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iStock 1282256899
iStock 1282256899

Can company culture be successful when working remotely?

The right digital comms will champion your WFH company culture 

By: Ross McCaw, CEO and founder of OurPeople on the common issues associated with WFH and how communications can save company culture.

The pandemic pushed many businesses to embrace online working, with literally thousands of workers across the UK effectively becoming deskless workers overnight. As a result, a hybrid model of working has been adopted by many businesses, which combines WFH with days of work in the office. With the uncertainty of the pandemic still pressing upon us (despite having fared the worst of it), 64% of employees support these hybrid working models and want them to stay in place. The last year has proven many businesses have the capabilities to function in this way, but adapting things like company culture and systems of employee welfare to this new system of work has presented challenges for management, in particular for businesses that have a combination of desk-less and desk-based workers (like industries such as healthcare, leisure or sport). With this in mind, hybrid working presents two main challenges to company culture: keeping teams connected and keeping employees engaged with company developments.

Striking the balance between regular feedback and not pressuring teams. 

Hybrid working models carry the risk of alienating workers from line managers and colleges, due to a lack of in-person connection on a regular basis. The impact of this alienation can be vast, knocking into productivity, motivation, eventually leading to employees slipping through the net, with issues arising down the line. The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on people’s mental health, with the added stresses of additional family duties, financial strain and continuous uncertainty, checking in on employees mental health should be a huge priority for managers at this time. Having a happier workforce benefits the company but it also benefits company culture, reassuring employees that they are safe in the job they’re in and have the network of support they need to thrive.

Regular meetings and check-ins with teams and one-on-one with team members, should be a priority for all managers at this time. Team meetings, both in person (with all the correct social distancing protocols in place) and digitally, ensure teams are updated with correct and up-to-date information about company protocols, ongoing activity and collective goals. Fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding and support is vital for company culture and improves employee retention in the long run.

One-on-one sessions can be even more valuable for the overall welfare of the team. In these circumstances, people may feel more comfortable discussing more personal views or concerns, often getting right to the heart of the matter. These are also invaluable opportunities to check in with your employee’s mental health and for them to flag any issues they might be experiencing at home or in the office. It’s vital that these personable lines of communication are kept open and utilised regularly. These meetings are an opportunity for managers to receive feedback, discuss company protocols and address any issues that might have been flagged along the way. Using simple digital tools such as recurring meetings in diaries and an effective messaging platform, ensures meetings are scheduled correctly and most importantly, kept to.

Whether at home or in the office, another great way to set the precedent for regular feedback is by using short digital questionnaires, where employees can provide specific, real-time feedback on work processes. A concise survey can help identify and highlight any areas of the business causing blockages, or any procedures that might need tweaking to make them as seamless as possible for teams at home or in the office. It also encourages an “open-door policy”, by speaking openly and frequently about potential issues, creating a channel of communication focused specifically on how managers can better cater to their teams.

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Don’t overwhelm your teams with updates. 

The beauty of more digital working is that communications are often written and recorded, providing centralised database of information regarding the status of various company activities. This centralised block of information is great for all staff members to understand what’s going on in different departments, however, it can also lead to a muddying of communications by overloading individual employees with potentially irrelevant information and causing “update fatigue”.

Throughout 2020, there’s been a growing trend for messages to be conveyed regularly, in smaller bitesize chunks, targeted to the individual. In a way, this format mimics certain elements of social media, by highlighting key updates and information to the right audiences in a digestible, appealing format.

Video is also increasingly replacing traditional written text with 48% of content messages sent on OurPeople being video in 2020 (a 51% increase). Concise, specific communication channels such as these increase overall employee engagement massively, improving efficiency, employee sentiment and even health and safety within a post-pandemic working environment. It’s key to ensure employees feel protected with up-to-date information and accounted for as individuals within their teams, a sentiment that’s only increased in value as more people WFH. Some platforms, like OurPeople, also provide additional insight which allows managers to identify who has and hasn’t engaged with vital content, allowing them to quickly and easily follow up with those they need to, as opposed to sending a follow-up message to the entire group.

With this being said, a centralised database of information such as training and company policy is vital. Utilising and structuring this information in a simple, personalised way helps boost employee engagement and contribute to a collective feeling of purpose. Short digital quizzes on significant information or recent updates encourages personalised training, by flagging knowledge gaps to each individual as opposed to entire teams. This highly personalised, accessible way of training through digital tools, encourages employees to take control of their own progression (allowing them to focus on the element of their work they want to improve on in their own terms), helping to improve individual career progression and overall employee retention.

A hybrid future and the dawn of the right digital comms.

The pandemic has put people’s jobs under a microscope. Working from home takes you away from your colleagues and friends and forces you to focus on the task at hand. In this way company culture is more important now than ever before and clear effective communication has never been more important at work. Utilising the right kind of technology can help people feel listened to and help managers implement change as quickly as possible. WFH is not a challenge to company culture, it can be a way to work with employees in a more personalised way, fostering greater trust and personal bonds within a company. With the right tools, keeping connected isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity for better work streams and happier employees.

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