How we’re Keeping Up our Company Culture during Unprecedented Times
by Amira Hamdon on Apr 16, 2020
With COVID-19 acting as a disruptive force, remote work has come to the forefront as the best method to practice social distancing while continuing operations. This is new territory for many and has left a lot of businesses wondering how to maintain a connected and collaborative team while working from home.
We have a good amount of experience working as a distributed team at Energy Toolbase, given that, very early on in our company’s history, our team was geographically distributed. The same is true of Pason Power, who we merged with in September of 2019, at which time our team headcount roughly doubled in size to almost 50 team members. We now principally operate out of five regional offices, located in two countries, and spanning five separate time zones. Our main offices are now located in Stuart, Florida, Calgary, Alberta, Houston, Texas, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Additionally, we have remote team members located in California, Tennessee, and North Carolina. So, while social distancing didn’t introduce remote work to our team, it’s pushed us to level up our game.
We recently introduced a few new initiatives to actively cultivate company culture in response to the changing work environment. These are voluntary, opt-in activities allowing employees to control their schedule and decide if they need a well-earned break or uninterrupted focus time.
Virtual Coffee Chats & Icebreakers
One of the most noticeable changes when switching to remote work is the lack of impromptu casual conversation that typically happens while grabbing a cup of coffee or taking a snack break. While too much may be distracting, having none of this interaction whatsoever means lost opportunities to create deeper, more meaningful connections with your colleagues. We introduced an activity called Icebreaker where each week, all employees across geographies and functional teams are paired up at random for a quick 15- to 30-minute conversation intentionally dedicated to talking about things beyond daily tasks and upcoming projects. The ‘Icebreaker’ feature is a bot that can be added to any team within Microsoft Teams and suggests pairs based on schedules within Outlook.
Virtual Happy Hours
At the end of a week of hard work, our team takes time to reflect and share our progress and now… we still do, just differently. We have found that there are some tips and tricks to keep these virtual happy hours fun and engaging without descending into digital mayhem or awkward silence.
- Have a facilitator. This person keeps the conversation moving by offering a prompt and getting a response from participants. This is great to avoid both radio silence and accidental interruptions on a call. It also ensures that team members who may be naturally quiet don’t get lost in the shuffle.
- Try to have groups under 15 people. Beyond this, we have found it’s challenging to maintain a two-way conversation. If you have a larger team, divvy everyone up and shuffle the groups weekly. We included a snapshot of one of our recent virtual happy hours with some of our team below.
- Use a Gallery view to share the video. This way, it’s as if the whole team is sitting around the same table.
- Keep up the company traditions! Our team rings a gong when a big sale comes through, or a significant milestone is achieved. The gong may now be a serving tray and the mallet a wooden spoon, but the tradition lives on - virtually!
Feel Good Fridays
ETB is always looking to showcase our incredible team members! We created a Microsoft Teams channel called “Feel Good Fridays,” where employees are encouraged to share entertaining, 1- to 2- minute video clips with the team (think YouTube, but private and only for internal employees). Whether it’s telling Dad jokes, sharing inside stories, touring home offices MTV Cribs style, or showing off delicious recipes (quarantine beans, anyone?), our team can utilize this tool to share communal content.
These activities have helped to keep our team feeling connected and our company culture game strong. We wanted to share these with our customers and followers during this time of social distancing and remote work. Hopefully, you can use these and reap benefits as we have.