Creating a sustainable company culture from the comfort of your home

With more Australians working from home and less face time with co-workers, how do businesses create an effective online culture to keep staff engaged?

1 Source: Unsplash (XPS)

Has working from home left your company culture feeling a little bit… stale? Have your meetings gone from grounding to gruelling? We spoke to Cathie Reid, member of Dell’s Women Entrepreneur Network (DWEN]) and Co-Founder and Digital Advisor at Icon Group, to share her expertise on how to create an effective online culture to keep staff engaged.

During a time of social-distancing, working from home for millions of Australians has become the norm. In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics May research, nearly half (46%) of all working Australians said they were working from home.

Naturally, less time in the office can bring on feelings of disconnect amongst teams and a decrease in motivation levels. So, how do you lift team morale from home and create an engaged online culture?

Keep your company’s culture-defining rituals alive, virtually

Cathie insists on keeping with the rituals that define your company’s culture by creating virtual versions, which she has experienced herself from the top-down at Icon Group.

“[Icon Group’s] CEO Mark Middleton starts each day in the office walking around and personally greeting every team member there, so during the period when our head office was closed, he turned that into an email greeting each morning,” says Cathie.

Another culture-defining aspect at Icon Group is their love for themed dress-ups. “We’ve always had a big costume culture, with management days involving a theme and associated costumes,” shares Cathie. “So quite a few teams turned this into a feature of their weekly Webex team meetings.”

Other virtual rituals Icon has created include digitising their team’s rewards and recognition boards as well as hosting virtual monthly morning teas to announce awards.

Set clear online culture etiquette

2 Source: Unsplash (XPS)

Have you actually had “the talk” with your staff? Whilst the use of communication tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has ramped up, many workplaces may have forgotten or not made the time to establish clear online culture etiquette. Going without this is a sure-fire way to experience Zoom fatigue and a break-down of efficient communication fast.

“Maintaining good online etiquette - microphones off unless speaking, ensuring everyone attending has airtime, and keeping attendance lists as tight and meetings as short as possible to avoid video-fatigue are all key.”

Cathie also recommends encouraging all team members to avoid scheduling back to back video calls where possible to ease the eye and brain strain.

Set boundaries for yourself and protect your time (and encourage others to do the same)

3 Source: Unsplash (XPS)

It’s no secret that structuring your day encourages productivity, however establishing this structure when working from home has proven to be more difficult than when in the office.

“When work is always there [at home], it’s easy to slip into the habit of just staying on the computer and doing a few more things,” says Cathie. “Setting break times and a hard start and finish time each day definitely helped me.”

Protecting your time throughout the day is crucial to productivity and avoiding burnout. With restrictions lifting and many transitioning to half their week back in the office again, the question of whether in-person meetings should resume often pops up.

“While there’s still significant benefit in being face to face, I think we’ve all seen that we don’t need to be physically together as much as we might have previously thought to communicate effectively,” says Cathie.

“Make conscious decisions about when you really need to be somewhere in person versus virtually, rather than defaulting to in person.”

Cathie believes by being more selective around what is done in person will ultimately translate into better work-life balance, particularly for managers who previously spent huge chunks of their day travelling to and from meetings.

Future-proof your systems and processes

Lastly, the year 2020 has proven we can never really know what the future is going to throw at us. Keeping your team engaged and your online company culture energetic can be greatly sustained by future-proofing how your business operates.

“Assess all systems and processes that you implement going forward for their ability to function remotely as well as on-premise,” says Cathie. “The major reset moment from COVID-19 has been the illustration that not only can the unimaginable happen, but it can happen simultaneously on a global scale.”

Through the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, Dell is connecting female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more. Dell and 10 play are proud to bring you inspiring stories and key insights from incredible business leaders across Australia, showcasing the clever and inventive ways in which businesses have had to adapt during the pandemic