Of all the factors that drive business success, culture is among the most important. People need to come to work each day and feel good about what they do—like they’re part of a team; somewhere they’re appreciated. Good culture is the secret sauce for any successful business.
A lot of what creates good culture comes from the everyday interactions people have while at work. Casual conversation around the water cooler. Meetings they sit in on. Brainstorming sessions between coworkers.
Seeing people and interacting with the physical workplace are the biggest building blocks of culture. For many businesses, those building blocks are gone for the time being. We’re working from home, social distancing, and minimizing our interaction with the workplace. It begs the question: How can you preserve your company’s positive culture in the face of these changes?
The workplace and the way we work may be changing, but a strong culture can survive these changes. To make sure your people feel appreciated, recognized, and fulfilled, you need to adapt your culture to the new norm.
Keep your culture strong while at home
Remote work is here to stay. Even if you don’t keep your team on a full-time telecommuting schedule, your culture needs to extend beyond the physical workplace. Watercooler chats become Slack channels. Weekly meetings become Zoom calls. The 9-5 workday becomes “whenever someone messages you back.”
What businesses need to realize is that while the way we do things may be changing, what we do can stay relatively the same thanks to technology. Coworkers can still crack jokes back and forth—only now, they can send memes and gifs. They can still compare notes after a meeting—they’ll just collaborate in a Google Doc, instead.
For your culture to stay strong, you need to provide employees with the means to keep things as close to normal as possible. They may be working from home, away from the workplace and the people in it, but if they can still get the same level of interaction and gratification, positive culture will persevere.
Revitalize your culture
New shifts in work habits and routines can give you a chance to revitalize parts of your culture that might be stagnant or antiquated. Use the “new normal” as a way to reinvent parts of your business that have a direct impact on culture.
Ask yourself how you can support and encourage employees—both as a group and on an individual level. Small changes and improvements can go a long way toward revitalizing your company culture and rejuvenating a workforce that might feel initially displaced.
Take care of your staff
The biggest contributor to positive culture in a time like this is taking care of your staff. Make sure their needs are met, and do what it takes to provide them with confidence and assurance. Often, this is simple:
Get them set up to work remotely and answer any questions they have
Make adjustments to policies and protocols that make telecommuting easier
Check in with employees individually and see that they have what they need
Provide a medium for feedback and take meaningful strides to support workers
It comes down to accommodating and enabling your staff. If they can ease comfortably into their new situation and feel supported doing so, they’ll make the transition just fine. Conversely, if the pressure is always on and they feel overburdened, it’ll contribute to a negative company culture.
Focus on employee wellness
For individuals telecommuting, their living space has now become their workplace. This can have big ramifications for their physical and mental health. Employers need to recognize the strain that comes with living where you work and provide outlets for alleviating some of the burdens that accompany this radical change. Some very simple examples include:
Employee wellness packages and offering time off or personal days
Flexible work schedules within a set range of hours or over a period of days
Encouraging relaxation breaks and wellness activities, such as yoga or even a nap
Wellness games and incentives, encouraging employees to stay active and healthy
Whether it’s hosting a department-wide watch party for a movie on Friday night or tallying points for employees who rack up steps on their pedometer, make employee health a priority. Positive culture can only come from a workforce that’s physically and mentally well and who feel like you value them beyond their ability to work.
Make new employees feel welcome
The workforce is always in flux, which means adding new members to your team and saying goodbye to those who find new opportunities. Maintaining culture amidst growth and turnover comes from engrained processes. How will you practice onboarding in a virtual environment without leaving new employees feeling isolated? What steps can you take to integrate them into the team in a meaningful way?
Make onboarding and team recognition core elements of your new normal. Try virtual meet-and-greets or Friday conference calls and activities. Encourage inclusion into group communication threads. The quicker people feel like they’re part of a team, the stronger your culture grows.
Welcome the new norm
We’ve all had to change the way we work—and the changes likely aren’t over. The new norm is becoming clearer by the day and, for most people, that means more time spent interacting with people from a distance. This doesn’t mean the death of your company culture! It means new opportunities to grow a positive culture in your workplace. All it takes is a little adaptation and a focus on the people responsible for your business’ success.