Video-conferencing, online collaboration, instant messaging. Although our colleagues have shifted from a meter away to the click of a button, our capacity to connect has never been greater. But prior to lockdown, how effectively were your employees actually communicating? Whether working remotely or together inside an office, your workplace culture will define your employee engagement, productivity and retention. So how do you create a strong working environment, regardless of distance?
1. Make people visible
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. Enforced isolation has emphasised our need to connect, but it’s vital to connect with the right people. So how does a large organisation, with thousands of employees, create that vital connection between two individuals? The first step is to make everyone visible to each other at all times. Use a search function or a company directory to help make those anonymous individuals in your workspace accessible to everyone. Make the right people reachable.
2. Provide the right tools
Effective communication relies on effective technology. We’re blessed to be in an era that surrounds us with intuitive and efficient solutions to a whole host of problems. The downside to this is that the number of apps, platforms, logins and technologies becomes overwhelming and using them all individually can actually harm efficiency and productivity, the very reason we use them in the first place. Technological solutions are only truly effective when implemented well. Look for technology solutions that integrate with your existing systems and think about how you can streamline the technology your company uses to make sure it’s working for you, not against you.
3. Cultivate connections
In large organisations, silos are inevitable as people retreat into the spaces they feel most comfortable and these can become even more apparent when working remotely. What measures do you have in place to eliminate them? Diversity and inclusion are essential to healthy workplace culture, but they are also reliant on the elimination of bias. Is your workplace culture constructed by pre-conceived notions of who you think might work well together? Try setting up remote collaborative projects which allow employees to choose to work with someone they don’t normally work with. By trying to connect your entire organisation, you’re democratising the workplace. You’re empowering individuals to directly choose their connections in their organisation while making sure those connections are inclusive. If done well, you will enable individuals to subvert bias and forge inclusive and diverse relationships on their own terms.
4. Show recognition
Do you truly value your workforce? If so, what measures do you have in place to identify who is helping who? A truly engaged and productive workforce means extracting the potential of everyone and this can be particularly hard while working remotely. During this remote working period, make sure you are able to identify your introverted achievers as well as the extroverts. An extroverted personality will always have something to learn from an introvert, and vice-versa. Use this principle to encourage an open dialogue through recognition where every voice is heard. A knowledge-sharing environment that openly connects people will have visibility over everyone’s contributions.
5. Promote personal connections
Connections in the workplace shouldn’t simply be fixed to the workplace. Creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued also means bonding on a personal level. While meet-ups and mentoring are often framed around work projects, it’s vital to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to thrive. Identify the common interests within your team and host virtual events around these interests. Online art clubs, yoga sessions and book clubs are a few of the many ideas you could try to weave into a Friday afternoon to encourage personal connections while working remotely. An environment where people actually like each other will always be a more productive one. Does your workplace culture breed colleagues or friendships?
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. Use this period of enforced isolation to understand the type of culture you’ve instilled and take appropriate action. If necessity is the mother of invention, then use the present crisis to upgrade your workplace culture. Whether we like it or not, remote working has forced us to interact, so let’s not waste this valuable opportunity.