Maintaining Company Culture for Remote Employees During COVID-19

As the world hunkers down during this unprecedented moment, EAT Club would like to help our partners keep their employees safe, healthy, and engaged while they shelter-in-place. Once the usual and prudent instructions are followed to keep one’s home safe (washing hands frequently, keeping social distance, sanitizing surfaces, and venturing out only for essentials), the next priority for your staff should be the continuity of a positive work environment. Here are a few culture tips that will help keep your workforce’s spirit and production high while they navigate these challenging times.

1. First Things First: Have a Plan

Before issuing any advice to your organization, make sure that your company’s top leaders are fully capable of handling the new paradigm. Are they empathetic to their staff’s fears and concerns? Adaptable to rapidly evolving (or devolving) events? Flexible to their employees' needs? Understanding of the need for increased technology due to travel restrictions? A pow-wow among your top brass will ensure that there has been enough inflection and planning before any sort of measures or instructions are deployed to the organization at large.

2. Focus on Your Employees, and Let Them Focus on the Customers

Great customer experience starts with content employees. A 5 percent increase in employee engagement has been shown to correlate to a 3 percent uptick in revenue, while companies with happy employees see a whopping 81 percent jump in customer satisfaction. Sir Richard Branson, one of the most admired CEOs the world over, says it best when he explains why customers come second at Virgin, “If the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they're doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they're proud of the brand...if they're treated well, then...they're going to be happy and the customer will have a nice experience.” Speaking of giving employees good tools, Shopify gave their staff $1,000 each to help them set up adequate workspaces at home. Showing your employees they are valuable and empowering them to put the customer first helps your company evolve into a winning organization. If you haven’t already thought of ways to achieve this, either in the office or while your employees are remote, it is well worth the investment to do so.

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3. Open Communication Maintains Trust

Your employees are undoubtedly stressed for their family and themselves as they take in the news from around the world. Many will also simultaneously worry about their careers. Assure them that there are open lines of communication with the C-suite, and encourage this among their peers, as well. Some suggestions include creating a virtual employee support channel on Slack or Yammer to address any concerns people may have about COVID-19, whether health-related or regarding continuing developments in the business. Hold virtual town halls. And inject some levity and fun by having virtual happy hours.

Keeping communication open and steady will help keep your culture of trust intact.

4. Work-Life Balance is Still a Priority

Home used to be a place where many employees were able to create separation from work, as well as wind down. Now that most tech employees are being asked to work from home, a new work-life paradigm must be established. To create the familiar separation, employees would do well to continue dressing up for work (stay out of those PJs!); create and maintain a separate work space; block out time to focus on specific tasks (avoid the temptation to fold laundry or do the dishes); take frequent breaks - a walk outside helps; and make time to unwind with a cup of tea, yogic stretching or some meditation.

5. Continued Collaboration is Critical

Working from home need not put a damper on teamwork and collaboration. Any technological challenges that come with migrating employees to their homes should be anticipated ahead of time and mitigated immediately. Setting up instant messaging platforms, VoIP services, and virtual meeting providers go a long way towards ensuring that your employees have multiple ways of connecting should any one of those technologies fail. Also, it never hurts to circulate the ol’ phone list, either.

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(Photo by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash)

 

6. You Can Still Have Employee Engagement

Internal communications should continue to remain a top priority as your company navigates the uncharted horizon of a largely (or totally) remote workforce. Newsletters; updates from the C-Suite; social media updates; employee spotlights and recognition; blogs; swag; and other components of your internal communications should be maintained as much as possible without interruption. Internal communications is one of the largest components of company culture, and its continuity will help keep people assured and calm.

7. Keep Calm and Self-Care

Check in with individual employees whenever possible. Have they taken time to stretch today or drink enough water? What are their plans for the evening? Are they overworking? How are they feeling? COVID-19 may have everyone on lockdown, but it’s important to convey to your employees that they should still take scheduled virtual social breaks, do some living room yoga, and have that evening glass of wine.

(Photo by Valeria Ushakova from Pexels)
 

8. Don’t Worry About Oversight

Oversight is a major cultural challenge associated with having a remote workforce. If it wasn’t a part of the company culture before, there’s no need to worry about it now. If you do find that it’s a concern (or will probably be one), it’s best to convey time management best practices ahead of time, as well as implement time-tracking software so that your hourly employees can log their time and projects efficiently.

 

9. Every Month is Mental Health Month

When it comes to the news, we need to be informed, but we don’t have to be inundated. It’s critical to spend some much-needed time away from the news, social media and other digital outlets where there is an unending stream of data, most of which is not good. As it’s often impossible to escape the TV at home, be sure to provide a memo to your staff to explain how they can take care of their mental health at this time. Aside from taking a break from the news, the CDC recommends eating healthy meals, working out, breathing exercises, engaging in a hobby, and connecting with others. Also, as your staff may not be able to visit their mental health providers due to sheltering-in-place, it may be a good idea to provide virtual therapy resources, like Better Help.

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10. Don’t Forget to Show Your Love!

A Harvard study on positive psychology found that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel increased positive emotions; acknowledge and enjoy good experiences; visit their doctor less (due to improved health); effectively combat adversity; and build strong relationships. This directly impacts work results and employee interaction. By showing your staff appreciation, you boost performance and engagement, and also safeguard your culture by emphasizing the importance of your relationship with your employees.

 

Despite the challenges we are all facing, you can rest assured your company culture will remain intact - vibrant, even - if you follow a few basic rules. You can use the tips above or make up your own - there’s no handbook for these uncertain times! We are all looking forward to the day when we are able to work side-by-side together again and enjoy the in-person collaboration, and productivity gained by being with people in the office, but until then, we hope these tips will help you maintain continuity within your company’s culture. Feel free to leave comments below and let us know how your teams are using creative ways to stay connected and collaborating.