Building Company Culture for a Remote Workforce
Written By Melanie Wertzberger
Many companies have had to quickly transition to working from home. Most organizations are finding that it is going to be a long-term solution for their team. Leaders have begun to seriously consider allowing work from home as part of their normal policy.
This article by Gallup found that 59% of employees say they would prefer to continue to work from home as much as possible once restrictions are lifted. There will be a new normal post-COVID and companies will need to quickly adapt to promoting company culture remotely. Here are some ideas to build a great remote culture for your employees:
Check In Often - This means having various leaders message or call employees asking them how they are doing. Asking genuine questions about the following:
- Remote work life balance
- Home office setup
- How they are managing keeping their kids entertained
- Who they are struggling to communicate with
- What questions come up that seem to take the longest to get answered
- How often they get up and move around
- How often they get to speak to someone new
- Have they learned anything recently or is their job becoming repetitive
When an employee shares a problem or an unnecessary stress, it is important that you hear them and then after your conversation genuinely try to solve it. Do they need noise cancelling headphones? Is there someone in the company with extra time that could help lighten their workload? It is important that these conversations are very different from a 1-on-1 so that employees don’t feel like their honest feedback is reflective of their performance.
Host Open Zoom Hours as Managers - Throughout the day, questions can begin to pile up and often Managers' calendars get so full that they fall behind on replying to messages. This can make your team feel like their questions are unimportant. It is a good idea as a manager to block off 1 hour per day where you will be on an open Zoom call for your team to pop in and ask questions/get help on projects they need feedback on. This will encourage individuals to save their questions for that hour unless it is urgent and will limit the influx of instant messages your managers receive. This will also prevent individuals from scheduling 30-minute meetings for questions that could be answered in 5.
Develop Standard Operating Behaviors - Culture norms are the shared behaviors and thoughts that exist within your organization. While in-person companies often form these based through "monkey see, money do" repetition, you need to be more explicit in remote organizations. Starting at a team level, begin to define what behaviors are expected. For example, "We don't send emails before 9am or after 4pm." or "We give feedback verbally, not over email." This podcast episode on building a remote-first workplace goes deeper into establishing this for your team.
Schedule Team Lunches or Walks - It is still important for your team to just get together and chat. If your team usually does a monthly or weekly team lunch, continue to schedule this and allow employees to expense their lunch that day. Have everyone jump on a Zoom call and enjoy a team lunch together. If lunch isn't a simple option for your team you could schedule 30-minute walks and have employees join the call from their phone. Have some fun questions prepared as conversation starters such as favorite Netflix series they've recently finished or the best book they have ever read. This is truly a great solution because not only does it get your employees to have some “water cooler” chats, it also gets them out of the house getting fresh air and exercise. You could even allow parents to invite their kids on the Zoom walk to answer the questions. Here is an article that lists 55 Unique Virtual Team Building Activities if you are looking for more fun ideas for a social hour via Zoom.
Celebrate Together - It is important to celebrate wins together even when the team is remote. When you hear about an employee completing a big project or going above and beyond, drop it in a large team chat giving them kudos for their hard work. This is a great article called Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Impact that cites that only 1 out of 3 employees say they receive some form of recognition for their work during the week. I would guess this statistic has fallen even further with increased work from home.
Be Flexible - I think the biggest threat to employee stress right now is that little green status dot that sometimes turns to yellow when you walk away from your computer long enough. I think we can all admit to wondering if someone is watching our little dot and questioning why it is yellow. Your team should not feel like they are measured by how many minutes their status is green or how full their calendar is with meetings. You should clearly let your team know that it is okay to step away during the day and that they are only being evaluated on their ability to continue to accomplish high quality work within deadlines. Honestly, this is what is most important to your team and this is what can save employees from the burnout that builds up from prolonged work from home.
Ask for Feedback - At the end of group meetings, ask employees to rank how productive it was. Encourage team members to ask their peers how they could improve as a remote teammate. When you send out all company emails, invite employees to reply to the email with their thoughts/feedback and read these responses carefully to get a pulse of how your team is feeling. Utilize surveys, but do not take surveys if you are not going to publish and take action on the results.
In conclusion, your company will get through the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead only by maintaining happy and engaged employees. Strong companies are continuing to invest in company culture regardless of tighter constraints on budgets and cash flow. This article shared multiple ways to continue to make this investment in your team to make them feel valued and reduce burnout.