The coronavirus pandemic put most companies into panic mode. For a while, you're thinking purely about keeping operations going and moving to a remote model. Once you've figured out the logistics of working from home, how do you then take it to the next level? How do you foster team bonding and corporate culture?
If your entire company is working from home, maintaining your corporate culture is as important as ever. In fact, your leadership team needs to be more purposeful about maintaining employee morale and a sense of organizational identity. Without it, productivity falls and employees become disengaged from their work.
As IDI has moved to a fully remote model, we've been purposeful about nurturing — and not just maintaining — a strong company culture. Here's what we've learned.
We've always had a monthly Fun Committee, and each department is in charge of a different month of the year. When we were in the office, the Fun Committee would host a potluck or a lunchtime BBQ or a whiffleball tournament in our front yard.
But what do you do when you can't get together? For March, we created some fun personal achievement badges to celebrate good self-care while being sheltered in place. We encouraged employees to post the personal achievements that they accomplished each day, so the company can celebrate with them.
Some examples included:
- Saw the sun today
- Put on pants today
- Good behavior during a video call
- Remembered to eat
It was a big hit. As people posted their achievements, it kept people connected and thinking about what others are doing during the day.
You can also do simple things that just take a minute or two. Share a funny video or start a virtual water cooler conversation on one of your IM channels. It's important to keep a sense of humor when you're separated from colleagues.
Spend Social Time "Together"
Just because you're working from home, that doesn't mean you can't spend time together. Video conference calls are a simple way of connecting in real time, but there are other creative options that have great impact on team culture.
For example, IDI signed up each department with the Houseparty app, so that teams can have their own happy hour every Wednesday after work. Coworkers in each department can see one another's faces and hang out with a drink of their choice. Houseparty even has games you can play together, like Trivia and Pictionary.
It's a great way to get together socially and create fun memories.
Get Ownership from Everyone
Ownership creates engagement and a strong morale. Encourage all your employees to share their ideas for ways to create community while working remotely.
You're more likely to get wider buy-in, too, when ideas come from employees and not just management.
Keep in Touch with Each Person
When your people are working from home, it's important to maintain a personal touch with each person in your company. Everybody needs to stay connected to their coworkers, their managers, and the company as a whole.
IDI sends out updates to the entire company after every morning management huddle. It keeps all of our employees informed of the latest company news, and it keeps people aligned with the mission and goals of the organization. It also shows that our executives care about each of our employee's concerns.
One-on-one check-ins are critical, as well. Department leaders should connect with each of their direct reports on a regular basis. See how they're doing with their work, but also take time to ask how they're doing personally. Working from home can be incredibly isolating any time. When it's in the midst of a crisis, it can be downright scary.
Lead By Encouragement
At IDI, creativity is praised more than ever. We're fostering a team focus with empathy for all, and we're praising employees more purposefully and more publicly. Here's an example:
One of our clients gave us a 10 on our Customer Satisfaction Survey she received through HubSpot. We reached out and ask her if she wanted to be our Customer Spotlight of the Month, which she did. So we blasted a shoutout to her on social media and in our Customer Newsletter.
We also asked if she wanted to leave us a review on Trustpilot. She did, and she gave one of our Support Team members a shoutout, by name. Then we sent the entire company an email that told this story — because we want everyone to be able to celebrate our wins together.
A win for one person is a win for all.
Form a Team Identity
When your employees are working from home, it’s common to feel disconnected from the whole company. Managers can create a sense of connection by building a strong team identity.
Here are a few things you can do to foster a sense of belonging:
- Name your remote team. A team name inherently creates belonging and a sense of togetherness.
- Be quick to publicly recognize individual achievements. Spread the word beyond your team to highlight the importance of their work.
- Show enthusiasm for the team and appreciation for each member. Get creative, and be authentic about it.