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Re-engaging employees after COVID-19 lockdowns

What can we do to keep employees feeling like they are part of a community while working remotely?


October 9, 2020
By Mina Movasseli

Topics
(Halfpoint/Adobe Stock)

As we continue into isolation, we are seeing many companies choose to keep their employees working remotely.

But what happens to the workplace culture that has been heavily integrated into a company’s identity? Is there room for it in remote work?

How about for those that are back to work with physical distancing in place?

Protecting culture

Well, first we need to be aware that the focus seems to be on scaling — or keeping companies afloat.

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Of course this is important, but the issue becomes a lack of culture. Since not too long ago, a company’s culture was one of the main reasons why people decided to work for that organization, hoping that it would be a place where they can feel like they belong, a place of community where they have shared interests and a mission.

What we need to know is that this idea of a community is not new — our mind is actually programmed to be part of one, to be surrounded by those who believe in similar values and who bring different skill sets to the table to help one another.

If you dismantle this community by separating interactions — vital for relationship building — then it’s as if a member of another village has come to trade goods and resources, rather than a team member in the community working together on a shared mission.

This will create a lack of togetherness and be more of a transactional feel.

Notice your employees

So, it is important for companies to not lose sight of culture being a key ingredient, because once organizations start to do better and things start to open up, those who don’t feel like they belong to anything might decide to leave.

Wouldn’t you if there wasn’t much of a difference between Company A and B? Because working from home every day and only interacting through video chats lacks the components for one to feel like they belong.

Sure, people can still see facial expressions over video but as Simon Sinek, author of Together Is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, recently mentioned — we build relationships in between meetings and at the water cooler.

It is those simple hellos and asking how one’s day is where relationships begin to be built.

Surprisingly, it is not during meetings that we really get to know others and their habits.

For example, if someone you see every day looks a bit tired or frustrated, you would ask them if they are OK. That simple gesture can allow them to feel cared for and seen.

That is where relationships are built and how you see what kind of human beings you are working with.

This simple act of noticing if the other person is not seeming well can create a sense of care and humanity in the culture and in workplace relationships.

Of course, there are major upsides to remote work for certain organizations, such as an increase in productivity as there is less chitchat in the workplace; an increase in sales; or an increase in mental well-being, especially from those that had bad managers who were watching everything they did.

But going to the opposite extreme of just being remote is not the answer either, as culture is responsible for keeping a shared vision within the organization.

Maintaining community

So, the question becomes: what can we do to keep employees feeling like they are part of a community whilst working remotely during and after COVID-19?

(Every item below should be done with the necessary measures to keep everyone safe during COVID-19)

  • Monthly in-person lunch meetings: These can include solutions to remote working issues that may arise.
  • Sporting events: Watching a sports event together (if possible) or playing on a sports team. Anyone who is willing will reap the benefits of this and so will the company.
  • Trivia contests: Using information employees want to share with one another, employees have to identify which fact belongs to their co-worker. This can help everyone see how similar and relatable they are, even though they are from a different department or background, as well as help them get to know one another.
  • Scavenger hunts: Can be done around the city or in a park. This can help people feel like they are taking leadership roles and are contributing to their team members’ achievements.
  • Clear face masks: If face masks are still needed, consider providing ones that allow you to see the person’s facial expressions. This is important to building relationships as humans need to see a whole face to feel safe.
  • Celebrate wins: Get together when teams have accomplished something or hit quotas.

We need to remember the importance of keeping human interactions through employee engagement, rather than focusing on how much money we can save on an office space or how productive everyone is.

The long-term growth of a company comes from its internal culture.


Mina Movasseli is a behavioral scientist and founder of The Mindful Blueprint in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to Talent Canada.