From social distancing to entire offices working remotely one aspect that is being pushed aside in terms of priority is company work culture. Peter Drucker’s words, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” comes to mind here, which stresses on the fact, that a healthy work culture is as much a priority as strategy. Maintaining the company culture during a crisis such as the current one, is crucial for the morale of the team, productivity and to remain strong as the team goes through some tough situations. 

 

Not all organisations will emerge stronger from the current health crisis that is gripping the world and the devastating economic, health and social impacts that it is unleashing.  But managers and leaders with a firm sense of what their organisational culture is, will help their employees navigate forward in a way that is favourable to the organisation’s history and simultaneously remain flexible to rapidly changing situations everyday.

 

Building A Healthy Work Culture

A company’s culture is guided by purpose and values and these are brought into focus during the time of a crisis. Values such as accountability, commitment to customers, collaboration, integrity, agility, innovation and people centricity are more important than ever at this point of time. Building a healthy work culture and fostering team spirit, could be done in numerous ways such as

  • Communicating company culture goals
  • Hosting virtual team building events
  • Virtual coffee and lunch breaks
  • Scheduling regular calls
  • Involving employees’ families too in some events
  • Creating a dedicated space for employees to connect

Steps to Maintain A Healthy Work Culture

Some of the following ground rules will help in strengthening the work culture into a sustainable and healthy one for the remote workforce.

 

Flexible remote working

Remote working practices that are more accommodating to employees are more likely to be favoured and will yield better results when it comes to employee engagement. Integrating tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack and Trello  into long term working practices will ensure a more flexible working dynamic. The focus is infact now moving towards productive work days rather than the emphasis being on the number of hours spent. Considering that people are juggling home and work, from home, providing flexibility empowers employees to complete their assignments in their own way.

 

Building Sustainable Bonds

Though all the workforce is working from different locations, it is a good idea to increase team work.  This encourages innovation and promotes trust and builds strong bonds amongst team members. Interdependence and creative problem solving provides the much needed motivation for employees who are feeling isolated and distracted after being pushed into the remote working situation. 

 

Team bonding activities such as virtual book clubs, quiz sessions, cooking sessions or a joint exercise regiment and so on could instill the feeling of camaraderie one might have developed in a normal office setup.

 

Increase Communication and Feedback

Business leaders should adapt the approach of over communicating. The more information the employees have the better informed decisions they can make.  Remote management requires more feedback and not less while still preserving employees autonomy to perform tasks in line with their learning and thinking styles. Using phone, email, chat and video technology is a must to remain in touch with people on the team whether casually or officially. 

 

Creating regular schedules of virtual meetings to ensure consistency in messages conveyed is extremely necessary today. One on ones should address professional and personal concerns which will keep the employees reassured that they are cared for and their time is worthwhile. Being flexible and empathetic during communication is vital to keeping up the morale of the team.

 

It must be constantly reiterated that feedback is a 2 way mechanism between managers and peers for the smooth working of remote work. Managers must make it a point to listen carefully to employee concerns, rephrase what they have heard and note down points in order to follow up.

 

Focus on Employee Well Being

Organisations, leaders and managers have to develop and strengthen their empathy, listening skills and compassion so as to support employees in remote working situations. Transitioning to a remote work environment also takes a toll on the mental health and wellness of employees. The organisation and its leaders must therefore emphasize the need for selfcare, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, pursuing hobbies which will help to demarcate personal and professional life.

 

 Additionally employees should be encouraged to reach out if they have opinions, concerns or  suggestions so that it provides a more open atmosphere for everyone. This will also help the mental health of remote employees in the long run which will prevent the feeling of being isolated to take over.

 

Trust in Employees

Placing trust and confidence in employees is one of the best things that managers can do, to provide a supportive and healthy work culture. Even though the absence of constant visibility can frustrate managers at times, that kind of micromanaging is a no no in the current situation. Laying emphasis on how much rather than how long will be the mantra to carry the organisation forward. 

 

Transparency

Role definitions may start to fall apart during this disruption and may leave employees confused about where to focus. Ideally in this situation it would help if the management can keep the workforce upto date regarding any new company developments or changes that include policies, revenue, roles, changes in manpower, etc. Keeping the workforce in the dark will prove extremely counter productive in these troubled times. Leaders need to communicate the why and not just the what in cases where there are changes being implemented.

 

Driving A Healthy Work Culture in the Days Ahead

The ongoing global pandemic has several uncertainties associated with it. This gives organisations an opportunity to embrace a forward thinking approach to uphold the organisational culture. Cultivating a healthy work culture starts at the top and needs to be supported by all the managers. By creating a culture of regular communication both at the top and grassroot level creates a sense

 of belonging and of being valued.. 

Remote working has been the norm for a while now and may continue to be so for many days to come. Hence there is a chance that employees might lose track of the core values of the organisation. To avoid this various activities can be conducted to reinforce the same. Virtual award gatherings, town hall meetings, online events are some of the times when the values can be reinforced. The COVID-19 situation can therefore be seen as an opportunity to drive home these values in a positive manner as discussed above in order to emerge stronger and ahead of competition when the time comes for a rebound.