its workforce, reinforcing positive elements that can ultimately have a dramatic and positive impact on the company as a whole.

Promoting more open workplace cultures also benefits individuals and societies – they help us look after ourselves and those around us too.