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Future-proofing your corporate culture

Posted September 22, 2020
Future-proofing your corporate culture

It’s no secret that a strong company culture leads to higher employee engagement, which in turn has a measurable impact on improving customer satisfaction.

Many companies equate corporate culture — which encompasses a business’s work environment, values, social makeup, vision and beliefs — with in-person interaction and activities. But, at a time when many employees are still working from home, many of the strategies enterprises have previously used to promote engagement and company culture may require some re-engineering.

And, time is of the essence. Employees already miss a lot of things about office life, including receiving help from managers, updates on the state of the business, and collaborating with colleagues face-to-face, according to a recent TELUS International poll. The net result being that while there are advantages to working from home, from reducing the spread of COVID-19 to providing more schedule flexibility, half of respondents (51%) said they are feeling “less connected to their company culture” during this time.

Businesses face a challenge. How do they adapt the way they work, while also maintaining a sense of normalcy for employees? A few simple changes may be all it takes to keep employees inspired and engaged.

Help your employees optimize their work-from-home life

For a good number of employees, the idea of working from home has long been a fantasy. Now that it has become reality, some are finding it lacking. Interruptions and distractions, a decrease in human interaction and a sense of being “out of the loop” can hinder your team’s ability to perform.

It’s up to companies to support their employees while they navigate this terrain, from helping them optimize their home office, to offering development opportunities, to providing emotional support.

One practical way that some companies are ensuring their teams are prepared to work from home is by offering a stipend for work-related equipment and upgrades, like a new desk or office chair. For example, early in the pandemic, Shopify gave its employees $1,000 to help them make the transition to remote work.

Another way to make it easier for your team to be productive working from home is by offering clear guidance on how they can best structure their workday. At TELUS International, we recognize the importance of keeping a holistic view of well-being. In addition to offering team members tips on boosting productivity, we also understand the value of downtime and encourage team members to create a separation between work and home life to establish and maintain a sense of balance.

Many employees are also eager to continue learning new skills and growing professionally while working at home. Our survey found that 78% of respondents value opportunities like corporate learning and development programs, including online courses (62%) and professional development seminars (49%). As such, it’s important for employers to not lose sight of finding ways to meet these needs in a virtual environment.

Promote both ongoing and spontaneous communication

One of the downsides to having remote teams is that employees are no longer having spontaneous chats beside the water cooler or while passing each other in the hall. More than half of American employees (57%) report missing small talk with colleagues.

To recreate these valuable interactions and keep the lines of communication open at all times, some companies are taking measures like setting up meetings with loose agendas to get people talking. Others, like Microsoft, have created a “culture channel” on their internal chat program to provide “virtual water cooler hangouts.” The company is also encouraging its developers to share common experiences, such as by taking walks “together” during team check-in calls.

At TELUS International, teams use an internal global social network called Cosmos. Launched this past spring, the social app allows employees to stay in contact with their colleagues around the globe, as well as share stories, peer-to-peer recognition and engage in fun non-work related activities to encourage overall wellness. In general, facilitating communication — however you do it — is key.

Boost morale with celebrations

Employee happy hours and get-togethers may not look like they used to, but by using videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet, companies can try to recreate the experience. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, job search site Handshake has been holding virtual talent shows, trivia nights and “Ask Me Anything” sessions.

Meanwhile, New York-based PR firm North 6th Agency Inc. has established a “culture committee” to explore ideas like a virtual book club and music playlist that can be shared among employees to keep them engaged. Others are embracing Slack channels for just about every topic in order to improve remote communication and camaraderie.

Moreover, if your organization has a CSR program, offering virtual volunteer opportunities to enable employees to give back to their communities can be key in keeping them engaged and inspired. By way of example, at TELUS International Philippines, team members have volunteered their time to translate children’s books and create storytelling videos. And in El Salvador, team members are providing virtual mentoring for afterschool programs to support students who are homeschooling.

Evolving to a remote work culture can be challenging, but by offering your employees occasions to thrive both personally and professionally, minimizing social isolation, and constantly looking for additional opportunities to support their overall well-being, employers can bolster enthusiasm for their business and keep their culture going strong.

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