Work today transcends boundaries and company culture must follow it.
By Donna Kimmel
COVID-19 has turned the world of work upside down and is shaking it like a snow globe. Work is no longer a place employees go, but something that happens everywhere and knows no boundaries. In this moment of transformation, what has become of corporate culture?
Corporate culture—the values, behaviors, and social and psychological environments that define and make companies unique—requires connection. And connecting today, like everything else, looks different than it did in the past. How do organizations preserve culture in a world where remote and socially distanced offices are the norm? HR needs to think outside the box.
Values know no boundaries. When most people think about corporate culture, happy hours, ping pong tournaments, onsite gyms, and cafeterias are usually the first things that come to mind. And these things require proximity. But culture is about more than just office activities. Culture is how employees treat each other and how the company makes employees feel.
This is driven by values, and values know no boundaries. They can be instilled—and upheld—from anywhere at any time. Here are fi ve keys to doing this well.
1. Create a virtual reality. Work has gone digital, and culture can too. Technology will never replace human interactions, but many activities designed to foster culture can be done just as effectively online. When employees can’t be together in person, try virtual happy hours and scavenger hunts. Host online cooking classes and fitness challenges. Volunteer virtually as a team.
2. Perfect listening skills. Take time to talk with team members to understand what they are going through. How are they managing working at home with spouses, pets, and children sharing the same space? Are they supporting online learning and caring for relatives in addition to doing their jobs? When leaders really listen, they can identify employee needs and discover ways to support them and demonstrate that they are cared about and valued.
3. Say thank you. People need to know that what they’re doing matters, so tell them that they are making a difference and creating value. When leaders recognize and appreciate employees whose actions embody corporate values, they reinforce the behaviors they’d like to see across the organization. In a physical office, a team might celebrate a successful product launch with pizza. In a remote work world, leaders can deliver pizzas to team members and celebrate together over a virtual lunch. Other digital strategies include sending an email to someone recognizing an achievement and copying their manager or executive, or setting a recurring time on the work calendar to send at least three people a “thank you” or positive feedback monthly.
4. Respect the clock. As the home office has become the office, the lines between work and personal lives have all but disappeared. But they need to be drawn. Help team members strike a balance and avoid the temptation to be “always on” so they don’t burn out. Encourage them to set and clearly communicate working hours with their peers and family. Remind them to take time for themselves throughout the day to walk, stretch, meditate, or do a load of laundry. And in the ultimate sign of respect and trust, let them know that it’s OK to be offline at certain times.
5. Remember the value of face time. Although organizations can preserve culture at a distance, let’s not forget the power of spending time together face-to-face. Being physically together connects, builds trust, and is simply fun. It helps organizations be collaborative, innovative, and productive. So when conditions allow, bring teams together to reinforce the culture that has been building even while apart.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing work in unimaginable ways. Change is never easy—particularly when it comes about so fast and on such a massive scale. But companies that embrace and build a culture in which their employees are empowered with the tools, confidence, and trust they need to adapt will survive and thrive.
Donna Kimmel is chief people officer for Citrix.