Maintaining company culture in quarantine
We all know that cultivating a positive workplace culture is crucial to the success of any company. Now, when businesses are doing everything they can to continue to thrive (or even just survive!), their need for motivated and productive people is greater than ever.
So, how do you maintain that culture you’ve worked so hard to foster when your team is working remotely?
Keep it business as usual
Aside from the obvious changes in the environment, trying to keep the working day as normal as possible for your team by maintaining the same hours, breaks and meetings, will help smooth the transition into their new working lives.
Without being in the physical location, it may be tempting to push aside team meetings and one-to-one catch-ups, but these are vitally important for maintaining good communication and ensuring everyone feels valued. Video conferences – or even simple phone calls (remember those?!) – are useful tools at this time; they allow your team to share opinions, ideas or worries while giving you the chance to set goals and ensure everyone remains accountable.
Just like families, teams also build ‘traditions’ over time so if every Friday you all enjoy a piece of cake and a cuppa, or on Mondays, you take a few minutes to talk about each other’s weekends, then schedule those in too to help maintain positivity and motivation.
Provide a safety net
While everyone is learning new ways of working, it is likely that mistakes will happen. Some employees may also feel the impact on their mental health as the lockdown continues. Therefore, it’s important to listen, be empathetic and keep channels open for your team to voice their concerns so they feel they have a psychological safety net.
It’s also important to recognise that some employees may not feel comfortable with the entwining of their working life with their private home life. Video calls, for example, essentially provide a window into someone’s home. Your employees may also be sharing a home-working space with other members of their household, so confidential or sensitive conversations may not be appropriate. Giving employees alternative ways of keeping in touch, such as email, text or even WhatsApp, helps them raise issues in a way that’s comfortable for them and maintains their privacy.
Don’t assume that everyone will have the equipment or facilities required to continue their roles in full at home; rather, be prepared to either equip them yourself or be adaptable. I recently heard of a young boy who had missed out on schoolwork because his family was unable to afford a computer. It was only when his teacher enquired why he had not completed the work that the oversight became apparent and now worksheets are sent to him in the post.
Also, be prepared to embrace the advantages of remote working can bring for your company. The current situation presents opportunities to show your commitment towards inclusivity, for example by experimenting with flexible working hours, which would greatly benefit parents of young children, carers, or those with disabilities or long-term health issues.
Reinforce acceptable boundaries
With so many communication channels available – meaning you’re theoretically contactable anywhere at any time – it’s easy for employees to feel like they’re ‘always on’. Set clear boundaries in terms of working hours and make sure you lead the way by not contacting your team outside of the agreed hours unless you absolutely have to.
An increased use of technology unfortunately also opens the door for a rise in cyber-bullying and harassment. As an employer, you still have a duty of care to protect your employees from such behaviour. Make your expectations around acceptable conduct clear from the start and ensure all means of reporting any undesirable behaviour remain open.
With economists predicting one of the largest impending recessions in living memory, employees will naturally have worries about the future. A recent poll by People Management and the CIPD, found that one in four UK employers expect to make permanent redundancies because of the coronavirus outbreak, while more than half will furlough people.
While businesses may not have all the answers right now, showing a commitment to keeping your employees in the loop about major company decisions will help them feel more connected and informed.
Keep asking questions
Periodically ask your team how they feel and what more could be done to enhance their feelings of safety and satisfaction. Their feedback will help you make any necessary changes to your new ways of working to ensure your positive culture remains intact.