HR professionals devote their careers to building a positive culture in the workplace. They understand that productivity and wellbeing are inextricably linked. From the floorplan to the desk chairs, every little detail matters when promoting a safe and positive office. During the pandemic, however, we have lost much of that control. Many of your employees are no longer commuting to the office, depriving them of physical exercise that is critical to improving concentration. They are no longer collaborating in person, potentially sapping creativity. And for many folks, the office represented a primary source of socializing. While working from home has its perks, general anxiety has become more widespread, with nearly 70 percent of remote employees reporting symptoms of burnout.
In the past, HR departments had countless creative ways to keep morale high, from company outings to parties to team-building activities. None of these are possible when everyone is at home—at least not in the traditional way. But there are still ways you can keep your people happy, healthy, and safe without them ever stepping foot in the office.
5 Ways To Create a Positive Culture in the Workplace During this Pandemic
Let’s face it—we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We are stressed out just going to the grocery store, let alone preparing a big presentation. With millions of children conducting virtual learning, workers are having more trouble than ever maintaining a work–life balance. The first step is to show empathy and be available. Make yourself available to talk with your staff about their fears and answer questions. This is especially important for employees who live alone and lack a support network at home. Recognize the impact of isolation and loneliness by routinely checking in with your team not just about their work, but about their personal lives. Be aware of any changes you may see in their personalities or production as that may be a sign they are struggling.
Offer Online Training
The last few months have seen an explosion of remote communication tools like Zoom and Slack. While tech-savvy workers have adapted to video conferencing, screen sharing, and other productivity tools with aplomb, many workers are struggling. On top of the burdens of the pandemic, these employees have the added stress of figuring out conferencing tools they are not familiar with, often while alone. They should not be made to feel ashamed. We’re all in this together. Organizations that are succeeding during the pandemic are also ones that are supporting all of their workers with online training tools so no one feels left behind.
Check in With Your Health Plan and EAP
Now more than ever before, it is vital for people to have access to professional counseling services beyond what is available in the workplace. This is where your health insurance and employee assistance program (EAP) comes in. What services do they offer for employees working remotely? What behavioral health support do they offer? Reading through health insurance fine print is the last thing workers want to do, so be their champion by explaining exactly what your health insurance plan offers. Be sure to provide all relevant websites, phone numbers, and email addresses.
Plan Social Events
For some employees, the workplace is the primary source of socializing. Without any more holiday parties, after-work drinks, and other social staples, feelings of loneliness can become much worse. It may not be possible to recreate the company softball team, but fun social events are still possible and very much essential to foster camaraderie. Organizations are finding very creative ways to lighten things up, from Zoom fashion shows to pizza parties to dressed-up pet contests to group exercise classes.
Encourage Workers to Use Personal Days and Vacation Time
With employees homebound and not planning vacations, some feel awkward taking days off. But personal time isn’t just beneficial for workers; employers need them to be fresh, rested, and focused to remain productive. Burn out is never helpful. In a time when the distinction between work and home life is blurred, it’s critical to remind your employees that they are entitled to their same benefits as always.
Show Gratitude and Reward Top Performers
We all need a little encouragement from time to time. This was true in the office, and it’s definitely true with a predominantly remote workforce. Indeed, one study found that some 64% of workers say that employee recognition and appreciation is more important while working from home. But only 1 in 5 employees say that their company has implemented new ways to recognize excellent performance since the pandemic began. This is precisely why Woliba offers a comprehensive package of employee recognition tools, including company-wide leaderboards for top performers and a robust rewards program.
“Working from home can be an isolating and disorienting experience for most of today’s workforce who are used to seeing their peers every day at the office,” says Hani Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Snappy Gifts, a company that works with employers including Salesforce, Uber, Zoom and Deloitte to provide employee-recognition gifts. “The feeling of loneliness increases as regular gestures such as smiling to each other, saying ‘thanks’ from the other side of the room, and celebrating special moments together are lacking from our day to day.”
With employees working on average an hour or more per day compared to pre-pandemic levels, it’s a simple fact that more recognition is required. Gifts, bonuses, and other monetary awards are always appreciated, of course, but even simple acknowledgements go a long way, such as calling out individual employees in emails or video conferences for their hard work.
Build and Maintain Trust
When you are working remotely, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the organization. This lack of control can translate into anxiety over job security. This is why companies need to remain transparent at all times. While we can’t pack employees into auditoriums for town halls anymore, we can use online tools to ensure everyone is kept abreast of organization-wide changes. A recent McKinsey & Company analysis identified four ways to maintain trust during the pandemic. These include,
Make it credible: Give employees air time through virtual town halls, pulse surveys, listening tours, and story sharing. Have trusted leaders speak directly to employees about what they are going through. Ask questions constantly and use this data to respond to employee concerns.
Make it feasible. Prioritize timely action instead of waiting for transformative solutions. For example, create digital channels that allow workers to engage with each other directly rather than relying on a centralized hub. Tools like Slack and Zoom are a great start. Employees should be able to get in touch with each other digitally as easily as they once did using the office phone.
Make it sustainable. Develop a plan to make workplace changes permanent, even as employees return to the physical office. While some things will get back to normal, other aspects will not. Studies show that employees love the flexibility of remote work, and the ability to work from home will remain highly requested. Ensure that employees know that while the crisis has no designated endpoint, neither does support from the company.
Make it personal. Finally, let employees stay in control of their career progression by tailoring interventions to individual contexts and evolving needs. The pandemic has forced workers into new and strange rolls, and job descriptions have changed dramatically. Nurturing a culture of job crafting, wherein employees can modify aspects of their job to fit their own needs, is critical to maintaining morale and a company-wide sense of purpose.
Remember, we are all in this together. If your organization works hard to build a culture of wellbeing, you and your coworkers will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. You’ve got this!