Your company culture is an important part of what makes your business unique. It’s what attracts and retains staff, allowing you to drive your business forward successfully. Beyond merely offering incentives and organizing fun social activities, it’s about creating a sense of trust and connection between you and your employees.
As many businesses have recently switched to remote working, fostering a positive company culture has become more important than ever. Instilling a strong culture in your employees when they’re not physically in the office or sitting in the same room can be tough – but not impossible.
So, how can managers and business owners build and maintain their company culture during new ways of working?
The importance of company culture
People want to work for companies that align with their own personal values and beliefs, and a company’s culture is the representation of where your business stands on important matters.
Company culture is extremely important because it helps team members to feel connected to the business. They want to feel like they’re in a collaborative team that supports and protects one another – a feeling that can be instilled by company culture.
Helping staff members feel connected with your company’s overall goals will make them feel like they’re part of something important and valuable, improving their engagement and productivity.
It might be easy to instill these feelings when you’re in the office, walking past your employees’ desks every day and having regular face-to-face meetings, but how challenging has this encouragement become since the pandemic has necessitated remote working?
Six ways to improve company culture when working remotely
Just because your team is now working remotely, doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out to them and continue to make them feel valued and appreciated in your business.
If you’re noticing productivity and motivation starting to decrease in your remote team, here are some ways that you can build or improve your company culture to get your employees engaged again.
1. Improve communication
Communication between your team may not have been something that you worried about when everyone was in the office. It was easy to find someone when you needed help with something, or to organize meetings last-minute.
However, working from home renders things more complicated. It’s much easier for issues to fall through the cracks, or for there to be miscommunications.
If you haven’t done so already, setting up official lines of communication and best practices are essential. Having set response time frames, email etiquette etc. standards will make communication more efficient and reduce interruptions.
You should also choose a method of communication that your team is already familiar with, such as emails, and Slack for quick instant messaging.
Don’t just focus on communication between staff members, however. Think about how you can reach out to your employees as well. Developing channels such as a company-wide newsletter where you share updates, goals and achievements can bring everyone together and make them feel more connected to the company.
2. Bring everyone together
Many employees are used to being in an open-plan office where they can see their colleagues, meet for coffee, or eat their lunch together.
With remote work, employees are now working from their home office, kitchen table, or bedroom – a very different setup. There’s no easy way to have a quick chat with your colleagues, or a coffee together in the break room, making it hard to keep up the camaraderie between employees.
To ensure that your employees still feel like a team, encourage them to interact over Zoom or Slack, host after-hour online socials where everyone can meet and chat about non-work-related topics, or organize wellness activities over lunch breaks to encourage healthier working habits.
It’s important to remember that many employees may be feeling isolated and alone while working from home, so mental health checks should form an important part of bringing everyone together and feeling united.
Introducing a culture that’s caring and compassionate is a great way to combat mental health issues. Providing access to assistance programs for employees who are struggling, or assigning everyone a ‘buddy’ within the organization that they can regularly chat to are also good ideas.
As a manager, you should also lead by example, check in on your employees and allow them to take mental health days when they need it.
3. Trust your employees to do their job
It can be hard to keep track of everything that’s going on within your company when most of your employees are working from home, but remember that no one likes a micro-manager!
When you treat your employees with trust and respect, they work hard and succeed. If you’re constantly asking for updates or trying to manage small tasks, it can hamper your employees’ motivation and productivity.
If you want to still have oversight over tasks, introduce productivity apps such as Trello where you can view different ongoing projects, and stay updated on progress without having to constantly ask your employees.
4. Have regular face-to-face meetings
Transitioning from seeing someone in person to seeing them on a computer screen is difficult, as it’s not as easy to pick up on subtle social cues and body language. This is especially tough when people have their cameras off, or only communicate via instant messages.
Encourage managers to designate weekly 1:1 time with employees to build connections, check-in on progress and celebrate accomplishments. This not only promotes teamwork but will reinforce the company culture and values that you want to instill.
5. Set boundaries and expectations for remote workers
Trying to separate your work and personal life can be challenging when working from home. It becomes tempting to work longer hours, check your emails on weekends or take fewer breaks.
The solution is to set expectations and boundaries for your workers. Make it clear that you don’t want them working longer or more often that they usually would, as this can cause them to become stressed and suffer from burnout.
Encourage them to take regular breaks, get outside, and to prioritize their social life and mental health. The expectations placed on employees working from home shouldn’t be different to those that apply when working from the office.
With healthy, connected cultures in place, both managers and employees can make successful contributions to their organizations.