If you’ve watched your company culture shift and evolve this year, you’re likely not alone. When people were forced to work from home during the early stages of COVID, the rituals and traditions that bond employees in an organization naturally were put on the backburner.

Changes came fast and suddenly while HR and leadership communicated new expectations, safety protocols and new ways of working among other things.

Workplace culture is bound to be affected during a global crisis; for how long and in what ways remains to be seen although some differences can be noted and felt.

Organizations had to find new ways to stay connected with their employees in a virtual environment while sustaining a workplace culture. So how do you ensure you’re still leading with a people-first culture in a remote environment?

The ongoing crisis has brought new ideas for how to lead in a remote environment for 2021 and beyond. We’ve had enough practice in 2020 to know a thing or two of what’s necessary for the year(s) to come.

Long-term, strategic planning has some organizations considering hiring a Head of Remote Work according to an article from cmswire. Companies like Facebook, Quora, Twitter and GitLab are already hiring or have hired for such leaders.

Surprising? Not really. Most leaders aren’t trained to lead organizations in a remote environment, let alone a hybrid workforce. Experience managing remote employees doesn’t qualify a leader to manage the nuances and operational considerations of an entire organization that would commonly arise.

Regardless of the size of your company, the pulse of your organization – your culture, defines the essence of who you are and what you stand for. You want to get it right when undergoing that kind of transition.

Through trials and tribulations, as organizations have been trying to figure it out, there’s always room to improve and learn. Not just to maintain your company culture, but to amplify its meaning in a remote environment. So it can be felt and not forgotten.

An article by HRD shared an ongoing study by Dr. Alex Lovell, Director of Research and Assessment at O.C. Institute and is evaluating several ways workplace culture is being impacted by COVID-19.

Specifically, cultures that met their “thrive” threshold were those who best responded to the potentially damaging effects of COVID-19 compared to those who didn’t, across aggregated organizational metrics.

See graph below.

While there may be difficulty in measuring the impact on workplace culture still being in a pandemic, there are ideas to consider now to remind employees what they loved about your organization pre-COVID.

The in-person interaction we know is wildly important since it helps build trust and rapport with others. Until these are possible again, maintaining relationships across the organization at all levels is vital.

Here are some other ideas to maintain a thriving culture in a remote environment:

CONNECTION! Look beyond the Zoom check-in’s and calls and make sure both leaders and employees are maintaining a strong connection across all levels of the organization. I’ve heard organizations implementing virtual games and tournaments employees can participate in.

Hold regular, virtual coffee chats with various leaders and employees to engage all levels of the organization. Get creative to ensure the connection is maintained.

Purpose & Meaning – remind employees of the bigger why behind your business. No story is too small or insignificant to share. How can you draw the curtains to your organization and remind your employees of its greater purpose and meaning? Can you share it regularly to serve as a reminder instead of a one-time memo over the holidays while you’re making your rounds of “Thank You’s” for the year?

Culture Ambassadors & Committee’s– identify employees who can serve as an ambassador or be part of a culture committee. It’s one of the best ways to be the “boots on the ground” and hear first hand from employees what they’re looking for.

They can also communicate upcoming changes and share ideas on behalf of the organization to get preliminary, firsthand feedback from employees.

These are particularly useful for global organizations to help foster connections and identify cultural differences across other locations.

Relate & Support – by now, this may sound obvious and a tad overcommunicated, however, it’s worth the reminder when most are experiencing Zoom and COVID fatigue. Look for ways to relate to your employees to understand what they may be going through. How can you relate? Offer support that’s meaningful to THEM. Not how you think they should be supported.

This isn’t to suggest to take on the role of a licensed professional and go beyond the qualifications of a people leader. It’s simply being human and taking the time to connect with your employees on deeper levels.

Look to have meaningful conversations with your people. This is especially important in a remote environment. It’s not about how often you’re connecting with your employees but how you’re using the time with them that matters. What do those conversations look like?

When you have a strong company culture, thriving in the most challenging of times becomes easier with the right intentions and effort. The chances of your workplace culture not falling apart becomes higher when leadership and HR were doing it right before a crisis.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

During times of uncertainty and crisis, how do you ensure your workplace culture thrives in a remote environment?

Let me know in the comments below.

To your success, safety and thriving culture!

Lisa 💖

For more ways to connect, join The Essence of Leadership Facebook group! It’s free, your boss won’t be invited (unless they’re a people-first leader) and you’ll learn something. 😉

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