While most of us settle into month two or three of remote work due to the impact of COVID-19, businesses have been forced to become more agile. This means companies implementing more remote friendly tools and technologies, adopting new processes, and adjusting management styles. While addressing roadblocks to company workflows may seem like the top priority for businesses right now, there is one thing that cannot fall by the wayside: company culture.

Weekly calendar of company social events

A company’s culture is more than just team outings and company get-togethers. It’s about creating a sense of community. While video conferencing software or project management tools might solve some of your day-to-day workflow issues, how do you solve for the lack of socialization and community that comes with remote work?

During these challenging times, it’s critical that businesses do what they can to keep their employees engaged and supported. Investing in your company culture can have an immediate and substantial impact on your employees’ morale, productivity, eagerness to collaborate, and general sense of camaraderie.

Check out some suggestions and best practices on how to maintain company culture and increase morale during this time.

Foster community

Create an employee engagement committee. When it comes to reestablishing company culture in a remote setting, don’t just rely on the ideas of one person or a select group of people. Instead, include colleagues across multiple departments to get new, fresh perspectives on what events and initiatives would keep employees engaged and feeling supported.   Have an HR representative present to manage expectations in terms of timing, budget, etc. but otherwise, give your team the opportunity to define what a remote company culture could look like.

Diversify your social calendar. When it comes to event planning while remote, think outside the box. We can all agree that the typical Zoom happy hour has been exhausted at this point. It’s time to get creative! We suggest creating a more versatile social calendar including events that will appeal to all employee demographics. Ideas include: a bi-weekly game night where employees can opt in to play games that encourage teamwork and discussion (think: virtual Bingo, trivia, Jeopardy, etc.), themed team meetings (“show and tell” or jersey night), a monthly book club, cross-team lunches, or Lunch and Learns where employees or outside guests can discuss and educate others on a topic of their choice. Possibilities are endless but consistency is key here. Make sure events are versatile and happening at regular intervals so employees have something to look forward to.

Social slack channels

Build a community in Slack. Whatever communication tool you use, consider creating company-wide communication channels, if possible, to promote informal communication among colleagues. Not everyone will speak up in a video conference setting, and therefore it’s important to give people an outlet to stay connected and “socialize” with their colleagues. Happen to use Slack? Some suggestions for company-wide channels include: company announcements, tv/movie recommendations, pets talk, “ask me anything” with the CEO/Senior Leadership, etc.

Think about the individual

Focus on wellness. Remember that the impact of COVID-19 can be weighing on your employees in various ways - physically, emotionally, financially. While some employees may be more vocal about their concerns than others, it’s important to give every employee’s wellbeing the same level of attention and respect. In uncertain times like these, employees lean on their employers more than ever and it’s critical we do whatever we can to make their remote work setting as safe and supportive as possible. Creating a wellness newsletter you can regularly send out to employees that feature healthy ideas and resources available to employees can emphasize your company’s commitment during this time.

Recognize employees. Whether it’s recognizing employee accomplishments in an employee recognition Slack channel, a bi-weekly newsletter, or monthly All Hands meeting, it’s important to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of your employees during a time when colleagues and teams are especially siloed. Beyond individual recognition, there are other ways to recognize and reward employees for their hard work. Consider offering a company-wide mental health day or sponsoring a lunch for your employees as a token of your appreciation.

Build trust. It may feel natural to overcompensate by micromanaging your employees during this remote work period. While management styles often will, and should, change with remote work, it’s important to establish trust with your team. Trust your employees to get their work done just as you would in the office space. Expect the same standard of work and make yourself available as a resource and address any performance concerns as you would in the office. Your team will be more likely to engage when they know their manager trusts them.

Stay connected

Zoom video meeting with many employees

Be consistent with communication. In a remote work setting, communication is key. To keep employees informed and in-the-know at all times, consider sending a bi-weekly newsletter or hosting a company All Hands meeting to cover topics like return to work planning, company updates, and other useful resources. It helps for employees to know that every other Friday they can expect some form of communication from senior leadership and that they have a forum to address any lingering questions or concerns. Being communicative and transparent with your employees is critical at this time and the more you engage with them, the more they will engage with you.

Make resources readily available. In addition to company communication, it’s important to have a space for employees to easily access resources on their own. Developing a space where employees can access information on state and federal orders and protections, previous company announcements, mental health resources, or simply work from home best practices, shows your employees that you’re making an effort to create a safe and supportive workplace for them.

All in all, it doesn’t take a happy hour or an expensive treat to create a positive remote culture. We find that these small but mighty investments can produce long-lasting rewards for your employees and your company brand.