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How the Global Pandemic Made Us Better at Maintaining a Positive Company Culture

Group of employees participating in a teambuilding event

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By: Andrew C. Jackson

During the pandemic, like many other firms, we transitioned to a 100 percent remote workforce. This was a dramatic shift for our company. Management was concerned about losing our company culture – the close connections and collaborative spirt that had made us “BravoTECH.”

The Sudden Shift to Remote Work

Our IT systems were already cloud-based, which made the transition easy from a technology perspective. We were proud of our staff’s efforts to adapt to the new remote environment. We quickly adopted a number of best practices for maximizing productivity and teamwork, including daily team huddles on Microsoft Teams to make sure everyone knew their goals and was aware of what coworkers were working on. We also implemented distinct KPIs and weekly and monthly expectations for each staff member.

Five months in, with the mechanics of managing a remote team in place, we began to focus on recreating team dynamics that had occurred naturally in a shared space. Without spontaneous encounters, lunch breaks and watercooler discussions, we were concerned about losing team synergy and morale.

Maintaining team spirit and taking care of our corporate family is an important factor to our success, and the pandemic lockdowns forced us to create a well-defined strategy to maintain company culture. We wanted to avoid losing a valued team member who no longer felt connected or who was silently struggling.

4 Ways We Stayed Connected

Here are a few ideas we’ve implemented to keep our team engaged and reduce stress for a positive company culture during and after the pandemic:

  1. Virtual happy hours initially helped provide some relief to employees adjusting to working from home. These informal, off-the-clock meetings helped us check in and inject some fun into the work week.
  2. A second wave of virtual events included virtual meetings with organized activities and games such as Two Truths and a Lie, Throwback Thursdays, Who Am I and a virtual scavenger hunt. These events were very well-received.
  3. We encouraged managers to make unscheduled check-in calls with each direct report once or twice a week to ensure everyone was on track.
  4. We planned virtual cross-functional activities to increase communication between departments. These team functions provided the double benefit of addressing process improvement and employee engagement.

The Transition to a Hybrid Work Environment

Once the lockdowns ended, we found ourselves at a fork in the road – some employees were ready to go to the office again while others preferred to continue working from home. Without judgement, we tried accommodating everyone with a hybrid approach.  New employees and younger workers are required to be in the office 2-3 days a week so they can learn our business and receive informal training from peers and managers. More experienced employees are permitted to work remotely as long as they attend staff and team meetings, both in-person and online.

We still gather for the morning huddle at 8:30 – we find this keeps everyone engaged, boosts collaboration and ensures no balls are dropped. If anyone is struggling (to find a qualified candidate or meet a client’s request, for example), this is a time to ask coworkers and managers for suggestions and assistance.  If someone is sick or on PTO, the staff is notified about who is handling their duties. This 30-minute Teams meeting gets everyone onboard, focused and energized for a productive workday ahead.

We have also continued our virtual meetups, scheduling “watercooler” meetings in the middle of the week for about 15 minutes. This is a chance for employees to relax and enjoy some camaraderie with coworkers. Managers are still encouraged to informally check in with their reports on a regular basis.

Virtual happy hours have become in-person meetups at local restaurants, usually scheduled once a month at about 4:00 in the afternoon.  A few times a year, we invite all of our associates to teambuilding events and reimburse travel expenses for those working outside of Dallas.  Once or twice a year, we conduct an employee survey to check the pulse of our associates regarding their jobs, management and company policies.

In unexpected ways, the pandemic made us better managers and forced us to be more intentional about maintaining team morale and a positive company culture.  Management has adopted a “continuous improvement” mindset that keeps us thinking about how we can make BravoTECH a better place to work, knowing that this will ultimately accelerate our growth and success.

These are just a few of the ideas we’ve implemented to make sure we’re focused on keeping employees connected and feeling valued. Let us know what your team is doing to replace the spontaneous encounters and water-cooler conversations of the past.