In the last ten years, we’ve seen a trend towards more remote and work from home employees. Largely, this type of work arrangement has been a huge benefit for employees who are seeking flexibility with their home and work balance.
In the last three weeks as our new “normal” has set in with COVID-19 prevention, working from home has presented multiple challenges as many people are new to the concept.
Others who were quite comfortable with the situation have seen their home “office” transformed into a double office to accommodate a spouse/partner or makeshift homeschooling center. Organizations have struggled to maintain a healthy culture with the lack of interaction, such as daily lunches, morning coffee meetings, and birthday celebrations, but also with the anxiety of the virus spread.
Here are 5 quick tips to maintain your culture and keep employee engagement high during these difficult times:
- Promote Positive News. As a Scaling Up company, the first agenda item as part of the Scaling Up Process Meeting Rhythms is “Good News”. It may be hard to believe but there is good news out there. You can share traditional bright spots such as birthdays and work anniversaries as well as personal or company good news. If you aren’t practicing the daily or weekly huddles, simply send an email – or better – a video from a senior leader weekly to your team on the good things happening in the company where possible.
- Identify Alternative Work Schedules. Even if your team members are accustomed to working from home, their environment is likely different now. There is far less “quiet” than usual. Kids are home so internet bandwidth can be challenged with gaming and e-learning. If possible, look to allow your employees to work alternative schedules such as a 2nd shift or 3rd shift if your business allows. If you have cross functional meetings, ensure a member of the department can attend and facilitate that information to the team members who are on “off” schedules.
- “Theme” your online Meetings. I’ve seen more babies, pets and hats worn in meetings in the past 2 weeks than the prior 20 years of my career so why not embrace it. “Bring your child to work day” has a whole new meaning! Identify themes – crazy hat day, your alma mater shirts, kids in meetings, pets, etc. You’ll find it light and fun and you may even learn more about your team than you knew before!
- Tutors or online “Day Care”. You may have staff that due to the nature of their work, have a hard time filling their day with work because of the nature of their role in the company. Do they have other skills? Some of your team members are likely struggling to engage their children and perform their own work. Imagine the benefit you could gain if you offered a “tutor” hour or a “reading hour” to your employees for their children? Poll your staff and see if you can identify anyone who may have a teaching background or tutored in college. Maybe they have small children and can host an online “reading hour”.
- Find and Consolidate Meal Discounts for Employees. Grocery Stores and restaurants are considered essential businesses and still open (carryout or delivery for restaurants). Have someone look on social media and the web for deals. Call local businesses in your area or your employees’ areas and see if they’ll work with you on a discount for your company. Not a huge company? Call your local chamber of commerce and band together with your business neighbors in your building or community. Consolidate these opportunities or discounts and post to your company intranet or email to your team!
Bonus Tip: Identify a resource to be your “culture owner” to act on these or other ideas so you and your leadership team can stay focused on your strategy, customers and finances during this time.
These are uncertain times and definitely will require difficult decisions but remember that this pandemic will end. And when it does, imagine the loyalty you will have built with your staff and the great stories you’ll be able to share with potential new employees down the line.
Kevin O'Connor leads the align5 Coaching Practice as the Vice President of Strategic Coaching and Consulting.