5 ways to maintain a strong company culture remotely
Nespresso’s Head of HR offers her expertise on how to preserve and encourage a happy and strong working environment at a time when remote working is the norm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen businesses across the UK adapt and rethink their work practices completely, almost overnight. And although employees may gradually return to offices next year, it’s clear that for many, flexible working is here to stay.
In a recent study, 71 percent of UK businesses have said they plan to adopt more flexible and agile working practices following COVID-19, while 80 percent feel their staff are as or more productive when working remotely. The shift to remote working is not without its challenges, however, and businesses are looking more closely at ways to maintain a strong company culture as flexible work arrangements become the new normal.
So how can businesses do this effectively? Drawing on my Nespresso experiences, here are five ways companies can help ensure remote teams feel connected, motivated and productive during this changing and unsettling landscape:
Maintain regular communication while recognising individual needs
Flexible working arrangements are a great way to help employees balance life and work. However, it’s crucial that teams also feel connected and that they communicate regularly while working remotely. Nespresso research conducted with OnePoll has found that 78 percent of people feel they need to interact with colleagues ‘face-to-face’ to develop a good working relationship. At Nespresso, we’ve invested in video conferencing technology, such as Microsoft Teams, which is hugely important for employees to effectively communicate and collaborate remotely.
At the same time, it’s important to think about an individual’s needs and empower them to be flexible. For example, some people may feel uplifted by numerous ‘face-to-face’ virtual calls, while others might be drained by this and need time to recharge. If possible, allow more introverted colleagues to spend time independently, and give them space to take regular breaks from calls when needed. For more extroverted teammates, give them the opportunity to tackle projects in pairs or groups when possible, as this will help them to stay energised throughout the working day.
Focus on supporting mental health
After long periods of home working, employees may be feeling isolated and disconnected from their employers and need support. One way in which companies can tackle this is to ensure they have a strong employee assistance programme (EAP) to enable remote access. This may mean offering support in a variety of ways, particularly online and over the phone.
Some ways we have done this at Nespresso is to invest in training volunteers across the business to become Mental Health First Aiders, linking up with MIND to have online resources and training available, and providing a free subscription to the Headspace app, an application that encourages mindfulness throughout the day. In addition, we’re running a series of (virtual) resilience workshops to help people cope with the huge changes they’ve experienced this year, both professionally and personally.
Understand the importance of social connections within remote teams
According to Nespresso and OnePoll research, 74 percent of people agree that having a meaningful relationship with colleagues is important to delivering quality work, so cultivating a strong team spirit across remote teams and fostering social connections is vital.
Having open and honest check-ins at the start of team meetings, which focus on highs and lows from a personal, as well as professional perspective, is a great way to understand how people are feeling and get a sense of how people are adapting to this new way of life.
With a little bit of creativity, there are plenty of different ways to bring teams together. For example, you could organise online breakfast, lunch or coffee meets, with time allocated for simply catching up and connecting with colleagues socially and discussing each person’s goals for the day. There are also fun ways for colleagues to relax, unwind and stay connected during break times – from virtual quizzes and online games, to video meet ups where teams introduce their colleagues to family members and pets. If the weather is nice, colleagues could even take their laptop or phone into the garden or local park to enjoy a virtual coffee break and change of scenery.
Organised fun is certainly important, but remember that for many people, it’s the small, consistent interactions throughout the day that they miss most from an office environment.
We’ve worked hard to facilitate colleagues’ interactions and relationships at Nespresso by adjusting the way we meet and communicate throughout the day. During lockdown, many of our teams adopted shorter, quick-burst meetings and included a lighthearted activity to spark those interactions that people miss from the office. We’ve also been increasing our use of tools such as Workplace by Facebook to facilitate exchanges between colleagues, as well as hosting monthly all-employee calls to maintain a sense of community. Last month we ran our very first virtual conference, which included a live group exercise class with Joe Wicks that lifted spirits and was certainly a new shared experience for Nespresso!
Help shape your employees’ working space
Workspaces are important to employees and an integral part of the employee experience – so much so that 89 percent of people believe the quality of their workplace has an impact on their mental health.
Consider how your company can help make a home working space as safe, professional, productive and supportive as possible. For example, our Health & Safety team worked hard to provide home workstation assessments and supported colleagues to work in the best, safest and most productive way, no matter how much space was available to them. Try to continue providing other assets or perks, such as stationary or quality coffee for colleagues to enjoy during breaks, work effectively and feel well in their day.
At Nespresso, we are very used to collaborating and building relationships over coffee, so our regular staff orders of Nespresso coffee have continued throughout the remote working period. We have also been supporting our business customers to bring the same experience to their employees.
Introduce new targets for remote working teams and celebrate success
Bringing your team together to meet measurable goals on a weekly or monthly basis is another great way to ignite team spirit, boost motivation and foster business-wide collaboration. In this environment, being flexible and open about changes in priorities which may need to happen is important.
It’s also essential to celebrate successes and recognise hardworking teams and individuals. The type of recognition people want and respond best to varies hugely, so we encourage people to use a variety of ways to recognise their teams and peers. This can be anything from individual thank-you cards, to broadcast recognition videos.
While businesses across all sectors, including the food and drink industry, have found the accelerated shift to remote work challenging, to say the least, recent months have undoubtedly highlighted how a more flexible approach can benefit both employees and companies alike. Remote working isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s crucial that today’s business leaders learn how to build a strong work culture, both inside and outside of the office.
About the author
Emma Eagle is Head of HR for Nespresso UK & ROI.