Creating a Healthy Virtual Work Culture
An asynchronous chorus singing happy birthday around a cake decked with candles in the cafeteria is oddly satisfying. Plates of cake are passed around and for those few minutes, you forget about work and professional hierarchies to just celebrate and crack jokes with your colleagues. During the pandemic, many have bemoaned the loss of these light-hearted moments at work as celebrating milestones on video calls is not the same. However, right now, it’s the only way to stay connected.
Since our homes turned into workspaces, employees have missed the fun work culture that made their day extra special. However, the question we need to ask ourselves is — how much of your work culture is dependent on physical workspaces? Sure, the bonhomie shared over coffee, snacks and a game of foosball may be irreplaceable. However, is work culture restricted to these mediums? In reality, communication, flexibility, transparency and empathy are key to defining a company’s work culture. Thankfully, none of them require you to be in the office physically. Ultimately, it’s our focus on employees that defines the work culture of an organization.
Remote work culture has been a big question mark for company leaders over the past year. What is a virtual company culture and how do you build culture virtually for those working from home? Let us break down the ingredients of a successful virtual work culture for you:
1. Identify important employee experiences
Work and productivity are an important part of employee experience, but it’s the playful banter and encouraging smiles that really makes people show up to work every day. Working from home and company culture need not be two separate entities if we create a fun remote work culture, replete with moments that boost morale at work. Identify these moments which enhance employee experience, be it birthdays, promotions, feedback sessions, townhalls or applauding them for good work. It’s easy to recreate these special moments via video calls and make employees feel valued, especially in times where they may find themselves stuck in a rut.
2. Focus on communication
It’s no longer possible to walk up to your colleague and chat about everything under the sun or have an impromptu discussion. Surprise meetings and huddles had a charm of their own in the pre-pandemic era. However, in a world that thrives on virtual communication, it is essential to plan meetings around your employees’ schedules. You can build a strong virtual company culture through multiple modes of communication — emails, office groups etc. Do a regular check-in with your team members as they may feel isolated from their work or company goals in general. Apart from building a virtual work culture, it makes your employees feel loved and cared for.
3. Have empathy
The pandemic has changed everybody’s lifestyle and routine. Some prefer to start early in the morning to make time for chores during the day while others start late after taking care of personal commitments. It is important to empathize and understand that everyone is running on a different schedule and trying their best to stay in-sync with their colleagues to maintain a steady flow of work. One of the best virtual work environment ideas is to enable flexible working hours to avoid compromising on work or personal commitments. It ensures a healthy work-life balance and enhances your remote work culture.
4. Go digital with wellbeing programs
Why should employee wellbeing take a backseat just because they are working from home? The beauty of WellTech platforms lies in their ability to be accessed from anywhere. Whether you’re working from home, office or a staycation in the mountains, digital platforms allow you to track your wellbeing journey and participate in activities from anywhere. Therefore, the yoga session that employees used as an excuse to bond with colleagues can be shifted to an online mode, so they can stay connected with peers and harness a healthy virtual work culture. Apart from building a strong virtual company culture, it allows employees to personalize their wellbeing goals and join sessions as per their convenience.
5. Don’t forget to socialize
The biggest drawback of the pandemic has been a loss of our social lives. Cooped up inside our homes, friendly hugs and office parties have become a thing of the past, the latter being an important factor for establishing a fun work culture. Thanks to a multitude of video conferencing apps, hosting virtual parties and creating a burgeoning virtual work culture is not a tough nut to crack. Some of the best remote work culture ideas include hosting virtual happy hours, team lunches, coffee breaks and karaoke along with group meditation or yoga sessions. Collaborating on different projects also helps employees socialize and learn more about other departments rather than working in a bubble.
6. Schedule a meet-up
Let’s admit it. The office experience is hard to replicate at home and lack of social wellbeing is a huge part of that. While a company’s work culture doesn’t rely on being physically present in the office, there are several people who miss running into colleagues while getting coffee or bouncing off ideas in the meeting room. As organizations move to a hybrid workplace model with a strong remote work culture, some have a special mandate to stay connected and work in tandem with company goals. For instance, McKinsey is known for its ‘Super Social Fridays’ where employees are required to come to office once a month for a day packed with fun lunches, townhalls and happy hours.
7. Create a level playing field
As many companies opt for a hybrid work model, employees fear that those who don't come to office will miss out on socializing opportunities that are essential to secure personal ties leading to promotions or important projects. This is detrimental to a happy remote work culture. The power of physical presence is undeniable and those who mingle with bosses on-site may receive preferential treatment. To create a virtual work culture that’s inclusive and non-discriminatory at all levels, those working from home should not be side-lined. This system is a boon for several working parents and those with caregiving responsibilities.
With these tips, building a good remote work culture will be easy, no matter where your employees work from. If your organization has tried something new in pursuit of a vibrant virtual work culture, tell us in the comments.
All images sourced from Shutterstock