As social distancing has forced organizations to embrace full-time remote work to keep their people safe and healthy, many of us wonder about the impact on performance and collaboration. But what about the impact on company culture?

While some level of remote work was already relatively common in many industries or functions like sales, not every company was prepared for the sudden transition to a fully remote workforce. For some individuals and teams, it may be the first time they work from home and are physically separated from their colleagues. This can put strain on organizational culture. “You find out what your culture’s really like,” Paul Miller, CEO and co-founder of the Digital Workplace Group, said in an interview with CMSWire about the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace.

Fortunately, many forward-looking companies have been promoting remote teams for years, and have been doing it well. In addition to ensuring your team has the right technology to access what they need to do their job, this is what we can learn from these organizations about how to keep employees engaged:

  1. Let your values guide you

    Your values represent your organization’s beliefs and guide day-to-day behaviors and interactions. They do not go out the window just because you are in different locations. You may need to shift to virtual channels and change the ways you do certain things to adjust to the new realities of COVID-19, but the same values should still underpin everything you say and do, individually and collectively.

  2. Communicate often and humanly

    The key to success as a fully remote team is consistent, transparent communication. Regular updates from leadership as to what’s going on in the organization are critical as the COVID-19 situation unfolds and changes. And empathy is especially important because people are anxious about their safety and the uncertainties this pandemic creates.

  3. Stay visually connected

    Videoconferencing tools like Zoom are critical not only in helping you stay connected to your customers and conduct business, but also in helping you stay close to colleagues. Turn on your camera so you can get face-to-face and much-needed social interaction. Interestingly, the background noise from the home environment, which used to be considered unprofessional, is now bringing people closer together and gives us an opportunity to bond with each other and with clients.

  4. Keep rituals alive – and create new ones

    Working from home can create feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s important to socialize and take steps to lighten things up. Some organizations have created Slack channels where employees can post pictures of their at-home work setups. One of our team members even gave us a much-anticipated Zoom tour of his weekend retreat recently . Some teams are hosting virtual coffee and lunch chats and virtual cocktail hours using apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

While your focus is undoubtedly on maintaining your customer relationships and ensuring your business can operate and survive in this new environment, it is equally important to keep in mind the impact on your people and to focus on keeping them engaged. Organizations with a strong culture will more easily adapt to the new reality and weather the ups and downs, while a not-so-strong culture will make it tougher for an organization to adapt.

Sylvie Askins (Principal/EVP and Chief Strategy Officer) leads KHJ’s “Brand Inside” practice, which recognizes that successful branding starts with an organization’s employees and connects the corporate brand in a meaningful way at every stage of the employment life cycle.

Contact us to start a conversation about your organization’s “Brand Inside”.