Workplace culture is a business driver. It can inspire commitment, improve employee engagement, and increase performance. Yet, the global pandemic has thrown a wrench in the workplace. Managers and business owners need help in cultivating workplace culture while working remotely. This article shares top ideas.
Thanks to COVID-19, many employees are now separated and working remotely. But we know that “creating a clear, consistent aligned culture” can improve overall business health. Gallup’s Approach to Culture report suggests, “culture is key to unlocking an organization’s greatest potential.”
Clearly defining, consistently executing, and effectively aligning workplace culture can:
- Attract world-class talent
- Inspire employee effort
- Align teams working towards a common goal
- Improve performance
- Offer competitive advantage
It is much more difficult to get everyone on board with a company culture when they are working virtually. Remote workers can struggle to connect to their colleagues and the organization’s values. Business leaders need to find new ways to cultivate workplace culture with employees who are working off-site. The options we’ll explore in more detail include:
- Emphasizing productivity
- Encouraging regular communication
- Checking in often
- Demonstrating trust and appreciation
- Continuing to team build
- Providing assistance for financial and mental health issues
Focusing on productivity instead of logged hours can improve employee morale, which encourages embracing and endorsing workplace culture. Work-life balance is regularly touted as a plus for people who are working remotely. Yet, during the pandemic, people work from home alongside family members who are doing virtual schooling or roommates who are also doing remote work.
Prioritize that the work gets done, rather than when it gets done. This frees up your employees to work when it best suits their lives right now. Plus, you can help them avoid burning out or overloading themselves.
Keep in mind that online meeting fatigue is becoming a real problem. Make sure you are supporting employee motivation by hosting productive meetings. It helps to:
- Have a set agenda
- Ensure the right participants are invited
- Limit participation only to people who need to attend
- Use online business collaboration tools to get more done
- Agree at the end of the meeting on the next actions and who is accountable for what
Encouraging Regular Communication
Remote employees may be enjoying posting funny pictures of their canine and feline coworkers. But having the overzealous attention of a pet isn’t the same as a human connection in the office.
Find good communication tools for your employees to share fun stuff. Within tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can create a channel dedicated to “watercooler” conversations.
Hosting virtual meetings on a regular basis gives remote workers some scheduling consistency. You might even host virtual standups. Taken from the Scrum methodology, these daily meetings are check-ins that get everyone on the same page quickly. Successful virtual stand-ups:
- Track progress
- Clarify objectives and goals
- Identify obstacles
- Foster collaboration
- Are focused and capped at 15 minutes
Checking In Often
In addition to weekly team meetings, managers and business owners should add one-on-ones more frequently. This is a great opportunity to touch base and identify any gaps between aspiration and actuality. You may believe your company encourages innovation and creative problem-solving. But, you need direct communication with individuals to learn if workplace culture values are being realized.
A small business owner may feel too overwhelmed to meet face-to-face (virtually) with every employee. A culture survey could be helpful in that case. Ask questions to understand the current view of workplace culture, identify potential barriers, and learn where messages need to be clarified to align employees better.
Demonstrating Trust and Appreciation
Leaders can demonstrate commitment to workplace culture by reassuring remote workers that they are trusted and appreciated. As the pandemic persists, leaders who find ways to respect their employees’ work life and personal challenges can build better relationships.
Letting employees set their own schedules and prioritizing productivity (as suggested above) helps illustrate trust. Giving employees autonomy to get the job done instead of micromanaging remote workers can also provide a confidence boost.
If you foster a workplace culture that values employee collaboration, find ways to reward and recognize the people who demonstrate these attributes. If performance is a key value, establish an appreciation program synched to performance metrics.
Continuing To Team Build
So, everyone can’t get together after work for drinks. And they’re missing out on sharing birthday cake in the break room. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to schedule events for team building.
You might host a virtual lunch or game night. You could make this special by sending delivery to the employee’s home from that same pizza place you used to frequent together. Or plan a staff book or movie club. Schedule weekly meditation sessions anyone can join. Invite people to share jokes in the watercolor channel on Wednesdays. Have someone collect a childhood photo of everyone in the department; then they can create a survey asking people to guess who is the parent of each cute kiddo. Or get everyone on a team to contribute a short birthday greeting video for a pleasant surprise.
Providing Assistance for Financial and Mental Health Issues
Remote employees can feel isolated and overwhelmed, especially if their move to virtual work was unexpected and has now stretched over a year! Heather Doshay, VP of People at Webflow, says creating psychological safety is the most important thing to do.
Unless you’re that rare startup business that wants to promote a “we don’t care about employees” culture, it’s a good idea to provide an employee assistance program for financial and mental health issues.
You might also share strategies for managing remote work stress. MIT Sloan Management Review suggests:
- Scheduling time for serendipitous collaboration
- Keeping time zones in mind
- Reviewing communications for clarity plus emotion tone as there is no body language or verbal cue to cushion the words
- Setting up after-work rituals
- Making room for mini breaks
- Scheduling exercise
Working from home offers many benefits. Still, your business needs to be conscientious about continuing to build workplace culture while working remotely. The strategies discussed in this article can help strengthen your company culture backbone, benefiting you whether people work onsite or virtually.