Seven strategies that help maintain a strong company culture while managing a remote workforce.
By Livia Martini
Fostering a company culture has long been hailed as an important way to recruit and maintain the best talent within corporations. It has become so critical that “chief culture officers” are now common within many large corporations, and it has been a driving force in making companies like Google such an attractive place to work.
But as more and more companies announce that their employees are working from home during COVID-19, how can organizations that have built so much on their culture ensure that it doesn’t fade during these unpredictable and difficult times? How can they preserve the very thing that attracted their employees and made them productive when they can’t all be in one room together to collaborate, create, and converse?
Organizations need to keep their culture intact—both now and when business returns to a new normal. Here are seven best practices that will help maintain culture.
1. Pay more attention to technology. There is no denying that organizations will have to rely on technology more than ever to work effectively. Choose a video conferencing service like Zoom that is seamless, reliable, and easy for everyone to use. There should be discussions as to whether email is the best solution for corresponding or whether teams should transition to instant messaging solutions such as Slack. If used correctly, these tools can be great for speeding up lines of communication, collaborative working, and document sharing.
2. Analyze the meetings that are really necessary. In the real world, research shows that 50 percent of all meetings are not productive. There is often no clear agenda or output, and as a result, they waste time and money. When transitioning to working from home, companies have an opportunity to stop and assess whether a meeting is necessary. Getting people to dial into a video call from various locations can take time and effort. It’s worth considering whether that time and effort is, in fact, worth it. Make sure that every meeting has a clear purpose and agenda before going into it. And if it doesn’t, question what would happen if that meeting didn’t take place.
3. Pick up the phone. One of the problems with written conversations is that things can be lost in tone. Words can take on new meanings and punctuation can change the whole sentiment of a thought. Online communication can feel more tense since the ability to gauge how someone is feeling is lost. If an issue is getting lost in translation, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to talk it through.
4. Maintain open and supportive communication channels. Culture comes from the top, so it’s key that the leadership team puts their best foot forward during challenging times and that their team follows suit. Leadership teams need to minimize panic as much as possible by staying calm and considerate at all times.
5. Keep a routine. Culture is typically fostered by having human interactions that are not necessarily focused on the job at hand. Talking about weekend plans, sharing funny memes, and grabbing a coffee in the kitchen are all important parts of that culture-building, team-bonding process. Those things can be replicated in the virtual world. For example, make sure to block time to have lunch away from the computer, as typical in an office environment. It can be hard to “turn off” when working remotely but exaggerated hours can result in burnout and, eventually, lost productivity. Try to encourage team members to not only work their usual hours, but take proper screen breaks away from the computer by getting up from their desks and walking around their homes a little.
6. Celebrate together. It’s still important to recognize any company wins and congratulate people on their success. If someone scores a new sale, delivers an amazing piece of work, or receives positive client feedback, share it with the wider company electronically.
7. Stay active. Continue to encourage all of the things that are normally recommended to stay healthy and happy, such as eating right and finding time to exercise. This will ensure the team remains motivated, clearheaded, and ultimately, more productive. At Gympass, physical activity is a big part of the company culture and this remains true even with remote work. There are a wealth of exercise programs online that can be done to maintain physical activity. This will have a profound impact on a working day’s productivity.
Livia Martini is the CHRO for Gympass.