“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill
Change within businesses is not only inevitable, it is essential to remain healthy and profitable. Yet even with continual studies demonstrating the return on investment of culture and how it directly ties to engagement, profitability, and the health of a business, most organizations immediately plan for operational continuity while neglecting to plan for cultural continuity. Here at Orases, we believe our culture affects more than just retention and engagement of our team; it is the core of what makes our team members great, subsequently resulting in our ability to consistently deliver excellence in products and services to our clients.
Whether your company previously offered teleworking options or if this is the first time that any of your workforce is working from home, one thing all companies can agree on is that maintaining a strong culture within a geographically dispersed team, presents a unique challenge. However, it is possible! In an effort to help other companies who may find themselves teleworking for the first time or feel lost in creative ways to adjust cultural meet ups, below are a few items to look into and ideas for each.
The first and most important point for companies to evaluate is the way in which communication needs to be updated to remain effective within a remote workforce. Below are some items that you may find helpful to try:
- Daily or weekly authentic communication from the head of the company and/or top leadership. Frequently, companies wait to communicate until they feel that they have tangible plans to share with teams. Team members want and need to hear from leadership in an authentic way; it is better to say that even as leaders, we do not have all the answers or know how this will end, but are in this together and will be in constant communication as things change. If communication has traditionally been via email, try sending out a video message from the head of the company for a more personal approach.
- Utilize and encourage the online forums for communication. This is more than simply asking them to use it; give them reasons to! If the team is chatting in the morning about their favorite doughnuts over the company’s instant messenger, that is positive chatter as it means that they are speaking to one another and are connected.
- Communicate recognitions now, more than ever. Remember, work anniversaries, birthdays, and positive work milestones do not stop happening. The need to recognize these important events is even more vital at this time of uncertainty.
- Utilize face to face teleconferencing with your teams as much as possible. While meetings or daily stand ups can be effective via phone, having the face to face, allows individuals to feel less isolated and are substantially more effective.
- Offer online resources via company intranet for business and personal opportunities.
Hopefully, all organizations have implemented wellness programs within the company, not only because these programs lead to lower health care costs, but because statistically, healthy team members are happier and are stronger producers. Since the core to any wellness program is behavioral change, going through a substantial shift, such as becoming a total remote workforce, means that the wellness program needs to adjust to the needed behavioral changes. Items to try:
- Daily fitness challenges which escalate with the number of days in isolation. EX: Day one may be ONE sit up, ONE push up, ONE jumping jack. Day two may be TWO minutes of running in place, and so on. The main idea is to start off easy and get as much participation as possible, although it should not be mandated. Our team organically began posting their attempts through videos on the company’s instant messenger, in all of their just out of bed, sweat pants, and non-combed hair, authentic selves.
- Health tips via email or intranet with the ability for employees to add their own tips. Collaboration is key to the success of all of these.
- Peer to peer check ins from team members outside their usual work group. This can be on a volunteer basis or randomly assigned; the idea being that we are continually checking in on members of our teams so that they know that they are never truly alone.
- Offer links to online physical and mental health programs. There are a great number of fitness trainers and companies that may be financially unattainable under normal circumstances and are now offering totally FREE online classes. The same is true for mental stimulation, as there are lists of Ivy league schools offering FREE online courses. Give your organization the links and resources they need to take advantage of these.
Yes, in the middle of a pandemic, it is ok to have fun as a team. What is not ok, is to ever make jokes about the outbreak itself, in any way. Before this is all over, at least one of your employees, and statistically probably more than one, will be directly affected by this illness and that is not humorous in any way. In scary times, when employees are surrounded by uncertainty, it is ok, and in a lot of ways, necessary to bring an element of FUN to our team members. If the core of your culture revolves around getting physically together as a group, as ours does, here are some virtual items to try:
- Virtual Happy Hours are simply that. Your people can meet up online via teleconferencing and play online games or just answer silly questions from one of those conversation starter decks; if drinking is a part of your culture, drinking is encouraged to continue. In some ways, this is even better for companies because none of your team will need a ride home.
- Family game nights where employees battle other families in board games and other competitions. Games like charades and pictionary are possible to virtually play with one another.
- Online movie watch parties. Whoever chose the movie queues it up and talks about why they love it going in. It doubles as a way to get to know each other as well.
- Trivia Night competitions online via video conferencing.
- Show and Tell virtual meetups: team members choose one item from their home to share with the group and speak to why it is important to them.
Businesses may not be able to control a global health crisis or the need for remote teams while social distancing. What businesses can control is how they adapt their communications and culture to combat the challenge and become even closer as teams. Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Companies who plan and proactively adjust their cultures around today’s challenges will come out the other side with greater engagement, retention, and stronger cultures that are poised to take on whatever challenge comes next. Companies who choose to adapt operations and assume that the culture will be the same when this “all blows over”, may find themselves with all new cultural challenges down the road.