It has been over six months since thousands of businesses were forced to shut their office doors and shift over from in-person collaboration to remote-working. In a survey done by Cisco Systems, they found that more than half, or 53% of larger organizations in the US plan to reduce the size of their office space, with more than 90% of respondents saying they won’t return to the office full time. In another study by Gartner researchers found that 74% of chief financial officers will be moving some or all employees to fully remote status when physical distancing measures relax. This remote working thing may be here to stay for awhile – whether we like it or not.
In the midst of this dramatic change, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s going around you – especially if you’re spending most of your time inside, in the same room(s). That’s why it’s so important that company leaders do everything they can to maintain (or create – it's never too late) a strong company culture. When we were in the office, it was easy to chat over a cup of coffee, or organize an in-person dinner or event for the team, but this sudden requirement to “socially distance” forces us to think outside of the box in terms of engagement and culture.
How can we manage or create a culture remotely? There are many ways to go about it, and we’ve already covered the importance of empathy and support, but let’s now discuss some tangible ways of promoting positive and productive workplace culture when we’re far away from one another.
It’s important to catch up with your colleagues – both about work and outside life. Although we are far away in distance, we still need to make a solid effort to remain connected to maintain not only productivity, but good quality of life. Social interaction has many benefits on workplace culture and general mental wellbeing. According to Positive Psychology, lack of social interaction, or isolation, can actually be associated with physical consequences to health as well; including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, compromised immunity, increased risk of depression, and shortened lifespan. It’s important that you always encourage your co-workers to lead healthy, balanced lives, especially so during times of collective stress. Below are six out-of-the-box tips for how to keep your team engaged and your workplace culture positive amidst the changes and challenges that COVID-19 continues to bring us.1. Schedule Daily Meetings
It’s important that your team/department is in the loop with what’s going on in the business. Team meetings should happen daily, and more general inclusive meetings should happen on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Not only can these meetings boost general connection and interaction in the office, but it’s positive for business when a team is cohesive and all on the same page. Having regular meetings via a platform like Zoom or Microsoft teams is important, but just keep in mind the challenges of working from home that your employees may be facing (caring for young children or a sick loved one, for example) and so you might want to allow for these meetings to be casual and very low-stress for the best results.2. Host Virtual Happy Hours
Your coworker’s birthday is coming up and if you were in the office, your team might go out for a bite to eat or drinks to celebrate, and that’s no longer probable for many of us, at least in the near future. That doesn’t mean that the celebration shouldn’t still happen – just change! For celebrations, host a virtual happy hour (you can even decide on a theme – tacos and tequila, maybe?!) where everyone can get together after work via zoom, have a drink or bring your favorite appetizer, and chat about current events or what’s been keeping you motivated and busy lately. This can even be a weekly occurrence to keep everyone engaged and to keep a sense of community among the team.3. Have a Virtual Game Night
With the help of technology, you can keep the work culture fun from afar. Allow your employees to clock out early on Fridays to gather for a virtual game or cards or Pictionary. You can keep your Zoom calls going separately so that you can still chat and bond virtually over these online game rooms. For extra incentive, throw in a prize like an e-gift card for the coworker who does the best--or everyone can get a participation prize!4. Use Online Collaboration Tools
Take advantage of tools like Slack that allow the office to stay connected in a fun way (note: lots of emojis and a great selection of GIFs.) Apps like Microsoft Teams in Office 365 are another easy way to collaborate with your team via video, audio, and file share. These tools can also be integrated with recognition software platforms, which you can learn more about on our website.5. Take Advantage of Online Discount Portals
With an online discount portal, employees will have access to shop at all of their favorite brands and stores, all online. Our in-house discount portal, offers online discounts to gift cards at places like Amazon, Whole Foods, Safeway, Hulu, and Apple. Gift your colleague with 6 months of free music, or a gift card for their weekly grocery trip as a thank you for all of their hard work during the pandemic, or just because.6. Host a Fitness Competition from a Distance
Staying active and remembering to spend time outside is extremely important for all of us in a time where we are being told to coop up in the house. Encourage exercise and self care for your team with fun fitness challenges that you can do separately, but together. Check out apps like Charity Miles, which lets you and your group pick a charity and rack up miles that translate into dollars donated to your selected charity – or Map My Run, which allows you to set up custom workout challenges (not just running!) accessible to the whole team or company.
This list is not exhaustive, so don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new to engage your team. Don’t let your company culture suffer during the pandemic – this is a true test of your resilience that you can pass with flying colors with some attention and a little bit of creativity. If you’d like to chat with one of our experts about creative ways to maintain positive culture, we are always available here at Xexec.