By Kayla Fanning
Whether it’s something you’ve actively worked to build or not, your company has its own culture. As a culture consultant, employers often tell me they want to build their culture from the ground up after being in business for 10 or more years! You already have one even if it isn’t the healthiest, because “culture” isn’t this shapeless set of ideas; rather, it’s the building blocks for your entire organization and it’s tied to behaviors, beliefs, purpose, and core values. Now that this quarantine has pushed many of us behind our laptops at home for the first time, managers and employers may be experiencing some anxiety related to maintaining a healthy company culture, which is strongly tied to our bottom lines. The root of culture is to care for each other and ourselves so how do we maintain a healthy company culture with a remote workforce?
I do want to take this moment to mention a compliance resource available to employers. We’re in a lot of HR grey area right now, but there are resources and FAQs that can help employers navigate issues surrounding furlough, lay offs, sick pay, and more. I lean heavily on ThinkHR for my compliance resources. If you’re needing more information, please reach out to me.
Consistent + Honest Communication
Through providing your population with resources, you convey confidence and stewardship, two key components of strong leadership. Anxiety and uncertainty grip us all these days. You should feel empowered being able to control the messages they receive from you and management as it’s an opportunity, not a burden. We’re dealing with a ton of information and “noise.” The clearer your communications can be across your entire organization, the better. It’s vital that any other communicators within your organization are on the same page as you.
Consider making an editable FAQ on your intranet or easy to access location that’s updated weekly. Lean on your broker partner for the healthcare side of your communications and if they aren’t providing education and updates to you weekly right now, they’re not doing their job. Include messages of hope in your communication, but I urge you not to shy away from the truth. Trust is an important part of your culture and remote working doesn’t have to shake that trust. We all need facts right now so keep your communications free of speculation and fear.
Even if your organization was already remote, consider some visualization tools so that employees can see each other and have regular access to each other’s faces. If the whole organization cannot video chat at the same time, break it up into teams as it makes sense for your population. Many employees have never set up a home office before so creating teams right now can help provide internal resources for day to day functionality, such as how to set up your desk, what kind of webcam should I get, etc. This takes that task off of you and managers so that you can focus on the big picture communications and culture.
Resources for Mental and Physical Well-Being
Let’s start with your company’s health plan, if offered. Make sure employees have solid resources for telemedicine information, how to use their health plan, how to make changes to benefits when needed, and where to go if they’re concerned about COVID19 diagnosis and treatments. Every health plan offers mental healthcare under the Affordable Care Act; it’s vital that you or your broker team are aware of those, as well as FREE resources available through the health insurance carrier or another vendor. Some free resources, such as Optum’s telephonic support that I’m updating as needed, don’t require any health insurance and should be communicated to your population on a weekly or biweekly basis. If your organization or healthcare offering includes an Employee Assistant Program (EAP), make sure that information is readily available. Many of those include financial support as well as mental health resources.
Allow for an element of flexibility. Life as we know it has been turned upside down, but that doesn’t mean the core of your business can’t keep operating. It just requires we get creative and allow for more flexibility in our schedules. Many employees are now at home with children, and whether virtual school is available to them or not, there’s a strong blend of personal and professional time happening in homes across the world. We need to show compassion for that as leaders while still holding each other accountable for getting the job done, however that may look for a while.
Does your healthcare plan include a stress prevention component you can encourage your population to tap into? Do you as an organization offer a fitness program that now is more limited due to gym closures? Regardless of the answers, don’t think you can’t start one during this time or continue with flexibility and creativity. Sharing workouts, mindfulness apps, and encouraging time in nature are valuable resources your population needs. Sure, some will ignore it, but offering it is a way to nurture your culture from afar. These messages can flow through your HR team or management under compliance terms and I can help as needed.
Purpose over Positivity
Let’s get real, forcing a positive mindset rarely works even without a global pandemic dominating the airwaves these days. It’s never been clearer that humans need purpose. Purpose is as essential to our over all well-being as is eating our leafy greens. I wrote on purpose last week related to studies about post retirement risks people develop due to loss of purpose. In some ways, having our daily schedules crumble can put a big dent in our sense of purpose. Even though I’ve always worked remotely, I found myself more irritable each day these last few weeks until I tapped into my purpose regardless of how simple the task may have been.
Developing a daily work schedule for your organization–keeping that need for flexibility in mind–can go a long way in maintaining purpose for you and your employees. Daily webinars, check ins, project discussions, and even some big picture dreaming can help us feel less than we’re just surviving, and more like we’re thriving. Maybe there’s a project that’s been on the back burner that can now get some attention. And don’t forget to recognize those teams or employees going the extra mile. We need our cultural cues and recognition now more than ever.
Our organization encourages we submit one photo each day of something that brings us joy. Our phones are filled daily with evidence of springtime, yummy meals, and cute kiddos or animals. Sure, this is unrelated to our business, but if we were physically together, we’d be sharing quick stories of our weekends or fun things we did with our families. These tasks take very little time to complete but they’re guaranteed to get some smiles and appreciation. Keeping this small communication up strengthens our sense of togetherness and connection while keeping it lighthearted and simple. We are all in this together, but feelings of isolation and loneliness are a problem for both our mental well-being and your organization’s bottom line. Remember to keep communication clear, factual, and consistent. No need to force positive mindsets, but keeping purpose in mind is the key. Re-entry will happen for us all and the better we nurture our cultures compassionately, the easier re-entry will be, and the more likely we are to arrive there ready to dive back in.