While all 50 states have at least partially reopened, it doesn't look like working from home is going away anytime soon.
Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Zillow have even given employees the flexibility to work from home through the end of the year. What's more, many of us are quite content with our home office setups.
Fifty percent of remote workers said they'd prefer to continue to work from home when restrictions on schools and businesses are lifted, according to a recent Gallup poll.
As companies continue to grapple with the reality that remote workforces may be the next normal, prioritizing company culture to keep people connected to one another, and their organization's values, is more vital than ever.
Four months ago, culture and team-building activities may have involved potlucks, volunteer days, or team outings. Nowadays, leadership teams are getting creative to keep their employees connected. Building company culture without the ability to connect in person is undoubtedly challenging, but it's attainable.
Curious about how to do that? I recently connected with three executives to explore what they've been doing to build culture in a work-from-home world.
1. Engage in consistent and meaningful communication
Being a great leader during this new normal includes prioritizing support and guidance for your employees' well-being by engaging them in consistent and meaningful communication through a variety of channels, and empowering them with the necessary tools and technology to collaborate with their teams, regardless of their location.
"Building your company's culture can't stop simply because your team's time in the physical office has been temporarily -- or perhaps even permanently -- disrupted," said Albert Galarza, global vice president of human resources at Telus International, a global customer experience and digital services innovator.
"At Telus International, team leaders are conducting virtual check-ins with employees through web conference tools in order to be proactive about employees' engagement and well-being," Galarza said. "Through check-ins like these, leaders are also encouraging engagement in team-building activities such as virtual fitness and wellness classes, as well as fun extracurricular activities like online games and music courses."
He added, "We have brought the workplace into our homes, so the home is welcome into our workplace, whether showing off to new office mates your pets, a favorite room at home, or even your favorite recipes."
2. Focus on employee wellness
Before the pandemic, corporate wellness programs were often perceived as a perk for team members. However, lately these initiatives are making a big difference in helping teams feel connected to one another while staying physically and mentally healthy.
"We send internal 'Weekly Wellness' emails that include helpful information around mental health, financial health, sleep health, and physical health, and a range of resources such as meditations, recipes, and mood-boosting playlists," said Beth Gerstein, CEO of Brilliant Earth, a global retailer of ethically sourced fine jewelry.
The company also encourages physical fitness, both through regularly scheduled stretch breaks as well as "Fitness Fridays," where they do in-home workouts together as a team over Zoom. "To supplement these various wellness initiatives, some team members are even leading 10- to 30-minute virtual dance classes, mindfulness sessions, card making lessons, art lessons, and more," explained Gerstein.
3. Foster unique shared experiences
Shared experiences are harder to come by in a virtual world, but are an important way to keep people connected. Companies are getting creative by bringing in third-party expertise to guide their teams through a curated experience.
"We are upleveling the standard happy hour by hiring a sommelier who walks us through a winetasting," said Ian Ferguson, VP of marketing at Lynx Software, an innovator in modern platform software technologies. "This requires more planning than a typical happy hour, as we need to coordinate with the sommelier and ensure our team members receive their wine delivery ahead of the happy hour, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. Our teammates feel more connected to one another, get to enjoy delicious wine, and can bond over a fun shared experience."
What we thought we knew about the state of the workforce is changing rapidly, so now is the time for companies to ensure their employees feel as supported and connected as possible. Leading with a people-first mindset, prioritizing employee wellness, and fostering unique experiences are a few approaches to consider bringing into your strategies.