April 21, 2020

Keeping workplace culture when working from home

Even before COVID-19 became a feature of our lives, working from home was starting to become the norm for many workplaces. But given what’s happened with the coronavirus outbreak, working from home has become an imperative. During times like this, it’s important to keep your people healthy, happy and engaged. But how do you keep up morale and maintain workplace culture when your team is working remotely?

The importance of workplace culture

Before we get into the specifics of how to make sure your workplace culture survives remote working it’s probably worth reflecting on why having a workplace culture is so important in the first place. According to Forbes Magazine, that really comes down to three key things:

Identity – culture will help set the values and identity of a company. For instance, if your culture is one in which setting and meeting goals is valued and encouraged, this can help keep employees directed without too much intervention.

Retention – strong company culture attracts and retains better talent. People feel like they belong and are more inclined to stick it out for the long-term.

Image – a good culture where people enjoy themselves and work hard shows in the marketplace – this, in turn, helps build loyal customers or clients.

In short, when culture is right, the rest tends to flow naturally. From an HR perspective, employees are more productive, efficient and engaged. This mindset will give your business the best possible chance of succeeding. But how do you encourage this, particularly when everyone is working remotely? How do you keep employees happy, engaged and productive simultaneously when they’re not in front of you?

Tips for keeping workplace culture alive when people are at home

I’ve been working in human resources for many years and I understand what drives people to work harder and what can turn them off. Ensuring people are engaged and feel a sense of worth and belonging is critical. So when employees are forced to work from home, here are my seven tips to keeping that workplace culture alive.

1. Have written policies ready

In the coming weeks as people settle in and iron out the bugs of working from home this will be an important factor. Having well-written HR policies in place that you can stick to is extremely important. Even more so when people are working remotely – let everyone know what you expect of them when they’re working from home. When do they need to check in with you? What hours do you expect them to work? What should they do if they’ve finished the tasks they’re assigned. Getting this right from the get-go will have a big impact on whether remote working works or fails. And remember there is a WHS requirement to WFH so don’t skip over the logistical requirements or you may have a Workcover claim!

2. Use software and apps to communicate

Don’t rely on email as your main form of conversation. It can be isolating, overtly formal and information can get lost in a sea of inboxes. These days, it’s not hard to find software or apps to keep your workplace humming along. As a minimum, you should make sure you have a good video chat and instant messenger app that everyone knows about and knows how to use. Something as simple as Teams, Slack and Google Hangouts often does the trick. Oh and my big tip? Make sure everyone on a video call actually has their video on! They will get past the awkwardness, trust me. But beware – anything that could and should be formally within your information systems should be kept securely in that environment – so don’t get too trigger happy with cutting off your email system.

3. Set up groups

In any workplace, you’d usually have times where everyone is together in the same room – it might be for brainstorming sessions, meetings or just a general get-together. There’s no reason you can’t do this virtually. Again, you can do this with Teams, Zoom, Google apps. Alternatively, an-all-in one online tool such as Slack can work here, letting you set up groups, chat and host video calls all from the one platform. Equally you may want to set up smaller sub-groups – based on teams, client groups, managers etc – anyone who communicates together on a regular basis. What you are wanting to do is replicate the way you might gather and communicate in your workplace, only now it’s virtual.And again, video on!

4. Check-in with your employees regularly

If everyone goes off and does their own thing, you’ll find that communication channels will break down. Sure, you don’t want to chain people to their remote desks but at the same time, regular catch-ups at the same time each day – like a virtual ‘stand up’ meeting – can help keep everyone on the same page. Put that 9:30 am invite in people’s calendars and make sure people are present online. A lot of businesses are also checking in at lunchtime and at the end of the day too to make sure people are feeling connected at those times when they would ordinarily huddle and chat.

5. Use face-to-face

As I have mentioned above, when you have these regular catch-ups use face-to-face software. Don’t let people dial in on the phone. Seeing each other visually contributes so much to the sense of belonging, it’s much more natural and it can go a long way to keeping up morale. I know some people will complain they are still in their PJs, or they haven’t done their hair – but hang on a minute, aren’t you at work?? Just because your team is working from home doesn’t mean they can be invisible, and giving people the incentive to be dressed for the day and in a workplace frame-of-mind is probably what they should be doing to remain focussed anyway.

6. Give remote working a trial run first

It’s hard to believe there would still be an organisation that hasn’t adopted working from home by now but if your workplace hasn’t gone 100% remote just yet, choose a day to trial and ensure your systems all work. Then it’s about keeping up the pace. Normal workplaces thrive on constant communication so remember in remote workplaces it becomes even more important. If you’re the business owner, the manager or team leader don’t drop the ball and take the easy path of not checking in – even for a day. Keep up the chat, keep those groups active and keep everyone together with a common purpose in mind.They will all be looking to you to set the tone.

7. Recreate your office vibe whenever you can

Ok so it’s never going to be the same as Friday night drinks but remember there are parts of work that are actually fun. The socialising, the banter, the catching up about the weekend. Some people can forget about this when they work from home. Far from slacking off, they begin dedicating even more of their time to work and less to the fun they have, and they struggle with separating their worlds. Have a bit of fun during video calls – play trivia or host a virtual team lunch. Enjoy yourself and do what you can to encourage others to enjoy themselves too. Honestly, this is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep the workplace culture alive.

Keep the workplace culture alive

Given the current climate, remote working will be the norm for a while. So it’s important that you get everything set up correctly from the get-go. Maintaining morale and happiness in the key to success when it comes to working from home. If you have any questions or concerns or if you’d like some assistance in setting up some virtual HR systems, then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today, we’d love to assist.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

related articles


Never miss an update from the Catalina Consultants HR team.
Sign up to get our news and blogs sent straight to your inbox.