We’ve all been here before, a little too recently. 2020 taught us how to set up our offices at home and made a lot of us proficient at Zoom calls. But, even with the familiarity, there’s a little Delta variant tension creeping in, with uncertainty over when exactly this lockdown will end.
As the weeks go by it also becomes easy to drift apart from the workplace. We may feel ourselves becoming islands on our own. Keeping your company culture alive and kicking can help bring back cohesion, create a new perspective and see you through. Now’s the time for a focus on soft skills and building the supportive elements that make your team feel like they’re part of something and contributing to a common goal.
The all-important checklist
We learnt a few things during the last lockdown around using culture to nail the fundamentals of team engagement. Here’s some things to add to your lockdown survival kit …
Catching up in with your team doesn’t just mean the morning meeting, where most people have their camera’s off. Check ins should give your team time to talk first, like a pre-work catchup or coffee. By starting with the informal, followed by a more orderly discussion, you get people feeling like they’re part of a conversation, rather than a debriefing.
Following this up, it’s good to also touch base with each member of the team. A quick message or a 5-minute chat is often better than an email – those quickly pile up in a digital work environment.
If you don’t already do daily team meetings, now is a great time to start. Begin with a general round-robin on how everyone’s feeling, to let you access the mood. This will quickly identify who’s a bit low or overburdened. Perhaps you might find a bottleneck, which had been holding someone back for quite a while.
The team huddle format works well here, getting everyone focused and resolving issues (you can picture huddling around a coffee table or, in our case, a pool table, if that helps). And a good way to keep the energy up is to change who leads the meeting, switching it up daily.
Some key questions to ask each team member are:
- Positive – What went well yesterday?
- Proactive – Any challenges or bottlenecks?
- Supportive – Where do you need support?
- Focus – What’s your #1 priority today?
Essentially, the 9-5 is great when we’ve an office or somewhere else to go. But working from home is a completely different scenario – not only do we not go anywhere afterwards, we’re also competing against our home lives.
Being aware that members of your team will now be juggling many things at once is important. Likely they’ll have children, family members, or housemates. Or maybe they’re facing the solitude of dealing with work pressure alone. This time can be a hugely stressful time for some. Asking your team members to check on each other is a good way of helping everyone understand the different pressures we are all facing.
While not practical for all businesses, shifting to a new working model could help. Perhaps someone has to keep their kids entertained in the morning, but they can get through a pile of work whilst those kids are asleep. Fostering a productive culture based on workflow, rather than on actual hours spent at the desk, will allow your team the flexibility to be truly productive.
The trick is to be very clear about priorities and deadlines – these are the things that can’t shift. Then let your teams determine how they can best meet these deadlines, whatever their situation.
Think about how you can support your teams by lifting the mood. It’s often the small things that help here. Maybe it’s as simple as some casual banter and a virtual coffee. Or maybe it’s something to round off the week, like a lockdown photo competition or a silly hat meeting. You can even try starting your meetings with something positive that happened in your day – automatically, you have everyone trying to lift the mood.
A focus on a supportive culture will help your business ride through the challenge that is Covid – and it might just lift your mood as well!