Times of crisis surely put your company culture to the test. Here are 8 ways to keep it positive.
During good times — when stress and anxiety are at manageable levels, income is steady and revenue streams flow smoothly — company culture can become part of the scenery, something you and your employees subconsciously carry with you that plays itself out in your words and actions.
But during times of crisis, your company culture is put to the test. With 62% of Americans reporting that they have been working from home during the pandemic, there’s big potential for a culture crash. Employees are facing challenges from communication to distrust, differences in work ethic, difficulties with delegation and lack of empathy and personal connection, among other things. These are some ways to keep your culture positive and strengthen it.
Reiterate your mission statement
Employees are your team, and every team needs to know where it’s headed, why it’s headed there and how it’s going to get there. Your mission statement is the “why,” and it’s good to revisit that why on occasion — especially now, with a remote workforce. Doing so will help keep up the team spirit.
Create a virtual “water cooler”
A workforce communicating with each other from their own home offices poses difficulties for a tight community needed for a positive culture. In addition, spouses and/or children are likely home, too, working and learning. Perhaps start each morning with a quick — even 15 minutes — video meeting to touch base and establish goals for the day, acknowledge people’s children and pets, share jokes. If daily is too difficult to fit in, at least do this once a week. If your company is too large, have different departments meet separately. The point is to maintain the kind of camaraderie people have come to expect in the office.
Trust your employees
If you have a positive company culture, you likely trust that your employees are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Don’t let the current crisis derail that trust. A lot has been written about employers using keystroke tracking and other activity monitoring devices and software while employees are working from home. If an employee is not meeting goals or deadlines, it’s certainly time to pull them aside and have a discussion. But lurking over their shoulder is not going to help them meet their goals or deadlines and is more likely to backfire and engender negative feelings. You hired them because they could do the work; let them do the work.
Supply the right tools
The recent pandemic has shed a spotlight on the lack of connectivity in some communities. It seems like a no-brainer, but every employee should have equal access to the best technology to do their job properly and to be able to communicate reliably while they are working from home. Schedule periodic training days, bring in an expert to share tips and tricks, and invest in project management software or collaboration tools such as Office 365, Slack, or Asana.
Acknowledge the difficulties everyone is facing and let employees know you truly understand those difficulties by supporting them in their efforts to do their jobs remotely. For example, if an employee now working from home is juggling children, pets, spouse, work all in one place, allow them to change their work hours. Unless it’s mission critical, if it’s easier for an employee to work two hours during a child’s nap time and another four hours in the evening, why not let that happen — provided they can get their work done?
Show your appreciation
While they’re working from home, continue to recognize employees’ contributions to the company at large and to their immediate co-workers. It can be as simple as an emailed thank you letting them know they performed a task well. If it fits your culture and employees respond to more tangible rewards for good work, there are digital platforms such as Bonus.ly that help organize and keep track of rewards such as gift cards or donations to favorite charities. But keep in mind that any such program must be meaningful to your employees.
Take authentic actions
In general, you should respond externally to crises in a way feels natural to your company’s core values. For example, during the recent coronavirus pandemic Best Western Hotels in the United Kingdom repurposed hotel rooms and made 15,000 available to medical personnel, low-risk patients and at-risk individuals. They were able to keep some employees working while doing good for the community. And the experience boosted employee morale. Choose similar, authentic responses for your company by getting input and buy-in from remote employees.
Remind yourself that the number one ingredient for a good company culture is…
Happiness. Taken all together, the suggestions above help foster employee happiness. According to “The Science of Happiness,” a recent report by Globoforce on building company culture, happy employees are what make a company’s culture great — not the other way around. And, as researchers found, "happy employees are never entirely beyond any company’s grasp. It’s as simple as discovering what workers will respond to and doing it."