Your workforce are deflated, your once buzzy office culture diminished. Zoom fatigue, endless Slack chat and the loss of real-life interaction have many employees flagging.
Working from home and the onslaught of pandemic doom isn’t helping employee motivation to push the needle on a new project or set creative juices flowing for new ideas. Especially when the uphill sprint to the holidays seems like a marathon.
So, what’s your strategy?
We turned to a few people who always seem to bounce out of bed no matter what, asked them how they drive office culture to unlock their motivational methods for success:
Cordy Griffiths is CEO of tech agency Ballou, bringing in revenue of more than £1m a year and working with clients like Zendesk and Mozilla. They have offices in Berlin, Paris, and London. Over the course of her career, Cordy’s clients have included Expedia, Egencia, Trivago, HotelTonight, and developed Hotels.com’s presence across Europe and Latin America. In her time at Google, she worked on the launch of Google Street View.
Cordy says: “Right now it’s a case of keeping all the balls in the air without dropping one. Office culture is one of them. We want all employees to be happy.
“Having a positive company culture has always been vital for me and since Covid-19 we’ve instituted various measures to keep the culture alive. When you are working in isolation at home small challenges can rapidly feel unsurmountable if you’re having a bad day.”
Introduce added benefits
“I upgraded our Employee Assistance Program to give our employees and their spouses or partners access to counseling. The whole lockdown process made us realize the importance of the casual coffee, the watercooler moment and the quick check-in to our office culture, and how important it all is to mental well-being is. We’re running wellbeing mental health Zoom calls to help people spot signs in a colleague who might be struggling.”
We banned Whatsapp between colleagues. it’s too easy to talk work after hours. Save it until morning.
Keep employee conversation positive
“We are also careful about over-sharing potentially worrying information; there is enough unsubstantiated rumor flying around at the moment, so we try to be reassuring but realistic. We’re all navigating uncharted waters.”
Person vs work life tech
“In an effort to help our teams demarcate their home and work lives, which can get blurred when continually working from home, we banned WhatsApp messaging for work.”
“It’s too easy to involve someone in a work issue after hours when you’re using a messenger app. Save it until the morning.”
Strong brand values
“We started from a good place in that we had built up very robust brand values, and we live them every day with the result that it was easier for us to keep up the momentum once coronavirus struck. So my advice would be to develop or maintain strong, actionable brand values, so your teams feel supported, heard, and safe.”
Cordy’s golden nugget
“Think before you speak. The temptation is to share too much in an effort to keep everyone informed, but it’s important you think about whether what you’re sharing is helpful to people or useful to them. It is important to stay calm but realistic.”
Nikki Thorpe, People Operations Manager at the workforce management platform, Planday starts every day with a team catch up call and believes increased connectivity and positive communication is key.
More regular check ins with employees
“Keeping in touch with your employees and caring for their mental health and balance is every bit as important as measuring the productivity and success of the tasks they have to complete. “Start every day with a catch-up call. Do you know where everyone is at?”
“Maybe you’ve got a person in your team whose kids are not at school and finds getting the job done a challenge or lives in perpetual fear of them bursting into the conference call. Or maybe your team has an extrovert who’s now living alone, struggling with the lack of contact with the outside world. These are all very real and very normal human reactions, and there are many mental health charities and support agencies that have stepped up their ability to help right now. Checking in on people every day with a simple “are you ok?” can go a long way to making sure your best asset — your people — can bounce back from the challenge of the coronavirus and make your business even stronger on the other side.”
Have a strict agenda
“The best thing you can do to keep making progress as everyone works from home is try to keep the routine as normal as possible. While the agenda for your meeting in the office might be fluid — or even something you’ll sort out with people if you run into them in the kitchen or coffee line — keeping things structured is vital right now for the home office culture.”
“A short, sharp agenda — maybe with a Slack channel where everyone lists what they’re working on each day — will help keep the focus and normalize (as best you can) the process of having everyone work from home.”
Be transparent, circulate next steps
“A lot can happen in a team meeting, especially if the way you do business is changing quickly as a result of COVID-19. When you’re working remotely, it can be tough to keep up with what is a general discussion about ideas versus deliverables your team is responsible for right now.
“More than ever, good note-taking and communication with your team is vital to getting the job done. Follow up with clear instructions about who is responsible for what and by when. By keeping track of these things and keeping in touch with people along the way, it will be easier to make sure your team’s progress continues while you’re working remotely.”
Virtual social events
“Social teams are special teams, and if your business is used to getting together after work for a drink, that shouldn’t change if you’re in self-isolation. Get everyone together via videoconference and bring a drink of choice and have a chat and a laugh as you normally would. Or maybe you could try taking people on a virtual walk — if you can get out of the house — and share your neighborhood or your favorite park with your colleagues from your phone. Sure, it’s a bit weird — but so are the times we are living in!”
Peter Ryding, CEO mentor and founder of the HRD Pathfinders Club and VIC (your Virtual Interactive Coach), believes getting through the COVID-19 winter is a time where teams can learn to thrive, not just survive.
