A company’s culture is defined by how people interact with co-workers, customers and suppliers, and how they get their work done. Simply put, “it’s the way we do things.”
For years, organizations have devoted time and resources to developing things like corporate mission, vision and values statements, all as part of establishing and sustaining a corporate culture. Behavioural expectations and norms, ideally, are formed to create the most productive, pleasant and respectful workplace possible.
But how do these vision/mission/values documents relate to our new paradigm, working from home (WFH)? What will sustain these principles until such time we are all back in the office together? Will they still be relevant?
People have already modified their behaviour to the online world. Our interactions with co-workers, customers and suppliers are undertaken at a distance. We multi-task doing the laundry while sitting through a virtual staff meeting. We already joke about the “mullet” outfits we wear now: business on the top, party on the bottom. How does this half-work/half-casual attire impact the reality of our approach to work?
Are we still living our vision/mission/values?
A recent Gallup poll shows that while WFH employees have higher wellbeing and engagement due to enhanced flexibility, they’re also more stressed than when they worked onsite. Isolation, depression and anxiety are on the rise as employees adjust to WFH. And, it’s a continuous process.
Your corporate culture is defined every day by your employees, not by some poster on the wall. After all, it’s like the difference between image (that thing you desire to be) and identity (the thing you actually are.) What your employees do and say matters.
Communications can continue to support a strong corporate culture, as it always has. The tools and methods need to adapt, however, and now more than ever, corporate culture truly needs to rest in the hands of every employee.
If corporate culture is about “the way we do things,” then here are some things to consider as you support your company’s culture in the WFH environment.
- Use multiple channels to encourage cross-organization communication. Slack, Yammer, Basecamp… there are literally dozens of tools available to encourage contact. Find the most appropriate tool for your company, and provide training to employees on how to use it. Don’t expect they will simply pick it up. They will need support to take greatest advantage of the tool.
- Break down barriers to communicating up and across the organization. Encourage employees to tag their bosses, executive and senior leadership in conversations. There’s never been a better time for senior leaders to really listen and understand employee sentiment.
- Support leaders to actively engage with employees on these platforms. Listening to employee feedback is no longer a side-of-the-desk activity. Being heard and supported are important factors in employee confidence, well-being and productivity. Your company’s success relies on employees continuing to do their best work, even under these most trying circumstances.
- Set communication expectations for response times to emails, phone calls and other communiques, such as, respond to emails within four hours, return phone calls during the same work day, etc. These guidelines can help employees adapt their corporate culture behaviours to the WFH environment.
- Set workday parameters… or not. Is it important that your employees each ‘clock in and out’ at specific times? Or, is there flexibility to allow a late start/late end to the workday? Be clear about these expectations so that employees are both allowed to meet their personal needs, but also be available as and when needed.
- Set accountability expectations. Attend meetings, prepared to participate. Meet deadlines. Meet or exceed quality standards. Support, and engage with, colleagues to keep the work progressing. Take initiative. Accountability is critical to not only getting the work done, but also to sustaining a sense of fairness in the company. Employees want to know that everyone is still held to the same standards. What accountabilities are important to your company?
- Support wellness. Many companies have health and safety committees, and their work continues to be a critical driver of company culture. If you already start staff meetings with a safety moment, continue these virtually, but encourage tips that help keep people safe at home. Wellness committees are tapping into mental health resources, are setting up peer support groups and reminding employees of their EFA benefits. Encourage supervisors to have one-to-one check-ins to see how their staff are coping.
- Celebrate. If employee-driven birthday celebrations and baby showers are part of your company’s caring culture, give staff the resources they need to ensure these continue. One company I know continues to hold its monthly birthday acknowledgements, and couriers a birthday cake to each person celebrating that month. Staff can find creative ways to show their appreciation for each other. Take time at the monthly staff meeting to honour colleagues and ensure celebration is still part of the norm.
What have you done to sustain your company’s corporate culture? I’d love to hear from you.