When people are working from home — or any place different than the ‘norm’, it’s especially important to find ways to keep company culture alive. With the Coronavirus outbreak hitting the headlines and more and more companies advising employees to work from home to stay safe (including Poly), people are focusing on the mechanics of working remotely. Here at Poly, we’ve maintained flexible working practices for years and have learned some things along the way about remote collaboration and keeping employees engaged. It starts with having the right equipment to connect you to people. But equipment alone won’t do the trick without solid communication practices in place to humanize the connection with a distributed workforce.
Use collaboration tools on the fly
Video services like Zoom and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams help our global employees stay connected. Have a quick question? Connect with them in chat. Need to problem solve? Jump on a video call. Need information on the latest COVID-19 updates? Check out the Coronavirus Channel on the All Employee Teams Group. With all that communication, you’ll rarely feel like you’re not in the same room.
Focus on inclusive practices
When you have lots of faces on a video call, it can be easy to fade into the background, especially if your square is off the screen. An easy and inclusive practice we’ve adopted is making sure we’re asking quieter folks for their opinions or ideas to keep everyone engaged and ensure all voices are heard.
Background noise can be “ruff”
We definitely continue working to keep any biases we may have in check when there may be pets, kids, or delivery people at the door. These things don’t make someone less focused or productive; they make them human and able to operate in a flexible working environment. Go easy on the speaker whose dog decides to bark at just that moment.
Be kind about others’ WFH video conference backgrounds. Many folks didn’t have time to build out that home office before COVID-19 sent them home to work. I’ve seen laundry, wine collections, old holiday decorations, family photos and messy kitchens in the background – just think of it as another way of getting to know your co-workers.
Well wishes from afar…
To continue building a sense of belonging, our team has a ‘HR Pets at Poly’ channel where we share our beloved pets and allow everyone else an opportunity to swoon. We also have a social channel where we wish happy birthday’s, share vacation pics, and chat in general.
Keep a sense of community: Coffee/Lunch/Water Cooler chats
When I get itchy that I don’t have enough social interaction that day, I like to set up a virtual coffee, lunch, or quick ‘water cooler’ moments with my colleagues around the globe. It’s super important to be aware of time zone differences in a global company, and yet these moments make us feel like we’re closer than ever. You might be having coffee, but your (my) teammate in the UK might be sipping on gin!
Change up your on-boarding and learning practices
We recently decided to go fully remote for our new employee orientation. This allows everyone an equal playing field, without a focus on only those in the room. We’ve had to make some changes in our facilitation practices to get more interaction out of the group, and we’ve found that creating this remote connection right away helps people to see how our flexible work happens in action. This creates a safe space for everyone to learn our tools – you never know if someone is new to these or is a seasoned expert. We continue using LinkedIn Learning as a resource for employees and love the breakout room feature in Zoom for learning sessions with large groups.
If you pick any of these top tips, or all of them together, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful flexible workplace as well. While we know the COVID-19 is pressuring many of us to accept a new way of working, many of us are already here and ready to set the example for the future of work. Using ideas like this will help keep your culture alive and enable people to be unified, collaborative, and communicating.