The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a large portion of the workforce to work from home, and even the strongest of workplace cultures can feel the strain of not being together every day.
Reference a number of methods below to help build a corporate culture among your employees:
Play virtual collaborative games
Virtual happy hours became a weekly routine for many offices during the early days of working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shake things up a bit by hosting virtual game hours where employees can still see each other over a video call while collaborating or competing in bingo, trivia, or even an escape room.
Make new hires feel welcome
Welcoming new team members can be especially tricky when the whole company is working from home because they aren’t able to be introduced to their colleagues or walk up to someone’s desk when they have a question. Send out office-wide emails with pictures and fun facts when new employees on board to put a face behind their email address, and encourage their team members to reach out and introduce themselves over a call or instant messaging.
If your new employees will have to attend multiple training sessions, ask that each member of their team hold at least one of those training sessions to give them the chance to meet everyone and collaborate.
Send regular newsletters
Office-wide emails are usually about housekeeping items, COVID-19 updates, or policy changes. Keep your employees’ inboxes exciting by sending out office-wide newsletters about interesting topics that might be separate from work. You could even have a few different “subscription” options so that the more niche newsletters can be sent to a group of interested employees rather than the whole company; as a bonus, this helps bring together folks with similar interests and can foster friendships and communities within the office.
Here are some newsletter ideas to get you started:
- Recipe club
- On this day in history
- Heritage months, which can include history, cultural traditions, recipes, notable figures, and more
- New Music Fridays
- Album of the day
- Movie club
- A roundup of the week’s news in your industry
- Local recommendations
- Fantasy leagues
- Upcoming events, either in your industry or in your local area
Start a book club
Many remote employees are finding themselves with more free time now that sports, family events, concerts, and other hobbies have been postponed or canceled. Book clubs are great because readers can share their hobby with colleagues they may not have otherwise connected with. Get a few interested employees together to draft a newsletter, pick out some popular books, and spread the word. You can host regular meetings over a video conferencing platform or create a group message or email listserv so that employees can instantly share their thoughts on that month’s book at any time.
Host group gatherings and activities
If your company is planning to return to the office once the pandemic is over or restrictions have eased in your county, consider welcoming your employees back with fun activities. Most people will have missed the social aspect of working in an office and would be excited to spend time with their colleagues in person. Circulate a survey to ask what kind of activities they would like to see once you are able to return to work, and include a variety of options like barbecues and happy hours. Especially if your employees have been working from home for the last year and a half, an hour-long break during the workday will help ease them into their new routine. If you’d like to offer activities outside of work, try arranging group volunteer opportunities or cooking classes.
Celebrate birthdays, promotions, and life events
Whether working remotely or in the office, recognizing milestones is an important aspect of making your employees feel like they belong to a community. Create virtual birthday cards, send office-wide emails, or host celebrations in the breakroom when your employees make a big step in their lives or in their careers.
Be understanding about the challenges of working from home
Zoom fatigue is a very real issue, brought to light as yet another societal side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. While communicating over video is a great way to stay connected when working from home, its constant use can be exhausting for managers and employees alike. Some employees, whether they are not comfortable with telework technology or just prefer to work in a communal office setting, have found that working from home is not the best fit for them. If an employee approaches you about the trouble they’re having while working from home, try to be empathetic to their situation and see if you can work out a compromise. Ask for volunteers to be part of the skeleton crew working in the office rather than instituting a broad policy. Your employees feeling supported is key for company retention and morale.
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