The global COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all of us now, and social distancing is creating more than just operational considerations for workplaces that have transitioned to most or all of their staff working remotely.
Employees are being challenged to adapt to a new normal: new work routines while balancing dynamic life situations changing around them.
At the same time, creating a positive corporate culture is something that smart leaders have invested in deeply – and for service-based brands like financial services, culture has a direct impact on how their brand is experienced.
In the midst of this new reality of working remotely, there is still a lot of potential to build and enhance workplace culture and connectivity.
Here are seven simple ways to support and sustain – maybe even enhance! – workplace culture amid social distancing, and the potential for increased remote work in the long run:
#1 Hold daily video chats
Don’t underestimate the value of video calls! Connect with the entire team, individual departments or work groups to touch base on the business at-hand. These can be quick check-ins once or twice a day to keep project workflow moving while establishing a routine of connectivity. This will allow everyone on the team to feel connected and “see” their co-workers while staying apprised of workflow and daily to-dos.
Video chats can be done through a number of readily available channels including Google Hangouts, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Chat room or other chat room apps—and many are free.
For larger organizations, a Town Hall forum works especially well so that leaders can share a state of the union address. During times of uncertainty, transparency is key to ensuring employees are kept informed and provided with an avenue for questions & answers. This, in turn, increases their sense of safety and security.
#2 Set up quick communication channels
With remote work as our new norm, we can no longer turn to the co-worker sitting beside us to ask a quick question. That’s where tools like IM, Slack, or Google Chat can help facilitate faster and easier communication than traditional emails.
In addition to work related channels, set up a Social Lounge Channel on the group chat to post ideas for dinner, not-to-miss binge worthy shows or share work-from-home playlists.
#3 Encourage social “get-togethers”
Host a rotating virtual coffee break, lunch hour or happy hour where the focus is not work related. These informal chats around the “water cooler” provide an opportunity for workers to connect with one another – to talk about what they are doing in quarantine, what new projects or hobbies they’ve taken up, or what tactics they are taking to keep their kids busy.
Ready to step it up a notch? Encourage staff to take each other on a FaceTime tour of their neighborhood, share videos or photos of their pets or the recent mess their kids made while trying to stay out of the way. Take turns having co-workers give a virtual tour of their home or work space so that people can more easily relate on a personal level.
Put these virtual hangouts on the calendar or send invitations to participate. Not only will it make sure that everyone is included, but making it a real “event” will encourage participation and sends the message that these types of gatherings are supported by the company.
Encouraging and fostering opportunities for staff to maintain their usual work socialization will help people feel less isolated and alone. Plus, it gives employees something to look forward to during their workday. Social connectivity encourages inclusivity and camaraderie, despite being in different physical locations.
#4 Dial up the acknowledgements & accolades
Just because you can’t see the hard work and the long hours, doesn’t mean you’re your staff isn’t working just as hard. Little notes of appreciation, thank-yous or team shout-outs are always appreciated.
#5 Take time to share a laugh
While things are serious, there is still time for a little levity. Share some of the videos, songs, memes, or jokes making the rounds on social media with your larger work group.
Here’s one to try: Talk about what you see others in your household doing (kids, pets, spouses, roommates), but call them your coworkers. “My coworker insists on napping whenever she finds a sunbeam – so unprofessional!”
#6 Flexibility is key
Many of your staff are juggling having kids or other family members working from home so adhering to their typical work schedule can be challenging. Making sure that a flexible work schedule and hours are supported is critical at this time. Clear communication about expectations and use of a daily calendar to block out times that they are unavailable will make this flexibility easier for all to manage.
Find ways to ensure that kids, pets and significant others are a welcome “visitor” and not an unnecessary intrusion. Make it part of the culture to say hello and engage in a quick conversation if they walk in during a video call.
#7 Reimagine Company Events
It’s more important than ever to continue with the company events that build camaraderie. Here are creative ideas for hosting engaging group virtual events for teams, departments, or even the entire organization.
- Quarantine Bingo: The goal is to see who can black out the board first. You can find examples online, and customize them for your own organization.
- Trivia: The first person to respond correctly via chat wins (no Googling allowed!).
- Game Night: Play a popular board or card game that most people have at home: a virtual game of Uno where everyone has their own deck of Uno cards and can play along with the group.
- Watch Party: Check out the Google chrome extension called Netflix party, and engage your staff in selecting the title to watch together.
Let’s take this time of uncertainty to embrace the changes of working remotely. This is a great time to strengthen personal relationships and foster a sense of wellbeing and genuine care for each other, which will only result in a stronger culture and more connected workplace, no matter where you are.
How are you working from home and staying connected with your colleagues? How is your organization fostering corporate culture during social distancing? Please share your own tips and experiences, we are all learning together!