Creating and maintaining a positive work culture is essential in any circumstance. But, fostering a connected work environment when the majority of us are separated has never been more important.
The global pandemic has set numerous challenges that can often be overlooked, especially when businesses are primarily operating from home. Working from home has created an environment for employer and employees to feel disconnected. We are no longer able to walk over to a co-worker’s desk and chat about our weekend, causing us to feel not only physically distant but also emotionally. This pandemic has tested all relationships, and professional ones are no exception.
With the majority of offices interacting virtually, it is crucial that the moments spent together are used to boost the morale of your cohort. Keeping spirits up not only leads to employees feeling more comfortable in the space but, it can also make more productive employees.
Space to Speak
In these uncertain times, it’s easy to get distracted from the task at hand. In a perfect world, you would like your employees to be 100% focused, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Employees may be distracted by their work and home space becoming one unit, making it difficult to decompress, or their partner losing their job as a result of the pandemic.
At the beginning of a group meeting, spare a moment to give your employees an opportunity to share what may be on their minds.
For example, find some commonalities amongst your employees, maybe some share a teething toddler who has not been sleeping through the night, or an elderly family member they are unable to see because of the pandemic.
Sharing these struggles lets your coworkers connect on a deeper level. It is important to note that sharing something you may be dealing with behind the scenes is not mandatory. The purpose of this is to create a safe space where everyone feels welcome to share if they’re comfortable.
Small incentives that convey your gratitude are ways demonstrate that you appreciate your team. An example of your thanks could be sending employees a QR code for coffee paid by the company during monthly meetings.
Small acts of kindness lets your staff see that they’re valued beyond the work they contribute to the company, but as human beings as well. Showing your team they’re appreciated creates a setting where employees want to come to work and want to do their job to the best of their ability. This also creates a ripple effect because when employees are happy, it improves your company’s reputation and helps you retain talent.
Receiving anonymous feedback gives raw insight to the support your company provides your employees, but also its shortcomings. Although it is wonderful to gain praise from your staff, understanding where you can improve is also beneficial.
The questions should not be general. Don’t ask questions like, “Are you happy at the company?” You can receive more insight from more specific questions.
Some examples of specific questions to ask are: Do you feel as though our company is inclusive? Do you feel as though you have a good work/life balance?
Also, making questionnaires open ended rather than “yes or no” questions, gives employees room to express their opinions. These types of questionnaires could be sent out to staff quarterly so you can take their feedback and implement new strategies on a regular basis.
If you make this voluntary, it is a great idea to add an incentive to motivate your staff to participate. An example of a fitting incentive is a chance to win a $50 gift card for submitting their feedback.
Insert Fun in Meetings
Your job as an employer, especially when working remotely, can feel repetitive. Although it can sometimes be difficult to inspire your team from afar, try to be a bright light in your employee’s day. Sprinkling moments of fun in your meetings can take the edge off the workday and help your employees actually look forward to team discussions.
For example, ask your staff to wear a hat representing their favourite sports team to a meeting to your weekly meeting, or ask them to explain one thing on their desk (other than their phone or computer) they cannot live without. Exercises like these are a chance for co-workers to bond and find commonalities they may not be aware of while being physically removed from one another.
If your company is larger and such an activity would be time consuming as a group, consider creating small breakout rooms of five to ten minutes, in order for employees to get to know each other in a more intimate setting.
These are difficult times, and everyone is trying to navigate them to the best of their ability. The fact you are thinking of your employees’ emotional well-being already says a lot about you as an employer. With this in mind, creating a positive work culture will involve some trial and error, so feel free to get creative and see what works for your group.
Above all, being flexible and understanding of the needs of your staff during this time of working remotely is the most important thing you can do as a boss.
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Demetra Maragos – Demetra is a Master of Arts candidate at New York University, who loves thinking outside of conventional lines to combine her passions of everything culture, fashion and lifestyle.
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