Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined “normal” in almost every aspect of our lives, including our work lives.
Many employees have been forced out of the traditional office environment they’ve worked in their entire lives and had to adapt to a new work-from-home model. This brings new challenges in terms of keeping work lives separate and distinct from personal lives, even though there’s a natural overlap between work and personal.
A big part of the workplace experience is the daily interaction with our “work family.” Not surprisingly, this personal and social aspect of work has suffered a major blow during the pandemic. This raises the question: How do we maintain our company culture in this new type of work environment? And what are the keys to staying socially connected even when we’re physically distant?
Use Technology to Stay Connected
We hear a lot about how technology has interfered with personal relationships. This, however, might just be one time where tech brings us even closer together. There are several ways that technology tools can better connect us with our coworkers.
Being apart means we can’t just poke our head into our neighbor’s cubicle for a quick chat about a work problem, upcoming meeting or what we watched on TV last night. Granted, watercooler talk can be a productivity killer if it’s excessive, but when it has been reduced to almost nothing, we lose a bit of our humanity.
Works teams, regardless of how social they might be, still need to maintain human interaction and a collaborative atmosphere. Using apps to chat, video call or talk, allows team members to jump in when they want to talk and be social. It also provided the option to disconnect when they need time to focus.
There are a variety of technology solutions that offer this capability. Most likely your firm already has one available. Many of the web conferencing applications like Skype or WebEx will do just fine. If your company is using a collaboration platform such as Slack or Teams, you probably have voice capability already. So, throw on a headset and invite your coworkers to join in! You don’t need a scheduled meeting to just chat.
Maintain Normal Routines as Much as Possible
The suggestions above are close to what you might normally do at work on a regular basis, just translated to a virtual world. This principle applies to most every aspect of work life. We need to continue doing the things that we would normally do if we’re to maintain our company culture.
Hopefully you have some standing traditions such as celebrating your coworkers’ birthdays or handing out praise to teammates for a job well done. Keep doing this! If you have regular staff meetings, leave them on the calendar and find a way to conduct them remotely. Work must go on whenever possible, so it’s important to find ways to connect your team to the resources that they have when they’re in the office. Consider securely connecting employees to your internal systems via Virtual Private Network (VPN) technologies or other remote sharing applications.
Embracing change can help too. If you normally work independently or don’t have a regular communication cadence, now might be a great time to experiment with creating one. Setting up regular meetings to review progress and set up work for the next week is important to staying productive while apart.
Even if you’re sure your team knows what they are supposed to be doing, consider a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to discuss the work. If nothing else, this keeps you talking and leads to a collaborative effort in reaching your goals.
Keep the Human Touch
You probably feel like it’s more important than ever to maintain focus on your business priorities. This is critical, especially if you’re in a leadership position, but also make sure your team knows that you care about them personally as well. Check in with your teammates individually to ask how they’re doing and make sure they have what they need to stay productive at work and happy at home.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to give one another some grace in this period where we are all adjusting to our new work lives. Nothing is running perfectly for any of us right now, and an extra dose of patience and understanding will go a long way toward reducing some of the stress.
Ask your colleagues how you can help share their load and make life easier. This might not be a common thing in your workplace, and it might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s a key component of letting others know you care.
With a little luck, these tips will have a positive impact on your company culture that lasts even after we all come back to the office.