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How Managers Can Create a Work-from-Home Culture That Will Drive Success

July 21, 2020 McKenna Montenegro

With many people fully transitioning to working from home full time, there has been a significant change in workplace culture at many organizations. It’s more important than ever for leaders to adapt and manage employees appropriately in this new reality. In order to reach—or surpass—levels of productivity from before the pandemic, we must all make adjustments to how we create this new workplace culture and find balance within it.

Culture is one of the more vital elements within an organization and can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful transition to working from home. In fact, company culture has been attributed to improvements in employee turnover, productivity, and satisfaction levels. Having a strong, inclusive culture where all employees can realize their full potential and value, both in the current reality and in the future coming out of this, is important during times of crisis. Additionally, the need for agile, empathetic, and collaborative teams within the organization is equally as important as we face the impressive (and at times unrealistic) integration of work and life more than ever before. This complete integration has a significant impact on everyone—however, it may look and feel very different for each person. Now that we have largely remote workforces, the way we build and support this company culture should shift as well, to be more inclusive of virtual collaboration and changed expectations about how we can work together.

Here are five ways leaders can create a work-from-home culture that will help drive success:

1. Find Ways to Be Social

How comfortable employees are being social is a big indication of how a company’s culture is working. Communication between team members is crucial for companies and losing that skill while working from home could be an issue. This is where successful management comes into play. Providing opportunities for employees to be social is key for building teams and making sure the entire team remains motivated. Encourage use of different technologies, platforms, and modes of remote communication and meeting type. This will help keep all kinds of employees socially engaged and motivated within their comfort level and ability as they navigate this transition.

One of the drawbacks of working from home is that spontaneous chatting or team-building is hard to come by. Managers can help make things easier by scheduling time for this type of socializing. Companies including Novartis, Uber, and Medtronics use trivia as a way to help coworkers socialize. If you had any office traditions that your team practiced, try to digitally continue them or start new ones that work well over video calls.

2. Be Open for Communication

With communication becoming more complicated, making clear that there’s an open line of communication between managers and their team is so important. If you have an open-door policy at the office, make sure that stays true when you’re working remotely. Not only does this show a consistent company culture, but it helps improve productivity by encouraging discussion between team members. Stay innovative—if emails are bogging down the team, establish a new norm for easier live and collaborative communication on certain topics/discussions, such as a message board or team site. Failure to communicate can lead to confusion, projects not getting finished, and general dysfunction.

Chances are, employees are going to have more questions than usual as they try and adjust to working separately from their team. Making clear to them that questions are welcome makes it easier to get things done. One-on-one meetings and full team conversations can be utilized to make sure that questions and concerns can be brought up in both smaller and group settings.

3. Stay Positive

One of the obvious benefits of having a strong company culture is the positive impact it has on employees’ mentalities. As a manager, staying positive and authentic during difficult situations can do a lot for your team’s well-being at work. There are a lot of ways you can help uplift your coworkers that already may be part of your company culture. Take time to show gratitude for their hard work, celebrate wins together, and remain optimistic even while acknowledging gaps, areas of opportunity, or hardship. Not only will you see a difference in their mood, but you might even notice an improvement in their quality of work as well.

4. Collaborate

Similar to staying social while working remotely, collaboration helps keep people connected and makes working on a project a little easier. Even if it’s just getting another team member to look over your work, collaboration creates a stronger product. Sharing ideas, even virtually, can bring different voices to the table and might help you improve something you’re working on.

Collaboration is a great way to allow your team members to show their strengths. Maybe one of your team members excels in reporting, while another is a very strong writer. Why not have them collaborate to build a stronger final product? It’s obviously harder to collaborate virtually compared to in-person, but there are great resources to help. Using Google Docs or a virtual whiteboard can result in improved work quality and a more cohesive team.

5. Encourage New Ideas

This change is new for everyone and it’s as good a time as any to try new things. Talk with your team about suggestions they have on topics including learning opportunities, process changes, and other improvements to help the team.  Encouraging team members to contribute to the team dynamics allows for innovation and the improvement of aspects of working that you might not have known needed changing.

Having trust in your team members and having them trust you is crucial in building stronger relationships. Allowing new ideas on your team can go as far as to change how the company as a whole operates. Using this time to improve your day-to-day routine can often bring some much-needed change to your team.

Leaders have a responsibility to inspire and engage their teams in ways that support them and create better business outcomes. We are operating in a world deeply affected by tragedy and hardship right now, as we deal with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, continued social injustices, and as we manage remote teams in ways we have never taken on before. By trying to create a successful work-from-home culture, we can rise to the challenges posed by these uncertain times and create the culture our people deserve.

Read our other COVID-19-related content for more critical resources for leaders rising to the challenge of leading in times of change and transition.

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