One of the things we coach to a lot is community and its impact on work culture.
So many organizations and individuals struggle with creating and fostering community at work. It doesn’t help that now, as so many are working remotely, this has become so much harder.
Community is critical to maintaining a cohesive group that works toward a common goal. It’s critical to leading, in fact. Without a strong community, a leader doesn’t have much to lead, right? Having a strong support system in place is vital to achieving goals, practicing effective leadership, and being happy and healthy overall. (Don’t underestimate the power of those last two.)
At its core, improving work culture requires you to revisit a shared purpose and build connection with others. Yes, community is absolutely essential, but it was easier to build community at work in the days of water cooler chats and cake in the break room.
It seems much harder in today’s environment, with frozen screens, technical difficulties, kids running through Zoom calls, and other awkward virtual moments.
But, not to worry. It’s not only possible to create community in a virtual work environment, but you can build communities that are just as strong this way.
We often help organizations deal with this. We want to share with you some of the best strategies that you can implement right away to start to build that community, whether you’re running the whole team or a crucial part of it.
Connect your work culture
The most challenging issue facing you and your team is likely the feeling of disconnectedness. While working from home, employees can feel disconnected from the impact they are having and any progress that’s being made. This can sometimes make the work feel draining more than fun and may isolate members of the team.
To counter this, you could consider implementing daily or weekly check-ins. These meetings could begin with each member of the team sharing one gratitude and one achievement to set the tone for the day. Actively sharing personal thoughts like these is a great community builder.
Another way to overcome the feeling of disconnectedness (or prevent it in the first place) is to ask everyone to share an assessment of their current mood and energy levels on a scale of 1-10 in the mornings. Go first and be honest! When your team sees that you’re willing to share that you might be challenged with your personal or work situation at different times, it creates a safe space for them to do the same. This also allows you insight into each individual’s situation, and where you might offer further support
Recognize each other
To bring your remote work culture to the next level, implement employee recognition. As a leader, you could start a practice of recognizing a different team member every few days, when they’ve gone the extra mile on a particular project or just to say thanks for a great job every day. Using stories and specifics to go into detail about how this person contributed is a great way for each individual to feel like they’re part of something bigger.
You can unify the team, too, by encouraging peer-to-peer recognition. Designate a Slack or MS Teams channel to shout outs and team praise or integrate it into your regular team meetings. This simple practice can motivate the entire team.
Leaders and team members sometimes experience tension with their colleagues. It’s only natural. But what do you do when a tense situation arises? As a leader, you can encourage an environment of conscious communication.
One easy example is to take a moment to ensure that the heat-of-the-moment email you’re about to send is free from any blame, shame, or guilt — and encourage others to ask themselves the same thing. An approach to this is to step away from the computer once you’ve written that email, get outside and breathe deep, then come back to it for a reread. Likely your perspective will have shifted and softened.
Another way you can practice conscious communication and build a positive work culture while working from home is to listen to your thoughts. What are you saying in your head about yourself? What are you saying in your head about the other people on your team? Watch your thoughts because they can become your words. And words are powerful community builders, of course, but they can also be incredibly destructive to communities when used without care. Encourage your team to think and speak with care.
Move your body
Working at home can look like a lot of things to different people. Some people have kids in their homes all day. Others have partners who are also working from home. There are others who may live alone in small spaces that can start to feel lonely or claustrophobic.
Whatever your situation, if your in-home routine is bringing you down, one thing you can do is move your body. Increased oxygen levels improve focus and mental clarity, leaving you more open and kind toward your colleagues. Essentially, moving your body regularly can help you build community and build work culture while working from home. Consider “commuting” to work by carving out time before work and during your breaks to walk around your neighbourhood and get some fresh air and exercise. The movement and oxygen will have positive effects on your health, performance, and work culture.