It feels like only yesterday, employers were still debating the value of work-from-home policies. How do you make sure people are still focused on work when they’re at home? Don’t remote workers feel more isolated? We’re all about that personal touch – remote work would never work for us. These are just some of the things I remember hearing not too long ago.
Yet, here we are today. In response to COVID-19, many employers have found themselves with primarily virtual workforces, seemingly overnight. So, in this new virtual world of work, how do you cultivate culture? How can you maintain a feeling of connectedness with teammates and the organization as a whole? Although success looks different in every organization, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite tips to help you cultivate your remote work culture:
1. Create Best Practices & Guidelines Aligned With Your Vision and EVP
Everyone is different. While some can easily make the move to remote work without needing clarity on what is expected of them, for others it can be more challenging. So, it makes sense to ease the transition by creating (or recapping) remote work guidelines and best practices. Many organizations have done this already and it’s a logical place to start. Expectations regarding hours of work, virtual dress-code, maintaining privacy and confidentiality of documents – these are basics that many employers have covered in their remote work guidelines.
However, if your goal is to cultivate culture, revisit those guidelines to ensure they’re aligned to what your employees value most (your EVP) and the type of culture you want to cultivate. For example, if your organization values empowerment and innovation, are your guidelines aligned? Have you implemented flexible work hours or are you requiring daily check-ins and adherence to structured hours of work? If your goal is to create a performance and results-oriented culture, what results and metrics are being communicated? Is it important to respond to emails right away to show that you are present? Or is it important to triage and respond to emails in a way that allows you to meet work deadlines based on urgency? There is no right answer here but these are some of the questions that can help you go from managing remote workers to creating a robust and intentional remote work culture.
2. Schedule Regular Times to Connect
During any period of adjustment, it is important to maintain regular communication to help people feel supported and connected. It is even more important in the current climate, where we are being asked to self-isolate and practice social distancing. While these strategies support our physical health, they can take a toll on mental health and well-being.
In addition to scheduling 1:1 meetings to understand how people are coping, consider implementing a regular team touchpoint to quickly share news, updates, vision, strategy, and more. Many companies have embraced daily virtual huddles, based on Rockefeller habits, and while daily isn’t the right rhythm for everyone, there are some great principles you can borrow from daily huddles. Here are some Blu Ivy tips on how to conduct an effective virtual team huddle that can help enhance your remote work culture:
- The more frequent the meeting, the shorter it should be (keep daily meetings to 20 minutes or less, and weekly meetings to 60 minutes or less)
- Have an agenda and ensure people share content that is relevant to all attendees
- Add company goals, vision, and culture to the agenda, so it is top of mind
- Nominate a meeting facilitator to lead the meeting and keep the pace
- Take minutes and send them out right away to keep everyone accountable, and to keep anyone who may have missed the meeting informed
- Encourage people to stand or stretch during the meeting
- Keep things fun – this is meant to be a light, quick, and fun way to keep people aligned, connected, and engaged with their work
3. Start Your Meetings With Celebration
Whether you’re considering implementing a virtual meeting or you already have one in place, why not kick off your meeting with recognition and positive news? Celebrate successes, encourage peer-to-peer recognition, and talk about the positive strides you have taken as a business. Especially now, in a climate where the news can be filled with negative headlines, highlight the amazing things your team is doing to take care of one another and the business. This is one of the Blu Ivy meeting agendas that we use to stay connected:
H – IGH FIVES: recognition moments, or thank you’s for the team. Let’s take a moment to celebrate successes!
E – DUCATION MOMENT: share a quick update, FYI, or something that will help people take their work and efforts to the next level.
A – CCOUNT UPDATES: provide a quick account overview so we can share best-practices and provide the best possible support and consultation to our clients.
R – OUND TABLE: if you have something general to share with or ask of the team, this is your chance to do it.
T – ARGETS: Metrics matter. This is a quick recap of the metrics that matter, how we’re trending, and what we all need to focus on.
4. Embrace Video Meetings
While face-to-face communication isn’t mandatory to create a connected remote work culture, it certainly helps. Especially when people are quickly transitioning to working from home and may not have the right tools, setup, or space to do their best work, seeing a friendly face can make a difference.
Here are some video conference solutions that we really like, but there are many alternatives out there:
- Zoom – offering plans that range from free to enterprise, Zoom is a user-friendly way to connect via video conference, virtual meeting rooms, soft phone, and more.
- GoToMeeting – offering a 14-day free trial in most regions, and a range of monthly and annual plans, GoToMeeting has a range of video conference solutions and supports recorded meetings, drawing, and many other features based on the version you choose.
- Google Hangouts Meet – for those GSuite users out there or those who are interested in testing the waters, Google Hangouts Meet is a great video conference and screen sharing solution with a few pricing options. Integrating with Gmail, Google Calendars, and more, this tool is great for those who are already comfortable with GSuite and want to use a tool that is easily accessible in the GSuite flow of work.
- Sococo – offering a range of pricing options, Sococo offers many of the same virtual services as the companies above, but they also help create a visual, virtual office space, complete with Avatars. The idea is to help you visualize your connectedness to your team and feel close, even though you’re working apart.
If video isn’t feasible, consider other technology solutions that allow you to stay in touch. Skype, Slack, Asana, and HeySpace are a few alternatives that may help you better collaborate and communicate as a team. It goes without saying, if you’re implementing a new tech tool or encouraging more consistent use of what you already have, reach out to team members to see if they need training or support to get comfortable with those tools.
5. Poll, Pulse, and Capture Employee Feedback
Consider implementing short pulse surveys to help you keep your finger on the pulse of the mood in your organization. How are you feeling about work today? What could we do to better support you? Do you have access to the health and wellness resources you need? These are some of the questions you can ask employees to help them feel heard, supported, and to give you the insights you need to take care of your workforce. There are many tools out there but here are a few that offer free survey and polling options for a more DIY approach:
- SurveyMonkey – offering plans that range from free to enterprise, SurveyMonkey is a user-friendly platform that can help you create fun and engaging pulse surveys.
- SurveyGizmo – offering free and enterprise plans as well, SurveyGizmo is another survey tool that you can use to create pulse surveys and polls for your people.
6. Infuse Fun Into the Work Day
This is no doubt a stressful and uncertain time and, without making light of the situation, we encourage employers to find fun ways to engage with their people. Why not ask people to share a selfie of their new workspace? How about a selfie with their new work colleagues (pets, plants, family members)? What about asking people to share the ways that they’re staying safe and practicing social-distancing? These are just some of the ways you can engage with people during a crisis, and infuse a bit of fun and lightness into the work day.
- Take a selfie with your new office mates (pets, plants, roommates, family members, a, volleyball named Wilson)
- Share a selfie of your new remote work office space
- Take a picture of your homemade lunch
- Share a work selfie and host a virtual pajama party
- Take a stay fit selfie and show how you’re staying active at home
- Launch a make-your-own-meme contest featuring your best stay-home selfie and caption
How to Keep Your Employer Brand & Culture Alive
Not just alive, but thriving. If you’re able to implement some of the above ideas, you’re on your way to cultivating a remote work culture that is aligned with your Employer Brand and company goals. While it takes work, especially in times of crisis, that is when your efforts are most needed. The good news is that you don’t need to do it alone. In addition to some great tools that we’ve highlighted here, there are many resources out there to help you navigate the transition to remote work and we have linked to a few below.
- HBR Guide to Managing Newly Remote Workers
- GPTW – COVID-19: 5 Reasons to Tune Into Our Employees
- Top 10 Free Collaboration Tools