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Alone together: How to maintain a positive company culture while working remotely

By Paul Rowlett, from branded corporate gift specialist EverythingBranded, shares his tips for keeping staff morale and engagement high while working from home.

The finance sector has typically been slower to adopt flexible and remote working policies than other industries, meaning that, for many financial professionals, this is the first time they’ve ever worked from home for a prolonged period of time. As such, it’s only natural that it will be a big adjustment for many people, and they may need extra support from their employers during this tough time.

With the latest government guidelines suggesting that we could be working remotely until November at the earliest, it looks as though we’re certainly not going to be returning to the office any time soon. So, you should have a plan in place to ensure that morale remains high for the remainder of the home working period. Here, I’ll share my tips for maintaining a positive company culture, even when you can’t engage with your employees in person.

Host workplace socials remotely

Back at the start of the year, many of us would have thought nothing of heading to the pub after work for a drink and de-brief with our colleagues. But that’s all a distant memory now — in fact, many of us haven’t seen our co-workers and employees in person for months.

The social aspect of our jobs is very important for staff morale, and it helps to foster strong relationships, which can be vital for collaboration and teamwork. So, it’s important that employers find new ways for staff to connect and socialise with their teammates, even though they can’t see them in person. Thankfully, there are now so many virtual tools and software options available, it’s never been easier to organise a virtual “meet-up” or work social event.

If you think your staff might have had their fill of online pub quizzes at this point, you could try branching out and doing something a little different, like online Pictionary, Words with Friends, or even a remote gaming tournament. You might be surprised how many of your team are up for playing a round of Fortnite after work! Many people have had very few social interactions since the lockdown began, so these virtual work meet-ups can really be a mood-booster for many people, especially those that live alone.

Stay in touch and invite feedback

When staff are all working in an office environment, there are always opportunities for managers and supervisors to check in with staff throughout the day. But, during home working, it can be all too easy for staff to get left behind, or to feel like they’ve been abandoned. So, you should make a concerted effort to check in with employees regularly. Make time for all line managers and supervisors to contact their teams at least once a day, and organise a full team meeting at least once a week. Even if there’s not much to report, this contact will go a long way to assuring staff that you’re there for them.

Communication should be a two-way street, so be sure to welcome feedback from your staff. Anonymous surveys can be a fantastic way to gather constructive feedback, as employees will feel less self-conscious and more able to share honestly. Always respond to feedback — both positive and negative — thanking your staff for their time, and detailing how you plan to act on their suggestions. Even if you can’t always accommodate their ideas, it will show that you’re listening.

Find new ways to reward your staff

Salaries are just one aspect of renumeration for your staff’s hard work: perks, rewards, and praise are all important, too. And, you might have found that your normal perks have fallen to the wayside since the lockdown started, especially if you usually reward them with social events. So, you’ll want to find new ways to reward them remotely. They’ve worked through a world-changing pandemic, keeping your company going through thick and thin — so, it’s certainly worth finding a way to show them your sincere appreciation.

There are plenty of ways to do this, from sending out personalised messages to each employee praising the work they’ve done and taking time to chat with them personally, to awarding bonuses or other treats (assuming you’re in a position to afford them). This could be anything from takeaway vouchers, to care packages containing some treats, snacks, and pampering products. Or, you could send your staff some personalised branded goodies they can use while working from home, like reusable coffee cups, USBs, or stationery. Little gestures like these are relatively affordable to implement, and will show your staff that you’re thinking of their well-being during this tough time.

Encourage a healthy work/life balance

When you’re working from home every day of the week, it can be all too easy for the line between your work and personal life to blur. And, when your home is also your workspace, it can be difficult to really “switch off” and escape from the stresses of the day. Given all the other stressful things going on at the moment, it’s really important that you support staff in finding a healthy balance — otherwise, they may be at risk of burning out.

There are lots of ways to help promote this: you could start a “no emails after 7pm rule”, and review staff workloads and activity to ensure they aren’t doing too much overtime. Or, you could organise a mental health afternoon every month, when staff are given time away from work to do something that helps them relax. A happy and mentally healthy workforce is almost always more productive, so this is going to be a real win-win for your company in the long term. This will be easier if it’s something you were already promoting before the lockdown, but it’s never too late to start!

If you’re one of the many business owners who have been grappling with the challenges of remote working for the first time, you may be wondering how you can maintain a positive company culture. Try implementing a few of the tactics I’ve outlined here — you’ll likely find that they go down a treat with your staff.

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