Aside from the serious circumstances surrounding lockdown, and enforced working from home where possible, it was kind of a novelty to begin with, wasn’t it?
Businesses up and down the country patted themselves on the back and breathed a sigh of relief as the technology that they’d been calling “unreliable” for years miraculously worked. (So much for this being the reason they’ve turned down multiple flexible working applications over the past few years).
We got to see inside colleagues’ homes, create makeshift office spaces + wave at kids walking across Zoom calls. There were elements of fun, + social media reflected these moments with funny posts around virtual Friday drinks, + people working wearing outlandish outfits.
But you’ll remember that the “fun” ended pretty quickly. “Working from home” soon turned into many people being furloughed or struggling to juggle the demands of their day job, home-schooling + running a home for an ever-present family. Reality set in with a Groundhog Day – like daily schedule of eat, work, home – school + repeat.
We’ve all pretty much found our feet now, + we’re (mostly) surviving. For the fortunate, the wheels of industry carry on turning in one form or another + business continues to get done, but what about the effect on company culture? This is often the deal maker or breaker between an employee that’s just going through the motions + one that’s highly engaged and productive. So how do you maintain a strong workplace culture remotely? And if “the way we do things around here” is no longer possible, what does that do for the psychological contract and resulting employee engagement + productivity?
Here are my 10 top tips for how you can actively strengthen company culture during lockdown.
1. Live your values
If your employees didn’t know your values, would they be able to guess them from how you are communicating + working now?
Values should be a springboard for playing out your culture so, as soon as you can, review your values + ask yourself how you can demonstrate them during lockdown. Ask your teams to review their digital interactions + reflect on the values they’re demonstrating. Celebrate people who are bringing values to life.
It’s tough to manage your people the right way in times of adversity but going back to your values is a wise way to start.
2. Focus on your purpose
Help your employees understand why what your organisation does (+ therefore what they do) matters + think about how this could be relevant in the current climate.
Ask your team to share stories about how their work has helped other people and celebrate all positive stories as this helps build group identity.
According to Aram Lulla, Human Resources Manager at Executive Recruiter Lucas Group, “Helping your team find meaning, even in the small moments, strengthens company culture + reminds employees that we’re all in this together.”
3. Clarify expectations
Some of your team may feel they need to work harder than usual to demonstrate they are being effective while working from home. Make sure you offer clarity, so everyone understands what’s expected of them, the standards you need them to reach + any important deadlines to make. Leave the rest to them! Your goal is that they will deliver + give the best of themselves without burnout.
4. Prioritise training
You may be expecting employees to quickly get to grips with new technology + ways of working. This will come easy to some, + not to others. Make sure you’re offering easily accessible training, + access to ‘how to’ guides, tools, resources + support to make this as positive an experience as possible.
5. Boost morale
Workforce morale is even more important than usual these days, as it’s easy for engagement to drop when employees are not in the office for weeks on end.
To combat this, use rich internal comms to weave an upbeat thread through the working day. Spread messages of hope + solidarity through blogs, videos + live streams.
Though your employees are not at work, it’s important that you still acknowledge their efforts. It’s time to look at a cloud-based reward + recognition system which encourages peer recognition as well. There’s an ever-increasing number of these in marketplace, so you can take your pick.
6. Schedule regular communication
In stressful times, routine is critical. It’s a great idea to have a virtual huddle in the morning + just before the end of the day, + to schedule regular check-in calls. This will allow teams to realise the value they have added each day + celebrate successes, while making everything feel a little more normal.
According to Martin Hlavaty, chief employee experience officer at Avantia, an employee management + digital consultancy, the more communication the merrier in times like these. “We’re just checking in with everybody, making sure people are staying sane. And I’m trying to focus on speaking with people individually.”
7. Be human
Employee experience leader Colleen Schuller, VP of Inclusion + Diversity at GSK, says they are focusing on, “equipping our people managers to just be responsive to the human element here” + giving them the knowledge + tools to check in with their people + understand what they can do to help. She’s also keen that people in employee experience functions look at all comms + ascertain if messages are “head oriented, as opposed to heart oriented”.
Schuller sees this as the perfect opportunity to show employees you’re listening, that you understand their fears + worries + you’re going to help them deliver. This human understanding and empathy will stand you in good stead, from an employee experience standpoint.
8. We Are the Champions!
You may already have Culture Champions but, if not, it may be time to identify some people you think would shine in this role. Then you can work together to come up with initiatives + ways of working remotely that play to your culture. The fact that these will be employee-led initiatives will likely make take up higher!
9. Build a virtual water cooler
Encourage employees to engage by setting up channels for non-work discussions which help mimic the hubbub of an office in a virtual space. Foster non-work chat – this is especially important for people who are in lockdown alone. You can have specific threads on Slack, Hangout or Teams which are just about random topics or funny things about working from home.
You can also hold virtual team building activities for all your remote employees. For example, mobile parking payments provider PayByPhone UK have set up the PayByPhone Music Club. Each day they’re announcing an album of the day + then setting up polls so employees can vote for their favourite track + rate the album.
When lockdown is over, review your values, mission, + purpose. Were they fit for purpose in tough times? Did people live up to them when it mattered most? Or do they need to be overhauled to reflect the new normal?
This article is a reproduction of an article originally published with HR rewired: https://www.hr-rewired.com/10-tips-to-strengthen-your-remote-workplace-culture/