Maintaining Your Company Culture While Employees Are Working from Home

October 1, 2020by Alex Strautman

There’s no question that COVID-19 has changed many things at work. Employees who used to go into the office daily are now working from home, at least for the time-being. Employers are modifying schedules, processes, and workspaces to help resume “normal” operations.
Even though employees are spending less time at the office, your company culture doesn’t have to suffer. There are ways to maintain continuity and help employees cope with change at the same time.

Knowing the Difference: Perks vs. Culture
Employers may believe they’re creating a culture by offering free lunches, game rooms, or other perks to employees. Creating a strong culture goes beyond these types of extra employee benefits. It’s about developing a shared sense of purpose that motivates employees to show up, do a good job, and be part of something greater. It’s not only created by company leadership; it evolves organically, influenced by employees throughout the organization.

The Struggle of Maintaining Culture Virtually
Some organizations adapted well to a remote environment. They’ve used platforms like Slack and Zoom to keep communication lines open. For others, it’s been a struggle. A CNBC survey from May found that 54% of workers feel their jobs are more difficult during the pandemic.

Even for strong producers, feeling a sense of loss of community and connection is normal. Maintaining morale is critical to help employees stay focused and deliver results. Spur-of-the-moment conversations or pop-up meeting aren’t an option right now at many workplaces. Even for those in an office, social distancing measures are in place. That’s where your company culture comes into play.

Ideas to Get You Started
Here are ways to maintain a strong company culture in today’s atypical landscape:

  1. Over-communicate: Having a remote or distant workforce requires increased information sharing, not less. If you’ve held quarterly meetings, consider a virtual town hall or recorded message to staff. Make sure departments are also “meeting” regularly. These are opportunities to share ideas or news that’s important to team success. If written communications are more practical, you can use email, Slack, or text messages.
  2. Organize team-bonding activities: Your online meetings do not have to be all business. It’s okay to mix things up and have an occasional social hour. You can help your team members stay connected and have some fun at the same time. Activities like online bingo, GeoGuessr, and “Three Truths and a Lie,” do wonders for team building. Connecteam, an employee management app, offers more ideas in 10 Team Building Games for Remote Workers.
  3. Relax some traditional rules: Company policies are important for maintaining company standards. But with people trying to balance working from home with their usual at-home responsibilities, it helps to be flexible. Consider each of your employee’s circumstances without showing favoritism. Be compassionate to those circumstances, recognizing some may be far from ideal.
  4. Offer employee/family wellness and other resources: Talk with your insurance broker or your Employee Assistance Program administrator (if you have one) about resources to help your employees who feel anxious or overwhelmed right now. Share links and tips on dealing with stress and the importance of exercise.. Healthline offers “16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety” here.
  5. Encourage new ideas – and reward good ones: Create a virtual suggestion box. Offer a reward to those employees who suggest ideas that result in savings (in dollars or reduced work hours) for your business. You can choose the same reward for all implemented ideas (like a gift card), or establish a system with a tiered reward based on the amount or time saved. What’s important is that you encourage and acknowledge all ideas.

For additional information, read How to Sustain Your Organization’s Culture When Everyone Is Remote, an article in the Fall 2020 edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review.

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