How to Maintain a Strong Company Culture in a Remote Work Environment
Companies that have never explored remote work have recently been forced into a completely remote environment. While this change is temporary for many, one major concern is sustaining company culture while remote.
Company culture is important to keep morale high, help teams work together, and improve employee engagement. However, without typical happy hours, break room donuts, and other face-to-face events, the dynamic of culture has changed. The previous events that encouraged people to learn about each other and interact in ways that are not strictly “work-related,” have disappeared for many organizations. Employers now fear that strong culture will be hard to maintain, and even harder to create.
There are ways you can sustain company culture and improve morale without having to be in the office.
Here are some tips to focus on culture, and ways that we are living this at AchieveIt:
Create Virtual Hangout Spaces
Slack is the primary form of digital communication for us at AchieveIt. Whether Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or another, most companies have a form of digital communication outside of email. Use Slack and other similar tools to create spaces not just to work, but to encourage socializing.
Some IT departments crackdown on the use of these platforms but allowing a separate channel for sharing personal stories or photos of pets can help replace the ‘water cooler’ while remote. If your company culture has historically involved bonding over food, encourage employees to share the recipes for the dishes they are creating in quarantine. Music? Create a channel to share new artists and playlists. Center channels around common themes, interests, and hobbies to create non-work knowledge sharing.
Having a channel to talk that isn’t focused on work helps maintain friendships and relationships that support engagement at work.
How does AchieveIt live this? Outside of regular team channels, we continuously evolve our social channels around key topics of discussion (e.g. the Game of Thrones channel at the peak of GoT) and sharing random updates. Over Memorial Weekend, the team used our #photos channel to share creative ways we celebrated while socially distant.
Have Regular Virtual Meetings
The “meeting problem” is a thing, but when nobody is in the office, each team should have time to get together to meet and touch base. Meetings can be kept short but should be consistent and purposeful. If possible, encourage employees to leverage video conferencing, like Zoom, to replicate face-to-face meetings.
How does AchieveIt live this? We’ve kept up with our pre-remote meeting schedule and many teams have added daily touchpoints to ensure consistent communication. The team has fully embraced video conferencing and has even begun using it with customers and prospects.
Continue to Recognize and Support Employees
When working remotely, it’s easy for employees to start to feel a bit isolated and even ignored. And strolling past a desk to show appreciation is now out of the question. Making sure that recognition and praise still happen requires minimal effort. An email thanking an employee, a mention of how well everyone is doing at the start of a meeting, or a similar acknowledgment, can go a long way towards employee satisfaction.
How does AchieveIt live this? We leverage Lattice and our #shout-outs channel in Slack to recognize team member accomplishments. Employees leverage “reactions” and replies to keep morale and recognition high.
Keep Up the Birthday and Anniversary Parties
Many offices like to recognize employee birthdays and work anniversaries. Remote work shouldn’t stop this. Virtual parties are perfectly possible, and you can continue the monthly shared birthday party with everyone encouraged to get their own treats. Handwritten cards are safe during the pandemic and can go a long way towards helping an employee feel recognized and appreciated.
How does AchieveIt live this? First, we’ve continued regular birthday and anniversary announcements within Slack. We’ve also continued our tradition of hosting showers for expecting and engaged Achievers. We recently threw our first virtual baby shower with pre-delivered gifts and custom virtual backgrounds. We even had some mini-Achievers join in for the celebration.
Encourage Productivity Rather than Micromanaging Hours
Resist the temptation to micromanage an employee’s hours. Some software advertizes remote employee monitoring that confirms employees are working (and only working) during business hours.
Employees hate it. Focus on flexibility.
While true in any remote work environment, a quarantined society makes flexible working hours even more critical. This is particularly important for those employees without any childcare options or those who are working around homeschooling children. A culture where getting stuff done is more important than clocking in precisely at 9 am is going to engage workers better.
How does AchieveIt live this? While we have regularly scheduled team meetings and commitments to customers and prospects that require some semblance of regular hours, we always encourage flexibility. Strong communication amongst teams and a commitment to personal accountability drive results in more than working 9 to 5. It’s regular to see Slack messages and statuses when team members take a mid-day break to walk the dog, work out, or take a mental break.
Find New Ways to Connect Employees
While the previous tips can help employees connect, many times they rely on company-wide events or work achievements. But what about companies who encourage non-work-related activities, like book clubs, workout classes, and more? Make them remote! While it may seem a bit different or awkward at first, all the in-office activities can still be conducted successfully while remote.
How does AchieveIt live this? We’ve kept up with our book clubs and started a new form of togetherness, weekly remote workouts. On Thursday afternoons, interested team members join a Zoom call for yoga, kickboxing or HIIT class, abs, and more.
Stick to Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement is key to ensuring that everyone is moving in the same direction. When forced into an unforeseen situation, reiterating your mission statement to everyone can help remind people that the important things haven’t changed.
If your mission statement seems off or no longer valid, this may be the perfect time to brainstorm any changes, involving your entire team so that everyone feels they have contributed to something important.
How does AchieveIt live this? We are always focused on our mission of equipping business leaders to achieve their most important initiatives. Our product development and customer success teams are built around ensuring the fulfillment of our mission, and this trickles down into how we live our culture.
Throw a Virtual Happy Hour
If happy hours are part of your company culture, you can throw a virtual happy hour (Bring your own beer). You can even challenge everyone to mix their own cocktail or create an activity to do while virtual. If you don’t do happy hours, then look for ways to virtualize the things you do. Book clubs, for example, can still meet with only minor changes. Movie nights can be replaced with Netflix or Facebook watch parties.
How does AchieveIt live this? We’ve increased our cadence of monthly happy hours to every two weeks, focused on encouraging team member bonding. We’ve incorporated activities like virtual Pictionary, Name the Song and even an in-home scavenger hunt.
Company culture is a critical component of company health and employee satisfaction. Especially in a time of crisis when everyone is stressed and frustrated, it’s important to maintain your culture as best you can. Even as you look towards ways to move back into the office, find ways to keep teams together, sustain relationships, and support morale. Who knows, you may even decide to move towards a remote team in the future.
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