Many, if not most, individuals across the country are now working from home to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This may be a sudden change for many firms who likely still had the majority of their people working physically in the office on a regular basis. A common concern that accompanies the move to a more remote work environment is maintaining a positive, fun and engaging workplace culture.
With such a quick shift to remote work (and during one of the busiest times of the year, too), maintaining your culture may feel like a lost cause amidst everything else going. However, there are many ways to promote a strong culture in a work-from-home environment. In this post, I’ll share some easy ideas you can begin implementing immediately to maximize your culture.
- Use more video – encourage people to use their webcams when meeting with others, even if it’s a one-on-one call. Seeing someone else’s face adds an entirely new dimension to your conversation. It helps you relate to one another and it makes it feel more like they’re in the same room as you (like it might feel in the office). Don’t mandate it – depending on some people’s home situation, it may not always work. Especially during this strange remote work with children home from school due to the crisis. However, when one person has their webcam on for a meeting, others are likely to follow suit.
- Encourage virtual social hours – suggest to your team that they schedule social time with colleagues using your video meeting platforms as the vehicle for connecting. Examples can include lunches in a video “lunchroom,” an after-work happy hour or “meet the family” / “meet the pets” gatherings. When we meet as a team, we like to play fun versions of popular games like Family Feud or Jeopardy, based on whatever theme the party is centered around.
- Create a mechanism for employee updates within teams – we use our weekly work-to-do (WTD) communication to share personal updates and prayer requests with our team members. You can start something similar, or you could also focus on only the personal piece and start a new email chain each week that people respond to with their life updates. Another idea is to leverage whatever collaboration tool you use for instant messaging and create a specific channel or thread for your team to share fun, personal or other non-work-related things.
- Start a “feel good” forum – create a space where employees can share positive, uplifting things or resources with others (quotes, musings, work-appropriate jokes, tips and ideas for keeping kids busy at home, recipes)
- Encourage phone meetings – it’s easy to rely solely on email or instant messaging for internal communication, especially in a remote setting. Schedule phone calls with various team members to discuss client work or other projects you’re working on together, then write an email recap of the discussion so you’re both on the same page about the go-forward plan.
- Celebrate and acknowledge team members – find new creative ways to celebrate employee birthdays, accomplishments in the workplace or in their personal life, and anything else that might be happening. If you have an expecting or engaged employee for whom you were planning to hold a baby or wedding shower, hold it virtually! I have been the lucky recipient of each of these showers from my completely-remote team, and my colleague Emily was the most recent team member we showered with love and celebration for her new bundle of joy.
- Find creative new ways to maintain office traditions – does your team hold a quarterly “food” day? Schedule one like you normally would and have team members make a smaller portion of something for themselves at home, take pictures and tell the group what they made and share the recipe for others to try. This is just one example of how you can turn an in-office tradition into a virtual one.
These ideas take little time to implement and will make a big impact on your team and your firm’s culture. Pick one to try out this week, then consider adding another the following week, and so on. Let us know what you try! If you have other fun ways you’re promoting a strong culture right now, share them with us, too – we’d love to hear about them!
P.S. We’re hosting a webinar on Thursday, March 26 to discuss remote work best practices during the coronavirus crisis. You can learn more and register here.