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Developing a company culture when working from home

by wrich

By Jennifer Gardner, Head of People, Deliverect

For many, the ability to work from home was often reserved for ad hoc ‘anytime between 8am-8pm’ furniture deliveries, and kids’ mid-day nativity plays only. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed that, leading many organisations to provide flexible working for their employees.

While the initial move to full-time remote working was mandated for many overnight, this abrupt transition followed an already burgeoning trend of employee autonomy. At Deliverect for example, we’ve implemented a hybrid working from home model since the very beginning, whereby our team members are given full control over when they come into the office versus working from home or in another remote location. There are no hard rules. We simply expect our colleagues to know what’s right for them and their department’s priorities. After all, we’re all professionals.

The Government’s latest delay in the easing of lockdown restrictions is an unfortunate indication that the ‘return to normal’ for businesses will likely never happen in full. Having to continually adapt your working model may appear simple, but in reality it’s far more nuanced particularly when addressing organisational culture.

Company culture is an important consideration for business leaders at the moment, as any plans to return to the office in the next month or so have been scuppered. While going back to how things used to be may feel like the right thing to do because it’s familiar, working from home certainly has its advantages. In fact, according to a 2020 study by TalkTalk, a majority (58%) of UK workers feel more productive when at home, leading many companies to the realisation that flexible working will be a necessary offering in order to be competitive in recruiting and retaining talent.

But, how can we continue to help build a bond amongst team members? How do we integrate new employees in a way that enhances the culture we’ve already spent years developing? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when looking to better develop your work from home culture:

STAY CONNECTED

Sometimes it’s good to just talk. Consistent and clear communication in any business is the key to a happy and healthy workforce. As an organisation, we’ve really doubled down on our approach to internal communications. For us, keeping in touch with one another regularly helps to create a sense of cohesion for work projects and boosts the team’s spirit, particularly for those who may be living alone whilst also working from home.

BE AS AMBITIOUS AS EVER

As the economy begins to recover, it’s vital to think about growth ambitions and how your work from home culture will be affected.

At Deliverect we saw this come to life when we found ourselves processing more than one million orders per week in the last year (a 750% increase), as we supported restaurants’ migration to online orders and delivery in the face of lockdown restrictions. It was clear that we needed to scale quickly in order to keep up with demand.

Because of our existing hybrid work from home model, we weren’t constrained to candidates living within close proximity to offices. We’ve been able to expand our pool of potential employees to ensure we get the right person for the right job, no matter where they live. As a result, our team quadrupled from 50 to 200 employees across nine markets over the space of a year.

REMEMBER, FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE EVERYTHING

A 2015 study by the Harvard Business Review found that 33% of hires start looking for a new job within their first six months. This is likely due to not feeling a sense of culture and belonging. Therefore, when it comes to onboarding in an entirely virtual setting, there’s a real need to think outside the box.

Prior to the pandemic, our new hire induction was a two-week in-office programme. Once lockdown came into place, we made sure to revisit every element of our onboarding process to see if it still made sense in a virtual setting, as well as what areas we could improve upon to evoke a warm fuzzy feeling for new joiners from their very first day.

We also understood that while the candidate is the one being interviewed, we also needed to demonstrate why they should want to work with us. The way we interview and make an offer virtually is a huge indicator of how we operate as a business virtually. In essence our onboarding started during the interview process and continued beyond their first day.

KEEP MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING TOP OF MIND

There’s no denying that the pandemic has had a real and sustained impact on people’s wellbeing. While working from home has offered flexibility, it has also emphasised some of the existing challenges of striking that perfect work-life balance. With the commute taken out of the equation, switching off is much easier said than done when there is no clear breaker between the work day and personal life – which can quickly lead to increased stress and burnout.

One way we’ve sought to tackle this is by encouraging our employees to create and stick to concrete boundaries – for example, Wednesday is a strict ‘no internal meetings’ day to help everyone focus on getting priority tasks ticked off of to-do lists.

Try working alongside your employees to agree upon what constitutes reasonable working practices. Having an open company culture means everyone has their say on how to make your business a better place to work.

Beyond the ‘new’ normal – businesses need to begin considering what comes next for remote working, particularly as the practice moves from a ‘nice-to-have’ benefit, to an essential part of any attractive business. Remember to focus on creating a sense of belonging so everyone feels just as connected to your organisation, mission and values as much as they would in a traditional office setting.

 

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