One of the benefits of working for a local business or organization is the workplace culture and environment. Rather than just another number in a large corporate machine, each employee is acknowledged and treated with care. Often being part of a local business feels almost like an extension of your family and many business owners are proud to have curated a positive work environment that results in happy, loyal and hardworking employees. Although working from home has been a difficult adjustment for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning how to maintain this positive work environment virtually can be even more daunting. The Kawartha Chamber wants to help! We have identified 3 key elements that help translate your work environment into a virtual setting!
1. Keep Your Team Connected
When employees work in person, rather than remotely, it can be easier to see how the entire team connects as a whole. Teamwork is elevated and there is a sense of comradery as everyone works together to achieve company goals. This is great for productivity and efficiency in the workplace, and can even lead to new innovative ideas as employees are encouraged to communicate and work with each other.
This connection is harder to see when we aren’t able to be in close proximity to one another. It’s not only important for an employee to know what their role is but how their role connects to, is supported by and can support other roles. When working from home there are a few ways we can adapt to ensure this team synergy happens virtually.
Have a regular check-in meeting with all staff: Many businesses have already adopted a weekly company zoom call but if you haven’t you should! Have a regular check-in where employees are able to update each other on their ongoing tasks, need for support or availability for the week. This lets everyone know what’s going on within the team and can identify opportunities for collaboration.
Try different collaboration tools: There are many virtual ways for employees to communicate and support each other. Group communication programs like Microsoft Teams or Slack are great ways to stay connected, create subgroups for specific task communication and assigning roles. These are also great ways to remove communication silos in which you need to reach out to multiple people to find your answer. Encourage group messaging that allows everyone to view and answer one another’s questions and keeps the whole team engaged.
Try using task management tools: Group task management tools are a great way to see what other team members are up to so you can adjust your work accordingly. Tools like Trello and Asana allow team members to create a board of their tasks with descriptions, deadlines and to-do lists. This way employees can see a bigger picture of the work that is being completed and how they can support their co-workers.
These tips could also help limit the isolation that employees feel, acknowledging that they are part of a larger team.
2. Fight Isolation
One of the biggest drawbacks of working from home is a lack of interaction. Employees can often feel isolated and therefore distant from the business and work that needs to be completed. Communications that would normally be a quick conversation in person are now texts. Assigning tasks and giving instructions have shifted from collaborative meetings to individual emails. Lunch break is no longer the time to chit-chat with other employees and build relationships but is instead often spent sitting alone. These are all important moments for building and maintaining a positive environment and workplace culture. Employees are able to build trust with one another, have a clearer idea of tasks and company goals, as well as how their role fits into achieving those goals. This is why it is important to encourage interaction when working from home rather than give in to isolation.
Take the time to talk: Not every zoom meeting or phone call has to be well planned or time-consuming. If your email is getting a little too long – pick up the phone and have a quick call!
Encourage virtual watercooler chats: Encourage your employees to use their free time or breaks to interact with one another. These casual moments are important to keeping your employees happy and productive!
Plan team meet-ups: Although regular retreats are out of the picture during a pandemic, this doesn’t erase the importance of team building to company morale. Schedule some time for employees to interact together about non-work-related matters and participate in team-building activities.
3. Encourage Communication and Feedback
In conjunction with the previous two points that help create synergy, and build trust – you now have a remote environment that is set up for positive open communication and feedback. Be sure to reinforce this! Although in-person you might make yourself extremely available to your employees and are confident that they are comfortable coming to you with suggestions, feedback and issues – this might not translate remotely. Feedback and open dialogue allow you and your employees to identify problems and solutions. Make these opportunities known by…
Scheduling one on one meetings: Employees could have a multitude of insightful thoughts throughout their work period that are never brought to an employer’s attention because of the barriers in place. An issue or idea might seem too small to be worth drafting an email or scheduling a meeting. Eliminate this barrier for them and occasionally schedule one on one check-ins with your employees. These meetings amazing opportunities for feedback, performance reviews, brainstorming and emotional support.
Ask for feedback or support: Despite a positive work environment, it can be intimidating for an employee to bring up a suggestion or idea without prompt. Regularly give your employees an opportunity to bring up their ideas so that you can make sure they are best supported to do their jobs!
By keeping your team connected, fighting isolation and encouraging communication and feedback you can maintain a remote work environment in which employees feel acknowledged, supported and comfortable.
by Aldana Casado, Student Position at the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
The Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism strengthens business, regional recognition and pride of place by serving our members and communities. Proudly representing members in Curve Lake First Nation and the municipalities of Douro-Dummer, North Kawartha, Selwyn & Trent Lakes. Through its many varied programs, events, and activities, the Chamber advances and promotes the well-being and interests of local businesses and the communities they serve.
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