Every company has a culture among its workers. Whether that is a spirit of teamwork, a spirit of laser focused project teams or a laid-back “come-as-you-are” environment, we all have a culture. That culture can be difficult to maintain in the new work-from-home environment. While your employees may still work for the same company and do the same job, working from home can cause employees to feel isolated, detached and even lonely.
You may find yourself struggling to find new ways to issue assignments, follow-up on assignments and even monitor the production of employees working from home. These are the realties faced by owners and managers across the globe as we redefine the work environment in ways we had never previously imagined. Since the pandemic doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon, we thought we could offer some advice. Chosen Payments maintains offices in many cities across America. The staff members of those offices have always collaborated together from afar, giving us a distinct advantage of maintaining our culture across the miles.
The most important components to consider in a work-from-home environment are how to communicate, how to get work tasks completed, and how to keep a positive mindset amongst your employees while working virtually. Equally important considerations are, how are we going to promote our company values and culture when no one works in the same room anymore?
Here are five suggestions we offer based upon our experience –
1. Don’t Assume What is Best for At-Home Employees
While most owners and managers think they know what employees working from home need to be productive, the fact is – you probably do not. Working from home has likely thrown your employees for a loop. Take time to ask them what they are struggling with or what tools would be helpful to them to maintain company values and service. When scheduling team meetings, hosting town hall meetings or even hosting a virtual happy hour, ask your employees to weigh in on what they want to hear about or learn about and what they feel they are missing at home to maintain success of their productivity and your company.
2. Reward Examples of Company Values Displayed
The most effective way to reinforce company culture is through praise of employees demonstrating company values in a positive manner. If you “catch” an employee going above and beyond, share it with others so they will strive for the same attention. An employee who identifies a problem for her client and solves it in a way that goes well over the top should be acknowledged. We recently featured an employee in our company newsletter for such an act. While this is accomplished easier in an office, with a little effort you can move that praise online via a company email.
3. Implement Digital Team Tools
While individual relationships are important, having a big picture sense of who is working on what is still important to people. Digital collaboration platforms such Slack, Microsoft Teams, Monday.com and other similar products allow your team to share workloads, ask for help, get help and even send private or group messages to each other quickly. Even employees who never work together can interact with each other, see profile photos and even enhance the team spirit. You just might find employees with hidden talents jump at an opportunity to help a co-worker by using their specialized skill or knowledge. This includes employees who previously might have never even had input on a particular project. These digital tools can bring your team closer together than ever before.
4. Build Informal Opportunities to Interact
Working in an office allows employees to interact with others through natural interactions. Whether it is a literal conversation around the water cooler, a chance encounter in the community kitchen or a hallway passing, spontaneous “meetings” take place as humans engage with each other. Since these opportunities have essentially been removed, they must be recreated. Perhaps you can initiate a 15-minute “coffee break” through Zoom. You might also consider hosting one-hour “breakout sessions” where everyone starts in a Zoom meeting in a single “room” before being whisked away into smaller groups of four to six people. In these smaller breakout rooms, employees can share their struggles working from home, share projects they are working on or share information such as how long they have been working at the company and their history. You must keep your team connected.
5. Invest in Your Future
There are literally hundreds of apps and collaboration tools that can and will make it easy for employees to stay connected and interact with each other. Look to the technology that fits your size of company and your knowledge of technology. Programs such as Slack and Microsoft Teams have free versions if you want to give them a try. Since we do not know how long the pandemic will last, it is important that you begin the process now of maintaining your company culture and values. If you must invest in software or equipment to maintain your company culture, consider the technology investment an investment into your long-term future and perhaps a new way of operating your company for the foreseeable future.