How to protect company culture during COVID-19

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Nightmares are on the up. If a viral pandemic and a potential global economic crash weren’t enough, reports of increased nightmares during this time show that stress levels are heightened. Significantly.

As a manager or leader, this means that your now remote team or company is likely a lot more stressed than they are letting on. A recent study with LinkedIn and The Mental Health Foundation has shown that:

  • Fears of burnout and presenteeism are increasing with more than half of HR professionals believing mental health issues have become more prevalent amongst employees due to COVID-19
  •  58% of HR professionals fearing losing staff who have to take time out of work due to burnout.
  • And, on average UK workers are spending 28 more hours at their desks per month since lockdown began, as concerns about the culture of ‘ePresenteeism’ rise.

You might overlook it, but your company culture is crucial to help combat this, and more important than ever. Here’s three ways you can protect it and your staff. 

Communication to protect culture in lockdown

1. Communication

We all know that in general, managers have to work hard to build and maintain great relationships with their teams. Doing this in a remote culture is a lot harder than it is in a co-located one, so here are our tips for you to put into practice.

Make time for small talk

Working remotely robs many of the small social interactions they are used to in the office. When someone isn’t in front of you, or when you don’t immediately need something from them, it’s all too easy to forget about regular contact. Be conscious of this. Don’t only message people when you need things, and make time for small talk. It’s an important part of camaraderie during this time. 

Video over voice

What you say makes up for a fraction of communication in comparison to how you say it. Don’t forget that written communication lacks tone,  and be misinterpreted so try to have video calls when you can. 

Record or write down as much as you can

It might seem like everyone’s availability is wide open now they are working from home, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Make sure that you record whatever Zoom calls you have so that others who might have other responsibilities at home can watch in their own time. Parents, in particular, can feel like they are dropping the ball for even missing a single meeting, so making sure they have the opportunity to ‘catch up’ is important to them. 

Over-communicate

In a time when people are feeling stressed, isolated and worried, it is safer to err on the side of overcommunication. When tensions are already high, knocks from miscommunication can hit harder than before. Be very clear about your expectations, and take the time to check in with people’s well-being. 

Leadership communication 

In times of crisis, as a leader you need to avoid being panicked or unprepared. Remain calm and adopt a level of transparency which may feel uncomfortable at first, but that is essential to making everyone feel connected with the business. Transparency not only communicates trust, but will also help prevent rumours and gossip, which even on a harmless level causes uncertainty and worry in the team.

Read more about communication tactics here.

 

 

2. Prioritise your people 

Your company culture is not just your people, but also how you treat them. While it’s easy to fall into crisis mode and focus entirely on the bottom line and staying functional, don’t. Your team’s morale will pay the price.

Allow for flexibility

Very few people were prepared for an instantly perfect home office set up. Be mindful of this and adopt a flexible mindset that’s based on outputs rather than hours worked. 

Minimise risk and actively protect

With some regions starting to loosen the restrictions, don’t rush your team back to the office if it is not safe to do so. Any action which shows preference to the bottom line over the team will be damaging and not easily forgotten. 

Protecting company culture

3. Make considered decisions and stick to them

Decisive leadership in times of crisis affirms confidence within the team. While it’s impossible to know what the future faces, make sure your decisions aren’t rushed, flighty or poorly thought through.

Revert to your company values

Take a little time to review your company values. Not only should they inform your company culture, but they are there specifically to help you with decision making in both good times and bad. How are your actions reflective of the standards your company has defined itself by? How will these forced and fast decisions affect you in the long term? Can you stand by them? Let your values shine through in your every action in these times.

Control the conversation early

Try to avoid dragging your feet about taking action, especially if it’s for something unpleasant. Speculation will already be rife in the team so it’s important you take control of the narrative from an early stage. This not only gives clarity but also reassurance that you’re in control and able to deal with the current situation.  

How a company chooses to act in this crisis will have huge implications. Your company culture is the mindset of your people, and when actively looked after, can help you and your team weather this storm. Do it right and you will have a motivated, loyal team. Do it wrong, and it will not be easily forgotten and will have long term consequences on your employer brand and attrition rates. 

For more tips and advice to help you and your team through COVID-19, check out our free resources page or sign up to our newsletter for regular curated content direct to your inbox.

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