Group Gordon’s James Seaton explains how effective communications can maintain a strong company culture even when your team is remote.
It may be hard to believe, but we are nine months into a global pandemic. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our daily routines, especially the way we work. For many, working from home has become the new normal: PowerPoint presentations in the conference room have become shared screens on Zoom. Water-cooler talk happens over slack or text. Exciting conferences and events have all gone digital. But working remotely hasn’t just challenged the way we work; it’s also made employee wellness and company culture harder to maintain. Company leaders need to work harder to keep their employees happy, connected, and productive. That starts with being proactive in their communications.
Constantly acknowledge the newness and difficulty of pandemic work life. To go from consistently seeing your colleagues’ face-to-face, sharing impromptu conversations and laughs and enjoying the energy of the office environment to being confined to a laptop screen is rough. Add to that the COVID-associated traumas of losing or fearing for loved ones, seeing friends or family lose their jobs, or other adverse consequences. The worst thing you can do as an executive is act as if nothing has happened. Be transparent about your experience and empathetic about what your employees may be going through. Step down from the executive perch and make your way through the trenches. By being open and approachable, you will foster trust and show your people that we’re all in this together.
Although in-person activities are no longer feasible, you can get creative to foster interpersonal interaction remotely to strengthen your company culture. Brainstorm with your team about virtual get-togethers and events, not only for professional development but also for good, old-fashioned fun. Maybe you convene your employees for a thrilling game of Among Us or brain-teasing activities on Ziago. By engaging in these activities consistently, you can promote teamwork while also giving your employees space to relax and enjoy each other’s (remote) company. While virtual gatherings may not be able to fully replace the office vibe, you can get appreciably close using online resources.
Lastly, executives have a responsibility to keep their employees in the loop with consistent company updates and opportunities to debrief. Without the normal human interaction, it’s easier than ever for employees to feel distant and out of touch with the company’s culture, health, and priorities. That’s why it’s crucial to share big updates like new business wins and hires, along with shout-outs about rockstar efforts from employees. As CEO Dottie Herman of Douglas Elliman has shared, it’s important to ensure that people feel seen and valued despite not being in the office. Part of that effort involves checking in with your team about how outside events are impacting both your business and people’s personal lives. Engage your team on the latest headlines, both serious and light-hearted. How are people coping with election-related stress? What shows are people hooked on? Understanding your employees is understanding your business and brand – and people can sense when their leaders know who they are.
We are living in unprecedented times, both for businesses and individuals. Executives can address the current and impending challenges of this time only by attacking them head-on with empathy, innovation, and solidarity. At this point, we don’t know when the world will go back to “normal,” but we do know that there are changes we can make now to our communications to unify our team in a time of physical and emotional separation. By relating with your employees, planning engaging remote activities, and giving them plenty of opportunities to process all that is going on in the world, you will be able to cultivate a strong company culture that will only continue to grow once the pandemic is behind us.