The recent outbreak of Coronavirus has had an impact on all of us and the industries we work in. Whether it’s the social distancing, the reduced shop opening hours or having to diversify ways of working, we’re all having to adapt our lives dramatically. But this doesn’t mean we need to be disconnected from one another.

Building and promoting a positive company culture remains as important and as a big a focus for companies. Although it may seem that COVID-19 has come along and disrupted all the great work companies have been putting in, forcing many employees into a new working structure, this doesn’t have to result in previous hard work being lost.

As we all adjust to the changes, there are some really simple and effective measures that can be put in place to make sure the culture not only remains, but also shines through.

Break the feeling of isolation

Feeling isolated is something that all remote workers will likely experience at some point. It’s even more of a risk for those who are used to working in an office environment and are now suddenly having to work remotely and adapt to a new routine.

One way to break the feeling of isolation is simply to increase engagement with employees. Making employees feel like they are still involved via company-wide updates that aren’t just business focused is crucial to keeping your workplace culture. Ask colleagues about their WFH set up and meet people’s pets virtually. To this point, fully embrace video calls where possible – it’s always nice to see someone’s face.

It’s also really important to have one-on-one check ins too, reach out to your colleagues, check in with them, find out how their day is going. Just knowing someone is there makes it easier for people to stay positive.

Keep the structure

Culture encompasses everything you do within your company’s organisational structure. That said, the structure often influences the culture too.  It’s important that however difficult it may be logistically, you do your best to recreate the known structure as well as you can virtually. 

Daily, weekly or fortnightly meetings will become even more valuable for individuals, as they’re missing on their usual chances to engage with the wider team. Whether this is your Monday morning kick off meeting, 10am Thursday coffee catch up, or Friday drinks, make sure these don’t drop out of the diary.

Adding a personal touch

Technology is a pivotal part of creating a smooth operation remotely. But it’s the personal touches, the emotional support, the doing things differently which will have the greatest impact on maintaining culture.

Not every message or email sent has to actually be work related. We don’t sit at our desks all day and only discuss work. Maintaining the social connection is just as important. So, reach out to the Finance Director and ask them how their running training is going, call the Marketing Executive and see whether they caught up on the latest Netflix series and drop the Operations Director a message to see how their puppy is doing. These little touches will help make everyone feel valued.

If you wanted to take it one step further, get creative. At Organic we’ve introduced “Work from Home Yoga”, which allows the team to vinyasa together via a weekly video link. And that’s just one example. Add all the elements together and we are able to reinforce our ethos and remind people they have a team around them, even if it’s not physical at the moment.

The Future

Company culture is shaped by past, present and future plans. If you’re worried about keeping your culture, then chances are you’re happy with what you’ve done in the past to get to where you are now. But what does this look like in the future?

Many organisations talk about enabling their staff to be flexible and work remotely, and right now there isn’t any other option. But if it works, and your organisation flourishes, then what’s to say it isn’t sustainable for the future. This could mean a dramatic change to the traditional office workspace and need for adapting company culture so it’s visible even when people aren’t physically together.

There’s no such thing as one company’s culture being better than another’s. Culture is subjective. Culture changes and develops as your organisation changes and develops, so don’t be surprised if it does adjust following COVID-19. It’s imperative that where possible, you continue to do what you know works for you to get your culture to a good place if you want it to remain the same. But don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it, and even look to encourage it. Change, when implemented correctly, can be a good thing.

Navigating the effects of COVID-19 from a remote working perspective will be a learning curve for lots of organisations, with some valuable lessons to be learnt. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your employees stimulated and reduce the feeling of isolation where possible. Try and stick to your structure, but also understand the need for flexibility. 

Hopefully your company (and its culture) come out the other side of this better prepared and in a stronger position to combat issues in the future.