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Culture in the Time of Imposed Telework

Culture in the Time of Imposed Telework

How to Make Your Culture Work for You through the Current Crisis

How are leaders maintaining organizational culture while everyone is unexpectedly working remotely? Recommendations focused on the tactical implementation of teleworking are exploding. How, though, does an organization continue to nurture the culture that is at the core of the business?

Leaders must focus on two main components – maintaining regular business functions and established operating rhythms as well as acknowledging that during crises, consideration for employees as individuals must be taken into account.

Some recommendations for maintaining organizational culture include:

  • Take time as a team to define what working remotely looks like. Outline expectations, address hesitations, and give your employees a chance to voice what they are thinking. Establish a sense of cohesion even when employees are not in the workplace.
  • Allow time for chit chat at the beginning or end of virtual meetings. This will create a sense of belonging and cultivate a resemblance to the in-person workplace environment.
  • Make it fun. Propose a contest to see who has the best home office or the funniest decorations in their home. Have employees post pictures on a secure intranet site, or share the best finds for binging on Netflix.
  • Keep all communication lines open and be intentional about communication. Leaders should initiate and actively seek communication. Email, text messages, Slack – allow people to use their preferred methods of communication and keep connectivity at a maximum.
  • Maintain your normal business rhythms as much as possible. All employees, if able, should be present on video at regularly scheduled meetings. Scheduled team lunches should remain on the calendar – just do them virtually!
  • Advocate for personal-professional separation. It can be hard to separate work from personal life, especially when you’re teleworking. Honor the end of the workday and urge your employees to do the same.

Exceptional circumstances require different responses at the individual level too. Individuals will confront different challenges, and working with employees to tackle their personal circumstances without worrying about any repercussions on their jobs is key to keeping your team engaged. As a bonus, this behavior also drives longer-term loyalty.

  • Be upfront about communication. Tell all your employees that they can raise any concerns with you. Make it easy for your employees to be forthright and honest about any personal changes that could affect their ability to do their job, and encourage them to work with the leaders to find a solution.
  • Create a safe platform for employees to anonymously post questions. Someone who is too afraid to approach you in person will be grateful for the safe space.
  • Relax policies and adjust guidelines. Employees who have to look after a sick relative or friend, have kids who can no longer go to school or daycare, or who are sick themselves, may no longer be able to work the same hours. Empathy, understanding, and a willingness to be flexible go a long way. Helping employees to feel valued and be heard are always important, and never more so than in these circumstances.
  • Update, update, update. This outbreak is constantly evolving. As information is updated, company policies might need to be modified. Keep your employees informed about any updates and do whatever you can to mitigate risk to the business and your employees.
  • Share, anonymously. With permission, share individuals’ circumstances and how you helped them make accommodations. This could help other employees in similar situations who either don’t know what to do or are reluctant to approach you.

We are dealing with an unprecedented situation that calls for exceptional measures and flexibility. Change is hard, and when it is thrust upon us, empathy, action, and creativity in solutioning are particularly helpful. Leadership drives behavior. Your thoughtful actions are likely to set the tone for the ways your employees behave towards you, the organization, and each other. Your organization might end up even stronger than before.

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Work-Life Balance? Try Work-Life Integration

Work-Life Balance? Try Work-Life Integration

A colleague who has fully integrated her work and life shared a story from before the time of mobile phones. Her team was imagining the features a phone that could go anywhere with us and could track us anywhere should have. She said the device needed to have an off switch. Sometimes, she didn’t want to be found. She sharply divided “work” and “life.”

Fast forward to today’s cell phone ubiquity and 24/7 availability.

Do you sleep with your cell phone by your side? Do you take calls from your boss on the soccer field? Do you sneak out of the office to go to parent-teacher conferences?

Is this how you try to balance work and life?

The underlying problem with “work-life balance” is that it is a throw back to the old idea that work and life don’t mix. It assumes that work and life are different and antagonistic. Work-life balance conjures up a scale, and you take a little from work to add to life or you take away from life to add to work. You keep trying and trying to make it all equal.

But work and life are no longer two distinct spheres. We no longer work 8 hours, pursue family or personal activities for 8 hours, and sleep 8 hours. We no longer lose touch with home when at work, or with work when at home.

Work is part of life, and for many people work is a big part of life. When work interests us, slipping in a meeting or a phone call when at home or on vacation is good; being home for dinner and working a couple of hours after the kids’ bedtime makes sense. And that gives us the perspective to be ok with openly leaving the office for 2 hours to be the guest reader in a kindergarten class. We stay in touch with all aspects of our life.

Weaving together work and life, however, does not mean being available for everyone at all times. It does mean being transparent with colleagues and family. Even better, it can drive greater productivity by encouraging teams to share and coordinate plans. For instance, when teams decide to reserve no-email times, everyone benefits, and no one is left fuming at the lack of an immediate response to a 9PM email.

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