Decision-makers should encourage the use of calendar blocks to show times such as working hours, meeting availability, do not disturb (deep work) time, lunch breaks, dog walks and picking up kids. And then, crucially, allow that time to be protected to the best of their ability. There will always be fire drills, but not every issue that comes up needs to be addressed at the drop of a hat. Another more generalized solution is a “No Meetings Tuesday” (or Friday, or any day) where the company as a whole avoids scheduling meetings unless there is truly no other availability. That way people not only get a break from Zoom but also the constant interruptions to their workflow.
Supporting different communication styles is also important to foster a productive work environment. While extroverts might yearn for the days when the entire team was in the office, introverts may be thrilled to not deal with the morning subway commute and water cooler talk. Allow employees to share their own needs—whether that means meeting a manager for a walk around the block or in an off-site café or having a phone call instead of a Google Meet for the more camera-shy members of the team.
Company culture cannot be forced
Early on in the pandemic, companies did whatever they could to stay connected and keep culture alive with cameras on all the time, virtual cooking classes, happy hours, trivia nights and virtual escape rooms. All that was great … until it wasn’t. Now, at the end of a long remote workday, your employees may not have the energy to join yet another Zoom, even if it’s supposed to be fun. They have dogs to walk, kids to pick up from school and dinner to make. Instead, allow for smaller teams or breakout groups to create their own events. For example, all the workers in one city may be younger and more interested in an in-person happy hour, but the subset of your employees that are parents would prefer a $25 gift card to order a workday lunch once per month.
On the other hand, it is good to bring the entire team together for purposeful reasons, such as celebrating a new client win, project kickoffs, onboarding new hires, client strategy meetings, promotions or a holiday party. If there is a significant milestone, it should be celebrated! When there is intention behind events, companies can expect better employee engagement and participation.
Your HR team is busy enough as is
Facilitating events and relationships shouldn’t solely fall on your DE&I lead or HR team. Not only does this create a narrow definition of company culture, but it may also overburden your teammates. Fostering a welcoming workplace culture should be everyone’s role, including executive leadership, managers, team leads and even interns.
Get new hires involved early so they are acclimated to the culture and can actively participate by scheduling informal one-on-ones with different departments, whether it's a quick walk around the block, a phone call or a Google Meet. A great tool for this is Donut, a Slack extension that randomly pairs users for suggested meetups and even provides watercooler questions to get the conversation started. Another option is to set aside a travel budget for new hires to be trained on-site and meet some of the team face-to-face.
“Best places to work” may adopt similar strategies in profit sharing, mental health, fitness stipends and other benefits, but what unites them most is a fluid approach to company culture. This means listening carefully to what employees want and coming up with flexible solutions that allow all voices to be heard.
Simply setting up weekly team Zoom meetings isn’t enough to foster a healthy company culture. It takes action at all levels to recognize different employees’ needs, seek team feedback and set up mediated and in-person interactions that are purposeful and beneficial to all team members.
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