Connect to employees with time and care
“Right now, ‘people’ are the single most powerful lever any leader can pull and should be at the heart of every organization’s plans. Connect regular but include non-working activity such as online book clubs, office parties, birthday celebrations. This will help keep you positive and boost general morale for your team BUT get rid of zoom fatigue. If your employees have that, you are not using zoom properly. Calls need to be more frequent, shorter and managers need to think ahead of the call about what it is exactly the call aims to achieve.”
More education and coaching
“Coaching is the most powerful business intervention ever invented and has traditionally only been given to the bosses. It is vital that all leaders and all managers acquire and apply basic coaching skills for the mental well-being and productivity of the team and individuals that work for them. Fortunately, even better than that, the democratization of coaching to ALL employees is available through AI-driven emulated coaching tools.”
More skills and awareness for mental health
“When you really understand mental health, you can spot and intervene to help yourself, your colleagues or your family.”
managers must be guardians and champions of the company purpose, values, culture and promote the employer brand
More championing and role modelling
“With less exposure to head office and a wide variety of employees and signs on the wall about “Safety First” and “Delight your customer” there is danger that the office culture and EVP (Employee Value Proposition) gets diluted with less bonding, corps d’esprit, and in the long term less loyalty and retention of talent. So, managers must be guardians and champions of the company purpose, values, culture and promote the employer brand and so the Employees Value Proposition.
Differentiate between what you can and can’t control
“Focus mainly on what you can Control and don’t stress over what you are only Aware.”
Have a radar to spot issues early
“Symptoms of mental wellbeing? Distracted? Tired? Emails at 1am? Missing calls, disheveled, gloomy or less well-groomed than normal.
Signs of loneliness, isolation, or disconnectedness? Remote workers may work alone at home; however, do they feel “lonely”? Listen for no mention of friends, going out, social calls, etc.
Abuse of trust – Beware, sadly some employees may abuse your trust . So “TRUST and verify!”
Poor Engagement and performance – can easily develop out of sight without being spotted – so pay more attention to mood, diligence, delivery, performance versus KPIs.
less than 10% of employees are working too little and that 37% of employees are working harder.
Beware the remote employees drift to individual versus team mindset – it’s very easy when working remotely to mentally drift towards an individual focus and way from the team. So beware and compensate by consciously focusing on team communications and activities.
What working environment does each employee work in at home?
A dedicated room, desk, part of a kitchen table? Kids at home? Are other people in all day? Distractions? Poor/shared internet connection. Old devices. Out of date software? House clutter? Criticism? Bullying or abuse?
Working hard enough – or too hard? Despite early concerns that many employees would get lazy working out of sight at home, research shows that less than 10% of employees are working too little and that 37% of employees are working harder. Beware ‘HomeWorker Bias’ impacting your judgment.”
However, best-selling author and keynote speaker on wellbeing Ian Tucker thinks most businesses are missing a major component in their workforce planning right now. He says keeping up with your colleagues in 2020 needs to mean more, to achieve more nowadays to keep the spark of positive office culture alive.
He told UNLEASH: “My book, Your Simple Path, actually went to Amazon No1 twice because this year sales have gone through the roof. People aren’t happy at work, office culture has changed and they are seeking solutions!
“Before the pandemic, most of my work was centered around people at a midlife crossroads, overwhelmed with their careers and wanted to re-evaluate; this year, it’s the big corporate businesses who are coming to me for help. They’re overwhelmed, their staff isn’t motivated, and they don’t know what to do. They’re all fighting a battle around stress and anxiety and finding it difficult to hone in on the right way to respond.”
Ian says: “I’ve read lots of crib sheets on keeping staff happy in pandemic, but most misses a key component. It’s not human.
The advice is about drinking water, finding good home-work spaces, dedicated hours. People claim to have empathy for the enforced situation that the employee finds themselves in. But it goes deeper than that! The main trigger for stress is the fear of the unknown. It’s the fear of something we can’t control. And this is something we can’t predict. No one knows what’s around the corner. So the first thing is to be human with people! Acknowledge your feelings and add emotion. Monitor the empathetic connection and the language we use. Human interaction is the missing element. Include that in your communication.”
Limit the number of people on calls so they feel a bigger part of the conversation.
“Technology is a lifeline at the moment, but it can easily tip into a negative. We’ve seen that with social media and the saturation of new platforms can exhaust employees. My view is to limit the number of people on calls, so they feel a bigger part of the conversation. We need new technology and platforms to keep us connected, but if companies can personalize their tools and make it feel more meaningful, that will help improve performance.
Ian’s golden nugget
“Companies are under more pressure to survive and hit targets but remember that people perform better when they are taken care of. Don’t forget the human behind the data and behind the technology. In a world where we’re all fighting for survival, it can be easy to focus on the numbers, not the people. But the more you focus on the people right now, the numbers will follow.”