Maintain your company's culture in a remote workforce

| By: Jen Locklear

As we continue moving through 2020, so much remains unknown. In Q1, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, many of us probably envisioned being back to ‘normal’ by the time Q3 rolled around. Along with a return to the office, we likely planned and looked forward to regaining a sense of company culture.

Now that we are in Q3 and mainly still working remotely, it’s time to think about how we can adjust for what may be a more permanent situation, even if we revert to a hybrid of remote and in-office work in the future.

More than ever, company culture is so crucial as isolation, social distancing, and anxiety can affect mental health. So many of us are working more hours outside of the typical 9 to 5 construct, making us more vulnerable to experiencing burnout. Plus, the challenge of the hybrid workplace will present new obstacles in the way of people feeling disconnected and out of touch post-COVID-19.

While many managers question how to maintain a sense of connectedness when people only see each other through computer screens, the solution lies in strongly emphasizing company culture. Here are some ways to accomplish just that.

Remind people why they do what they do

When working from home with little social interaction, all the while chipping away at day-to-day tasks, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of being just another cog in the wheel. This can be especially true of people who may have recently joined the team or are early on in their careers.

So, it’s important to help team members feel a sense of pride in their work. In times like these, communicate the company’s mission to everybody. Reinforce the importance of the work. Remind everyone of the greater purpose associated with their daily functions (i.e., there’s an end user whose business is benefitting and growing because of the work you’re doing every day).

When we feel connected to and purposeful in our work, it’s easier to work productively and strive for our goals. 

Encourage ways to get involved and give back

While it’s hard to physically be in the community at the moment, you can encourage ways to stay connected and give back. A lot is happening in the world aside from a pandemic, and you likely have team members who are eager to take a stand, especially as it relates to diversity and inclusion. 

Reiterate to your employees what you as a company are doing philanthropically and how you’re supporting various initiatives in your community. Suggest ways for your employees to get involved as well. 

Help connect your engaged employees with one another. If you use an internal chat tool like Slack or Microsoft® Teams, consider creating a group or channel specific to certain initiatives (such as Black Lives Matter, Pride, Women in Tech, etc.) so members can advocate together. Affinity groups are a powerful way to unite one another and give employees a voice at a time when many are feeling called to do more. 

Schedule some fun time

Your company probably held the occasional happy hour, trip to a sporting event, company BBQ, holiday party, or something along those lines. These relaxed events are meant to boost morale, help colleagues get to know one another, and be a reward for all of their hard work. 

Just because we can’t get together for these types of events at the moment doesn’t mean we should stop them entirely. It takes a little creativity and some encouragement, but virtual functions can be just as fun.

We’ve had some partners tell us their virtual happy hours have had a better turnout than past in-person ones. We’ve also had partners host virtual trivia nights, cooking classes, book clubs, games of bingo, beer tastings, and more. There’s plenty of room and opportunity for fun right now. 

Introduce a new level of benefits and perks

The option to work remotely used to be a big perk that some companies would offer potential recruits. While the ability to work from home used to be a big selling point for that company’s workplace culture, it can no longer be considered a unique perk. 

Instead, companies now have the opportunity to be more innovative in reshaping their workplace culture and the benefits they have to offer their employees. Key areas to consider include:

  • Flexible schedules - It’s not enough to work from home; the pandemic (and subsequent school closures, etc.) have taught us that employees need flexibility around their available hours throughout the day. 
  • Productivity - Since it’s more difficult to oversee and encourage productivity from afar, it’s time to implement motivational perks like career development and training programs, perhaps with incentives for completion. 
  • Financial assistance - 401(k) is and will continue to remain a major benefit, but it’s also worth considering the huge issue many people in the workforce are facing: student loan debt; an emerging trend may be a student loan repayment program in lieu of a 401(k).
  • Mental health prioritization - Medical benefits will always be necessary, and mental health help should absolutely be a part of that, especially in such trying times like these; people must be able to access the help and support they need. 
Get your core values in order

What are your core values? How would you like to be represented by your employees? Show your team members what you stand for and what kind of people should make up your talent pool.

This includes being honest and leading with kindness and empathy. Be transparent about what’s going on with the company and also be sensitive to what your employees are going through. 

None of us has ever experienced anything like this before, and each of us is dealing with something different. Whether we are caring for kids or a sick parent, living alone and feeling extremely isolated, going through a divorce, or suffering through depression, there’s a lot to unpack right now. 

The best thing employers can do is be understanding, be flexible, and be compassionate leaders. A culture based on those values will stick around long after this situation is behind us.