Having been given a temporary break from the ‘time tax’ of pre-crisis commutes and the physical separation of a traditional office, my wife Sue and I have built time into our workdays for morning coffee and afternoon walks. On one such walk this week, she remarked, “We are lucky, aren’t we?” My initial response was a simple, “Yes,” while I continued walking, focused on maintaining appropriate social distancing measures to pass another couple. Not so easily deterred, Sue pressed me for a real response.
We discussed, with a profound sense of gratitude, how fortunate we’ve been that our kids and aging parents are safe, healthy, and navigating their own isolation as well as expected. My company is fiscally strong enough to keep everyone employed, even recently welcoming back a recently departed team member. And as a SaaS firm using our own planning, productivity, and collaboration tools, we readily adapted to working from home.
A Company Culture Chasm
Interpersonal interaction is what many of us draw energy from at work. With stay-at-home orders, much of that has been replaced with a dearth of video conference calls that drain vs. replenish energy. The buzz of morning banter as machines boot up has changed into the daily routine of commuting from bedroom to workspace, likely via the kitchen for coffee and a bowl of cereal. A community lunch has morphed into a re-heat of last night’s leftovers which are quickly devoured between calls. And watercooler chats are, well, simply put: gone. In the absence of so much interaction, how do we cross the chasm created by Coronavirus to keep company culture strong?
3 Proven Ways to Make Working Remote Fun (for All):
1. Repurpose Rituals
Take some time to structure and name your established company rituals. A hosted Tuesday Team Lunch, weekly Team Syncs, celebrating Planniversaries, and periodic Happy Hours were some of ours. Then, adapt them to a virtual setting. Our Happy Hours became Virtual Happy Hours and are now every Friday. Spontaneously, our team has adopted a theme for each week’s gathering — with the first being Fancy Friday — and a rare stretch of sunny days in Seattle prompting a Hawaiian Shirt Happy Hour. As a dog-friendly workplace, we missed the interaction with our ‘office dogs’ so each of us posted pictures of our furry friends, who are now referred to by many as coworkers.
2. Get into Gamification
Our team has come up with some gamified tactics to have fun with and generate insights into our new work from home reality. The first one formalized was Bingo. A card was created with fun squares like put on real clothes (with a button), kid made an appearance, and dog barked in background. And another game in the rotation is called Guess the Desk where a home workstation picture is shared daily, and team members try to decipher clues to guess who it belongs to. Other games we have queued include a virtual scavenger hunt consisting of finding items in the background views of colleagues on video calls and walking 1:1’s where miles are logged and accumulated across the team. In some cases, these games are contrived to intentionally legitimize what at first seems foreign. They also make light of natural faux pas of working from home – humanizing and normalizing the new reality of work, while also drawing us closer as colleagues and friends.
3. Lean in and Lead with Learning
One of our company values is Always be Learning. For us, this means we support and actively encourage continuous development. We foster a culture of experimentation where it’s beneficial to learn from failures and we curate content that benefits team members personally and professionally. Acknowledging many of us have new stresses emerging as a result of working from home, we hosted early discussions across the team on how to manage this new full-time remote situation. Advancing that theme, we have just booked a professional to take us through meditation and another to coach the team through a chair yoga session. Not only will we learn about ways to enhance mental and physical health, but we’ll also be learning these things together, building community around a cohort who opts into these sessions. Items on tap? A Happy Hour cocktail tutorial and another on customizing collaboration tools with things like video backgrounds and personalized status icons.
Maintaining (and even enhancing) company culture during this time is absolutely possible. Lean into learning, get into gaming, free the team to have fun, and repurpose rituals to cross the culture chasm. Cheers to your efforts and to emerging as a team stronger than you were when this all began.
In this multi-part series, LiquidPlanner CEO, Ted Hawksford, discusses the lessons learned and shares helpful tips one month after our team went fully remote due to the growing threat of COVID-19, and the mandatory stay-at-home orders that followed.