10 Ways to Keep Your Culture Thriving Remotely in the Face of COVID-19

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4 minute read

Overnight, many companies have changed their operations from in-office to work-from-home in response to the spread of COVID-19. Remote work arrangements are not new, but because they may be unfamiliar to some employers and managers, there is an adjustment period as teams begin navigating this new way of conducting business. While some employees expect to thrive working remotely, others fear they'll feel isolated or unmotivated to work in their own homes. Managers worry about keeping a team motivated and effective without daily face time in the office. Following are 10 recommendations to assist your company with recommendations for shifting culture that will have your employees successfully thriving in their new roles.

  1. Host a virtual happy hour. Drinks are optional but the web camera is not. Use this event as an opportunity to connect and let your hair down with your colleagues. If using Zoom, ask attendees to click on gallery view to see everyone and not just those who are speaking. Consider including an icebreaker activity or trivia to engage everyone in conversation. Consider use of additional technology like Poll Anywhere or Swift to ask attendees questions and track live results as a group. Engagement and fun are two key elements this event is sure to provide.

  2. Plan a fun-filled spirit week. This adds a fun twist when using video for meetings. Take it a step further by changing your background on zoom or adding themed décor each day. Besides, everyone is probably wearing pajamas so let’s give them a reason to get excited about their workday attire. This event is a welcome distraction from the mundane isolation.

  3. Create a virtual kudos jar. It’s important to spread joy and say thanks during this uniquely challenging time. Virtual kudos are like hugs but without touching. Kudos are public recognition of a colleague for something they have contributed to the team. There is no better way to motivate employees while also building comradery between colleagues and showing genuine appreciation for someone’s contributions. Make this fun by sending all kudos to one email and the host of the email will write them on paper, fill up a jar and draw each kudos on camera to read aloud to the group.

  4. Embrace flexibility, distractions and all. Don’t shun employees for a barking dog or crying child in the background. Many are not set up for remote working to begin with, much less adding on the stress and new circumstances created by this pandemic. Embrace the chaos and support your team members as they navigate this new normal.

  5. Set up coffee breaks and lunch dates. Virtually that is! Take time to connect and talk about things other than work. You’ll be surprised how much you have in common with others. It’s natural to pause your work, change your scenery and gather with colleagues over coffee or lunch at the office. To simulate office behavior, try doing the same only virtually. Create a channel on Slack, Microsoft teams or other communication platform of your choosing and call it something fun like ‘Lunch Bunch’ or ‘Coffee Chat.’ Intentionally create small groups allowing for deeper conversation where all voices are heard.

  6. Provide the best tech platform. Provide employees with technology tools that allow for collaboration and fun. A typical office environment develops its own personality through inside jokes, shared experiences and a collaborative environment. A remote team needs to develop something similar but in a virtual format. The easiest way to do this is with your day-to-day toolset.

  7. Be transparent in all communication. This is a scary time for most as we navigate uncharted territory. Having leaders in place that clearly and effectively communicate company updates and changes consistently helps employees to alleviate unnecessary work-related stress. Set clear expectations to include changes in policies and new work duties. Remind employees that change is inevitable but that you are there to support them during this time.

  8. Continue the investment. Investing in your employee’s education doesn’t stop during this time. In fact, now is a great time to introduce or reinforce self-paced training initiatives. Investing in professional development for your employees will assist in their skill set, confidence and overall performance in the future when this pandemic is over. The National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) offers an assortment of online courses and recorded webinars on Visto, available 24 hours a day. There is no better time than now to make the investment in your career by completing an industry credential program. 

  9. Play music together. Music can enhance any mood, providing a positive experience while also increasing productivity. Create a shared music list on Spotify where everyone can add their favorite work music to share. Take this a step further by creating multiple playlists that assist with difficult projects, intense deadlines or even the day of the week.

  10. It’s all about balance. Encourage and promote balance whenever possible. Separating work from play can be difficult for many when both worlds occur in the same space. Encourage employees to take lunch breaks, long walks, disconnect after hours and even exercise. Underscore the importance of self-care during this time. It’s now more important than ever for maintaining good mental and physical health, so leaders should continue to support and encouraging healthy habits. Offer meditation or yoga as a group on video chat. Challenge team members to unplug during off business hours. Create a communication channel where tips can be shared for healthy snacks, easy exercising and mind relaxation.