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Prioritizing Culture in Times of Crisis

Mar 10, 2022
HR Acuity

The widespread outbreak of COVID-19 and the blow its dealt to the global sense of well-being and global economy has left countless business leaders scrambling.

Entire workforces are being sent out of the office, and left to attempt to perform their jobs from the confines of their homes. And organizations are rushing to react, and provide their teams with the tools, resources, and policies necessary to continue business as usual, as best as they can.

It’s a lot to grapple with. And with the panic button firmly pressed down by so many, it can be a major challenge to think about anything other than what seems immediately necessary. But even with that outlook, there’s a major issue. What is “necessary” when you’re facing a situation that’s completely unknown?

Well, from an HR perspective, aside from ensuring that your staff have the physical tools necessary to thrive while they work from home, much of what is necessary remains unchanged. You still need to provide emotional resources to workers experiencing hardship (honestly, more important now than ever). You still need to listen to your team, and react to changing realities. And you still need to be prepared to intervene in cases of mistreatment, even if work is now being done remotely.

In a sense, you still need to prioritize culture. That doesn’t just mean CCing everyone on emails, and making sure everyone’s got a company-branded coffee mug to sip from at their homes! It means continuing to encourage a sense of togetherness, and making employees feel cared for, even without the benefit of daily in-person interaction. You’d be surprising how essential that small talk that naturally occurs around the office is to collective morale!

So to compensate, here are just a few things you can do.

First off, a regularly scheduled Zoom call with your team (or sub-team) can go a long way toward keeping everyone connected. This isn’t necessarily a business chat. It’s a “how was your weekend” substitute—an opportunity for your staff to come together and share their thoughts, and be reminded that there are people—colleagues and friends, in fact!—on the receiving end of those Slack messages or company emails.

Second, you’ll want to establish basic parameters around what is expected of your team. Turning everyone over to a brave new world of seemingly infinite freedom can prove daunting. Some people will work themselves ragged, others might find the flexibility a little, well, too enticing and log off after an hour of work. Give your team a range of hours they’re expected to be online during the workday that mirrors what would be expected of them in-person. Let them take breaks here and there to tend to regular life, or give themselves mental breaks. If you show them you respect them to allocate their schedule responsibly, they’ll return the favor by proving you right.

And lastly, you absolutely need to continue to not just tell your staff you are supporting them through this, but actually walk the walk. Mistreatment and toxicity at work can happen offline and online. (You hear a lot about internet trolls, but not so much about trolls in real world settings!) And people will have issues pop up that are impossible to predict. Make sure they have a place to document these experiences, seek guidance, and if necessary, report them to HR. Speakfully can do all of that for your team. Its support resources can provide needed guidance. Its documentation tools assist individuals as they compile their thoughts and recollections of incidents. And its HR dashboard grants your HR team access to realtime cultural data—something incredibly valuable when you can’t read the room from within the room.

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