How companies can cultivate culture when their workforce is working from home

"Strengths and weaknesses of a company’s culture can both become amplified in these uncertain times"

For years, flexibility and work-life balance have topped the wish-lists of talent across the globe. They are important tools for attraction, as well as strong retention drivers. But in many parts of the world, and in many roles, they have remained an aspiration. In the EU in 2018, only 5.2% of people aged 15-64 regularly worked from home, compared to 7% of U.S. workers having access to this way of working.

Until Covid-19.

From one day to another, a large proportion of global office-based employees suddenly found themselves in a work-from-home situation. Some companies were well-prepared to make it happen. But some had to adapt, fast. Businesses that had seen digital transformation as a “nice-to-have” are scrambling to adjust, whereas others have seen surprisingly little disruption to their operations.

Ready or not, as the initial shock subsides, new questions arise. How ready are companies to sustain this system for longer periods of time? And how motivated are employees to keep it up? It is becoming increasingly clear that the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s culture can both become amplified in these uncertain times.

We have identified key elements and simple steps required to shape a holistic and sustainable employee experience. These can help withstand not only the current adversity, but also ultimately benefit your employer brand in the long-term.

The purpose of work
Do your employees feel intrinsically motivated to give their best?

Meaning can come from a business’ purpose and vision, or a company’s actions and behaviors, but it can also be found in the work itself. Purpose plays a key part in having engaged, motivated employees and attracting and retaining those key people that will help you weather the storm. Companies have an opportunity now to walk the talk, using their brand as a guide to serving their employees and society as a whole.

Trust in leadership
Do your employees trust you to do the right thing and to do right by them?

At this time, employees are under a lot of stress. Listening skills, empathy and a real understanding of the struggles employees face will strengthen their trust in leadership. Yes, a long-term vision is important, but in times of uncertainty and crisis, focusing on the present, helping employees understand and interpret the situation and its ramifications, is just as crucial.

Healthy relationships
Do your employees feel that they are in a safe environment, that they can count on their colleagues and bring up any issues or problems?

A healthy work atmosphere rises and falls with good relationships based on respect between employees. Casual social interactions that are usually part of our daily work routines are strongly impacted by the current situation. It is therefore all the more important to encourage employees to connect regularly, not only for work tasks.

Seizing the moment
Are you giving your employees opportunities for long-term success?

Not all companies have been impacted in the same way, but employers have an opportunity to advance up-skilling or even re-skilling initiatives to ensure long-term relevance of their employee’s skills. Interest in e-learning has spiked in recent weeks and this might just be the perfect moment to give employees the means and flexibility to use any down-time productively and build capabilities for innovation.

Flexibility beyond work-from-home
Are you giving your employees everything they need to succeed at home?

With schools and nurseries closed, employees have to juggle family alongside their work at home. Confinement itself puts us under considerable psychological stress. Employers who understand this and give their employees sufficient flexibility within their work-at-home schedule, will come away from this stronger than ever.

We are truly living in a time of disruption. Employers that keep their brand and Employee Value Proposition close at hand to help them navigate the challenges they are facing now will positively impact their employer brand beyond the end of the pandemic. In a world, where our lives have become more digital than ever, our responses need to be all the more human.

What can you do now?
– Reflect on whether your actions are guided by your brand platform and adjust accordingly to ensure you are delivering on your promise.
– If you don’t have an Employee Value Proposition then it’s time to consider developing one.
– Check-in with your employees and update them more often than usual. Aim to be clear, precise and calm in all your communications.
– Encourage social interactions to connect employees that don’t work together regularly to ensure existing relationships don’t suffer. Try company-wide get-togethers to share WFH stories or more informal initiatives, like virtual WFH-Drinks or lunch roulette.
– Evaluate online learning resources and make them available to your employees. Ensure down-time is seen as an opportunity to make use of those resources and set clear goals and deadlines.
– Make sure you are aware of each individual employee’s personal situation and allow them the flexibility each of them needs, regardless of pre-COVID-19 work arrangements.


First published by Saffron under a different title.

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