The term “Out Of Office” has become somewhat redundant in recent COVID-times. Traditionally, if someone was Out Of Office (OOO), it meant that they were on holiday. That’s because most work was done in an office, and the outside of the office space signalled rest and recovery.
But how times have changed.
COVID-19 has changed how we work forever, and we’re still feeling the after effects. The home space has been blurred with work space, which has been great for a lot of people and not so great for others. The term “Out Of Office” still holds it’s traditional meaning, but in literal terms almost everyone is out of office, all the time!
There are lots of pros and cons to this change, however one of the major cons is a struggle to keep the company culture alive when the workforce is dispersed. We’re unpacking how some of the best companies are keeping the office culture up and running, minus the office.
While there are lots of perks to working from home, or remotely, there are also downsides. Lots of people experience zoom fatigue, lack of productivity and a sense of disconnection with their team when working away from a centralised office.
Keeping a positive company culture alive can seem harder when everyone is remote, as the social bonds that form are restricted to email, slack and other forms of online communication.
The effect of enforced remote work on mental health has also been a hot topic in recent months, with employees asking for more support from their employers. Not everyone loves the idea of working away from an office, and for those people more support is needed.
As the end of the office is near (or at least, 100% office working) it’s time for business leaders to keep the company culture alive and support their people.
Resources are one part of the puzzle when building an online company culture. Most companies had a great HR team pre-COVID, but many of their HR team had never experienced transitioning to an online company culture. This means they may have struggled to put new culture-building ideas into place.
This is where either up-skilling your HR team or hiring new change management leaders is vital. You need a positive, online-first HR team to help you create and maintain a strong company culture despite the huge changes to working that are going on. Having the human resource to build a company culture in a whole new way is a crucial first step.
Once you have these people in place, you need to look at how to build a team online. This might involve initiation into the company, the hiring process, social networking and team events.
Team building online isn’t easy, but it can be done. Things like games, competitions, social huddles and buddy systems can be a great way to keep people checking in with each other online.
Professionalism around open and honest conversation has changed in recent years. In the past, it would be considered unprofessional to share your current mental state, or how you are coping with the working situation.
However, now everyone is online, it is crucial to check in with each other and create a culture where it is completely normal to be honest about how you’re feeling. This starts with the HR departments and business leaders opening up themselves and making sure that these conversations are well facilitated.
It may be in the form of share circles, 1-1 meetings set up for the sole purpose of check-ins, or even anonymous forms online where people can share their thoughts. The main thing is that people feel that they can share their feelings in a way that feels genuine and authentic to them.
It may be wise to try multiple options to get the conversation started around mental health and current workload. A huge challenge when working remotely can be communication – mainly around whether people are drowning in work.
When we can only see each other through screens, it can be hard to know who has too much work on. Creating a space where people can put their hand up and say “I’m struggling” is invaluable to creating a positive company culture.
Did you know that 2021 research from McKinsey shows that on average 75% of employees require some kind of mental health support at work? And 24% will need moderate help such as counselling and psychotherapy.
Mental health is one of the most under-rated elements of building a company culture, but it is vital to understanding your people better. It is important to treat every individual as such, and ensure that they feel cared for and supported. With so many people needing mental health support, it is important that companies have specific measures in place.
A great way to boost your support of mental health is to offer an external system where employees can document their feelings and proactively share their mental health updates. Platforms like Spill can take the emotional pulse of your team, and provide an online check in space.
Equally, mental health platforms like Headspace for Work, or YourWellSpace can help employees track their down time, activity time and sleep. By supporting employees to stay active, take on wellness activities like meditation and yoga and regularly do mental health check ins, you can improve the overall company culture.
As the McKinsey study notes, mental health platforms can “offer various degrees of human touch, from prevention chatbots to in-person psychotherapy, and use a range of techniques from meditation and hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy”.
Office spaces are not only useful for creating communal work spaces, but they also represent a kind of HQ for the company. When employees feel like they have a choice about working remotely, they can feel a lot calmer. Having the option of going into an office once or twice a week is a great bonus, and can help create a nice balance between remote and office work.
You might downsize your office space, but having somewhere where people can congregate and work together is still very valuable. It helps boost company culture and offer a space for meetings and flexible working together.
Friendly competitions, leaderboards and shout outs are a great way to keep the team spirit alive and keep people motivated. Often when working remotely it can be easy to lose track of how everyone is doing, and who is performing well. While you never want to call out a negative performance, shouting out top performers can really boost morale.
Getting recognition is super important to most employees, and when working remotely it can be hard to receive. Creating fun ways to shout out achievements can keep everyone motivated and create that friendly competition that makes office environments thrive.
Ready to read more on how to create a positive company culture when teams are dispersed? Check out our recent article on how to manage global teams.