Remote work has become the new norm as COVID-19 forces companies across sectors to temporarily close their doors. For many individuals, that means redefining the line between work life and home life when the two suddenly seem to have merged. Frontline employees and leaders alike are now educating children while answering emails, setting up “offices” at dining room tables, and relying on laptops over professional desktop devices.
This sudden shift has left many leaders asking, “How do I manage my teams from afar?” For those of us used to hosting impromptu brainstorming sessions, quick cubicle conversations, and other face-to-face interactions on a daily basis, it’s normal to find managing a remote team to be uncomfortable, daunting, and even ineffective — but it doesn’t have to be.
In times of crisis, leaders either step up or step away when managing from afar. Even the simple acts of being more visible, over communicating, or providing additional opportunities become potent elements for remote teams to increase their levels of engage. Just look at Coinbase, a digital currency exchange company headquartered in San Francisco. Leaders at Coinbase started a COVID-19 blog stream dedicated entirely to their newly remote workforce. Posts are updated as needed, providing employees with tips on remote work and answering questions like, “What should I be doing if I’m planning to work remotely from where my family is?” and “What if I have mail headed to the SF office?” Thanks to this digital resource, teams accustomed to working in the office can now remain connected to the company from afar.
While this blog stream may seem like a simple act, it has significant implications. Employees’ experiences — whether they are cultivated digitally or in person — directly impact their beliefs. These beliefs inform their actions, and actions drive results. This is the basis of the Results Pyramid, a framework that can help leaders as they transition to remote culture management.
The Power of Effective Culture Management
Corporate culture — the way employees think and act — is shaped by everyday experiences. For the employees at Coinbase, the daily blog stream, paired with additional posts from CEO Brian Armstrong, creates an experience of connection. Armstrong also recently executed a plan for increased remote cybersecurity, creating a new bond between the company’s customer experience team and IT department.
Through his insightful posts and strategic guidance, Armstrong is intentionally cultivating cultural beliefs centered on employee wellbeing and data security. As remote employees internalize these beliefs, their actions start to align. They take walks at lunch, schedule periodic breaks, and connect with IT teammates on process improvements.
In accordance with the Results Pyramid model, these experiences are setting Coinbase up for remote success, driving greater employee engagement and improving customer satisfaction.
A Roadmap for Cultivating Company Culture Remotely
Leaders shift and shape cultural beliefs during times of calm and moments of crisis. But how do they show up differently as leaders to drive desired cultural beliefs when “showing up” looks completely different?
Here are three straightforward, effective steps for managing company culture from afar:
1. Take Big Actions
Visibility and clear, consistent communication are vital when managing a remote workforce. Replace phone calls with video chats, send company-wide communications daily rather than weekly, and make the “why” behind desired cultural beliefs more apparent than ever before.
DeliveryNow*, a national online marketplace for food delivery, prides itself on cultural beliefs rooted in out-of-the-box thinking and innovation at speed. Amidst the current climate, these cultural beliefs have become more vital than ever before.
To keep her team engaged, the CEO is now hosting weekly fireside chats discussing the status of the company’s revenue streams and the state of the industry as a whole. Employees are encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and simply just connect. These highly transparent conversations foster a greater sense of community among the remote team while underscoring the need for out-of-box thinking and innovation at this time.
2. Shape Beliefs in Every Meeting
Before diving into your virtual team meetings, ask yourself, “What belief do I need my team to hold by the time they leave this discussion?” When working remotely, your “face-to-face” time with employees is limited, meaning it’s important to be intentional about the time you have together digitally.
Effective leaders step into a meeting and own the results they hope to achieve. They say, “Let’s maintain our 95% customer satisfaction rating during this disruption.” Or, “Let’s improve warehouse staff safety efforts by 10% amidst this health crisis.” Then they outline how these goals can be accomplished, leveraging the virtual tools at their disposal to visually and impactfully depict the elements within their team’s control.
For example, we’re seeing leaders across sectors using digital whiteboards and interactive presentations to engage their teams and boldly communicate their goals. This guidance, particularly during times of chaos, provides employees with a clear picture of the company’s current objectives and sets the tone for future engagements and initiatives.
3. Leverage Your Virtual Experiences
Every virtual meeting is an opportunity to create new experiences — whether through storytelling, feedback, recognition, etc. — and intentionally cultivate your company culture.
Take, for example, a founder of a major floral design studio—Tina. She is not surprised by the sharp downturn in sales her company has experienced — many of their largest engagements have been cancelled in light of COVID-19. But rather than say, “April is a lost cause,” during her weekly video conference, Tina chooses to highlight all of the innovative ways her team is stepping up to the plate to connect with the community to bring in current revenue while building equity in future relationships and sales opportunities.
She acknowledges Sam, who turned large floral installations for a recently cancelled exhibit into smaller bundles for home delivery. She also spotlights Alexa, who’s begun producing video tutorials on the art of floral arranging. These stories can start to shift the beliefs that other employees hold: instead of only seeing challenges, they might begin to imagine their own creative, out-of-the box ideas for the business.
Grounding Your Company Culture
There’s no question about it — the shift from the city office to the home office is challenging. Many of us have had little time to prepare and, like our employees, we’re redefining new routines and best practices.
But remote work doesn’t have to mean your company culture suffers. Through bold, consistent communications, clearly defined organizational objectives, and the intentional cultivation of experiences, we can create healthy, meaningful company cultures from any location and for any period of time.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of companies.