We have had the discussion with clients for years about being prepared to allow employees to work from home. Whether it is having a child home sick for the week or another hurricane shutting the office down, South Florida businesses need to have that option available. There is a big difference, however in one employee being home for several days on sick leave or even the whole team being home for a hurricane and the scale of the situation we are facing today. Those scenarios are manageable. They don’t affect business continuity for long. They are temporary issues. Business continues. But with a stay at home order over weeks (or months) it is inevitable that the disruption will negatively impact company culture. During this time, most business owners are asking themselves the following questions:
How do I deal with a workforce at home for a month or two?
How do I keep up a team mentality?
How do I make people feel like they are part of the decision-making process?
Here are some things that are working for our team and for our current clients.
- Utilizing groups in Microsoft Teams – When people are in Teams, they are chatting more. They are interacting as if they are having a “water cooler” conversation. On a phone call, it is more formal, but the chat function allows for a more personal, informal exchange. Even sharing gifs or memes to lighten up the mood during this scary time is a good practice for businesses. This boosts employee moral by adding a more fun, relaxed feel to the work from home environment.
- Using SharePoint in Office 365 – Using this collaborative tool to share documents, ideas and projects keeps that team mentality. The important part is to keep everyone involved in their department’s projects. This is the perfect time to also engage employees across departments for input. All employees want to feel included and valued. SharePoint is a way to maintain a healthy, engaged company culture as your team adjusts to work from home.
- Screensharing – During virtual sessions, remember to use the screensharing option often. When trying to communicate something work-related, it is helpful to have that shared visual to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Virtual meetings – DON’T be the guy who thinks he doesn’t need pants on for a virtual meeting, or the girl who leaves the camera recording on her phone when she takes a bathroom break, but DO use virtual meetings in Teams, Zoom (make sure you use security measures please,) GoToMeeting or others. These meetings can be business meetings, department meetings, client meetings, or they can be a virtual happy hour after the workday. Add fun to these meetings. Some companies are doing trivia contests, celebrating an employee’s birthday or giving out awards for employee accomplishments.
- Give everyone time to participate and hold everyone accountable to participate – With all of the distractions at home for each employee it is easy to let someone hit the mute button and forget to engage them in the work you are doing. Now that employees have dogs barking, small children at home, school aged children to homeschool and spouses also working from home, you cannot expect things to be completely quiet and focused all the hours of the workday. It may be easy to lose someone because of these distractions. Make sure each employee contributes to the project or conversation each day in some way.
- Hold one-to-one meetings with each team member every week. (If you have a big staff, then delegate and have supervisors help with this.) Check in on each employee and discuss work and home life with them. Keep the agenda of a usual meeting, but make sure to listen to personal struggles as well as this is a trying time for everyone. Valuing each team member individually will help them feel more secure, more valued and connected.
A healthy, fun, interactive, company culture is difficult to build and maintain in a normal workplace setting with all the pressures of the actual work. It is even more difficult to maintain when everyone is working from home. Try to get creative in how you engage employees. Make the virtual interactions about business, but sprinkle in some joking, fun and celebrating.
To learn more about company culture from my mentor and friend, Scott Fay, watch the video below.