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Company culture in remote times: How to get it right

Earlier in the year we looked at how companies were keeping their teams connected, as we adjusted to life in lockdown.

Now, six months on, remote working is stretching out indefinitely. And it’s no longer about short-term fixes, but more how to create a sustainable strategy that will see your company values continue to thrive with your team operating from home.

More than just socials, and improving comms, what are the pillars of a really good company culture – and how do they need to be adapted for the current climate?

We talked to a range of businesses about what they’ve done to get the best tips and tricks to help inspire you.

Continue to encourage and shout about your core values 

Traditionally, when new starters join a business there will be a series of induction or training meetings where the company culture and values are presented and discussed. The level of formality will vary from business to business, but it’s a chance to showcase what the business is all about – what you expect from employees and what they can expect from working for you.

While a presentation can be conducted virtually, the part that’s harder to recreate is watching other team members really ‘live’ those values. Seeing them in practice. That’s not to say employees won’t be demonstrating the same behaviours, but without working side by side with colleagues, it might not be as easy to really appreciate it. 

At Fluidy, we have a recognition platform that is geared around our values. It hasn’t always been used consistently (as when we were operating in an office, a lot of celebration was done in-person), but in the last few months particularly we’ve really focused on making a conscious effort to recognise people. It’s visible across the whole company, and we talk about who’s been celebrated in our weekly all-hands meeting. You can also like and comment on the recognitions which levels-up the impact even more.

Top tip

Try having your values in a doc that is referred to and shared regularly. Encourage people to refer to values when setting the objective of a meeting, and celebrate with everyone when team members showcase a value really well. 

Encourage social interactions

By now, we’re all aware of Zoom fatigue. But, it is crucial to find a way of encouraging more social interactions among team members. While it’s likely that the majority of interactions will need to happen in some form of video call, don’t be afraid to play around with different formats.

At the start-up focused PopUp Business School, they have taken inspiration from radio shows, team podcasts and livestreams with comments to try to introduce more of a sense of play in the workplace. Sometimes, great ideas come out when colleagues are having a lot of fun with each other.

It can feel a little contrived to insist upon non-work conversations, but it just doesn’t happen naturally in virtual meetings in the same way as it does in person. There’s no kitchen chat over tea making.

Suggest team members meet for virtual coffees, or whatever works for them. Taking breaks is actually essential for wellbeing but also our productivity. Slack offers a Donut feature that pairs any two people from a business in a Slack channel for a virtual catch-up. It’s a great way of encouraging communication between people who might not work with each other.

Top tip

Don’t just put something out there and assume staff will do it. Check in to see if it’s working. How many people are using the Donut feature, for instance. If it’s not a lot, how can you encourage take up?

Make sure workloads are manageable, and bear in mind personal circumstances. Think about offering a range of ways that non-work comms can happen, and at an array of times. 

Think about benefits that really benefit everyone

More than ever, companies need to be sensitive to the fact that everyone’s personal circumstances will be different, and as such the extremities of the last seven or so months will have taken their toll in a range of ways. 

Benefits shouldn’t necessarily be a one size fits all approach. Plus, your benefits package that was great 12 months ago, might not be much use to anyone right now, so take some time to reevaluate it.

Marketing business KC Communications has created a ‘Best You’ budget for staff to access. This is a pot of money for each individual to highlight any wellbeing needs they may have, whether it’s joining a gym or a formal learning course to enhance their skills. 

The business allocates £1,250 per team member, per year, so it is a significant investment in ensuring staff feel looked after and motivated to work. 

Likewise, at telephone answering firm Moneypenny, all the perks the staff receive are ‘Pick and Mix’ so they can choose what they need to reflect their stage in life, whether it be healthcare, or child care vouchers etc.

If you aren’t offering it already, it might also be worth considering a shared equity scheme to help both motivate staff (during such a tough time) and to hopefully offer a really tangible reward. Share scheme company Vestd has said that one in four small businesses are now offering equity programmes.

And why not think about a small benefit that you could offer all staff right now that’s really going to help lift morale as we enter a potential winter lockdown. Zapier has given all their staff Spotify, iTunes, or Google Play credits, which is great since many remote employees love to listen to music during the day. Staff can also choose to use their credits at Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play which they can use for eBooks. Well-read teams are happy and productive teams. 

Top tip

Make sure that whatever your benefits are, staff actually know about them. Likewise, if you’re running lots of great initiatives to help with collaboration, ensure that they’re being clearly signposted (for both new and existing employees),

At Palo Alto Networks, they’ve launched a special newsletter for lockdown (#INterConnected) that highlights the resources and learning experiences available for employees all around the globe. While you might not have the capacity to create a full newsletter, just a regular bulletin will ensure that you’re not investing lots of energy in great schemes that aren’t being utilised. 

Company culture can be hard to maintain at the best of times, particularly as a business grows. And there’s no denying that keeping culture alive with everyone working remotely presents an even bigger challenge. But that only makes it an even more pressing element of your business to focus on.

Don’t be afraid to test new ideas or schemes, and most importantly, source feedback from your employees as to what is working well, and what isn’t – and then keep evolving your strategy.

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