Due to COVID-19, the business landscape suddenly looks very different. In a matter of days, offices have closed, people are working from home and we’re limited to essential services only. For fresh young start-ups and small businesses, the shift to remote working isn’t such a big leap. Employees are generally all set up with laptops and business operations are cloud-based. But for some older, more traditional companies, the task is a lot more daunting. Regardless of whether the physical shift has been easy or not, all businesses are now facing a new challenge - how to maintain company culture in a virtual environment.

In pre-Covid times, employee engagement was a lot easier. You may have had a Monday morning company-wide stand-up to get everyone up to speed. Or perhaps your company was famous for Friday afternoon drinks. Smaller groups may have done lunchtime runs together. Even just chatting with colleagues over coffee builds relationships and culture.

All of sudden, these initiatives are no longer possible. But company culture is essential, particularly if you want your business to survive this crisis and thrive thereafter. In fact, without the in-person interaction, your company’s culture is more important than ever.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Communication & productivity tools

Ensure you have the right tools in place for the right communication. Here are a few suggestions. To maintain real-time chat you might use Cisco Webex Teams or Slack. For project management there’s Asana and Trello. For video conferencing you might look at Cisco Webex. And for file sharing, you might consider Dropbox, Google Drive or Notion. 

Remember, you can’t rely on people overhearing office conversations any more. It’s time to formalise all your office communications, keep everyone up to date and maintain staff productivity.

Video calls

Keep up the video calls as much as possible. Face to face interaction (provided strained WiFi will allow) will increase employee engagement. Employees will also feel reassured seeing the face of their boss or other senior leaders. Just remember a few things - keep your microphone on mute unless you’re talking. And don’t, by any means, take your laptop to the bathroom with you. (try googling this if you need a little giggle).

Make your presence felt

As a leader, there is nothing more important now than to be present and accessible for your people. Perhaps implement a virtual morning stand-up with your team where each person runs through what they’re working on and what they might need help with. A weekly (or daily) video message from the CEO will keep the team feeling assured and up to date. And even daily signs-offs wishing your team a nice evening will have a positive impact. Just because you’re not coming and going from a physical office, doesn’t mean you don’t need to say hello and goodbye.

Ask for feedback

Don’t make assumptions about your people. Check in with them and make sure they’re ok. And just like customer feedback, employees give feedback in different ways, so make sure you give them the right channels to do so. Some might prefer a pulse survey while others are more comfortable with a 1:1 chat. 

One size does not fit all. Don’t treat this task as proof of your speed and efficiency. If you want honest employee feedback, treat this with care and consideration. 

Office fun

A critical element in company culture is having fun and getting to know your team. This can sometimes be hard to do without those Friday afternoon drinks… 

Create an avenue for fun communication. At Local Measure we have a dedicated Slack channel sharing photos of our home offices (kids and pets included), recommending fitness programs, Netflix shows and home delivery services. It’s our water cooler conversation - we’re just not standing by the water cooler when we have it.

Your employees want to know that it’s ok to have some fun even during this difficult time. Lead from the top. Show them you care. And get involved in some good old fashioned office banter.

The office might look different now, but your company culture doesn’t have to. Revisit your values and make sure you’re living them. Check in on your people, care for employee wellbeing, understand the challenges of remote working, and support each other through the journey.

For more information on how Local Measure can help your company navigate the changing business landscape, click here.