Supporting Culture and Connection while Working Remotely
May 5, 2021
One thing I love most about working at Emergenetics and STEP is our positive, supportive, fun and at times, quirky company cultures. We have a much-coveted basketball trophy that changes hands with March Madness. We get together for offsites to plan our future and track progress toward goals. We have our values posted on our walls and celebrate them in monthly meetings with staff. We also enjoy a monthly happy hour.
With so many opportunities to connect in person, working 100% remotely during the pandemic has been a challenge. As a member of Team WE (our committee focused on culture and corporate social responsibility), we’ve had to make a shift in the way we build and maintain connections with our employees.
Using the perspective of the Emergenetics Attributes, below are 10 takeaways from our experiences so far.
10 Lessons in Team Building for Remote Working
Analytical – Don’t forget the importance of culture.
When the pandemic hit, our companies – like most around the globe – jumped into action to adjust priorities and shift our focus to meet our clients’ changing needs. With our teams fully distributed and actively working on new projects, we realized that keeping our colleagues connected was more essential than ever.
Intuitively, we know that when employees are part of a positive workplace environment, great things happen, and we have plenty of data to back that up. A Columbia University study found that organizations with positive cultures typically have a turnover rate of 13.9%, while those with poor cultures have one of 48.4%. Companies with happy employees also tend to outperform the competition by 20%.
To help keep our employees engaged and connected, we’ve made culture a priority. We scheduled our first virtual team-building event within a week of beginning our remote work, and since then, Team WE have met every few weeks to identify other ways to help our staff stay connected despite physical distances with new programs, events and technology.
Structural – Honor your traditions.
While your traditions may need to adjust to accommodate dispersed workforces, your employees, particularly those with a Structural preference, will appreciate the effort.
As an example, we host an annual bowling tournament every April. Given the circumstances, we weren’t able to go to Moe’s BBQ this year for our tradition. After some research, one of our team members found an app that would allow us to bowl against our colleagues. To mark the occasion, we hosted our first-ever virtual bowling competition over a Friday happy hour via Zoom.
While your traditions may need to shift slightly, you can get creative and reframe them when you aren’t able to get the whole team together.
Social – Provide ways to connect with colleagues.
To appeal to the Social Attribute, which tends to put people first, identify ways to connect your employees. Connection can take many forms, including virtual happy hours or a team breakfast.
You can also consider email or Slack channels to drive engagement. My manager poses check-in questions to our team three times a week via email, with topics that range from your favorite thing about working at home to the funniest thing you’ve seen online recently, so we can stay connected with each other.
Another brilliant idea came from our Singapore team whose leaders sent care packages to team members. Emails, calls, messages and video all go a long way to show your people that you care.
Conceptual – Explore new things.
In a time where we’re all learning a lot and adapting to new ways of working, it can be fun to experiment with trying new technologies, new formats or new ways to support your culture.
We’ve decided to test out Microsoft Teams to create channels for our employees to connect, learn from one another and share fun, good news. We’re also looking at new ways to support mental and physical wellness for our employees by exploring hosting a virtual yoga session or a meditation for team members who want to participate.
Expressiveness – Provide multiple platforms for people to engage.
Some of our employees are energized by video gatherings, while others gravitate toward chat conversations or calls. As we’ve put together our initiatives and shared out information, we’ve been mindful about creating a balance in our delivery. For example, we use video technology like Zoom meetings to host virtual happy hours and gaming events. We also are testing out platforms like Microsoft Teams to facilitate group conversations.
Assertiveness – Celebrate togetherness with some friendly competition.
We have many team members who love competition and those who just enjoy playing the game, so we’re using friendly rivalries to engage staff. After the cancelation of the March Madness tournament and losing out on an opportunity for the basketball trophy to change hands, we invited staff to compete in a virtual game tournament. We set up a bracket, and now many of our team members are competing through Yahtzee, Scrabble, Boggle and other online games to earn the title of April Awesomeness Champion.
Flexibility – Give your efforts time to take hold and then tinker.
With employees juggling so much during this time, we understand that not all team members will want or be able to participate in events the way they may have in the past. As we’ve introduced new initiatives, we’ve been thinking about setting our own expectations and making sure we give initiatives time to see if they stick. In doing so, our employees can get used to them, know what to expect and engage more freely. As an example, our Teams channel hasn’t quite taken off yet, and we may need to adjust tactics in the coming weeks. As we think about iterating these programs, we’ll ask our employees for their ideas and feedback so we can continue to improve and provide connections in ways that resonate across the organization.
Connecting Dispersed Workforces After the Pandemic
As we’ve had to move to remote work ourselves, our team has learned a lot about how to use technology to engage employees as well as find ways to update our in-person experiences to support our dispersed teams. Going forward, we will be much more thoughtful about how we adapt our culture and workplace initiatives so that our fun, quirky and supportive culture truly is inclusive of all our employees – remote or in the office.
Source: Emergenetics International