Thousands of books and articles have been written on the topic, and it has been at the forefront of many CEO’s minds. However, with the spread of Coronavirus and the massive increase in remote working that has resulted, the issue of workplace culture has become even more urgent and crucial to the survivability of many businesses. The economic strains caused by the pandemic make it more vital than ever that every employee is contributing and participating. Waste and inefficiency that might have been tolerable before could become lethal now. As a business owner, what are some of the things that you can look for and do to maintain a healthy work culture?
The foundation of a great workplace environment starts with transparency and openness, which comes from the top. Do employees feel comfortable sharing concerns but also passing on new ideas or making recommendations for improvements? As the owner or CEO, you have to be prepared to hear things that you may not want to hear, getting angry or reacting negatively, will only cause communication to dry up. Of course, there are some things that you can’t share for business or HR reasons, but as much as possible, you should let your employees know what is happening and why. Informed employees are more likely to support you and get on board with whatever direction you have in mind.
If you have team members that aren’t contributing, that is likely hurting morale. You need to coach them to get up to speed as soon as possible. However, if after a few weeks or so they don’t improve, then you will have to let them go. Paradoxically firing bad employees often has a positive impact on the morale of those who remain. They can see that you hold people accountable and expect results.
All of these issues would be important in normal times but are even more so now with remote working. It is essential to check in with your employees as often as possible and make sure they are doing the same with their direct reports. A good practice is to start every team meeting by taking a minute to let me people express any concerns and to ask them how they are doing. Even if you can’t do anything about the situation, they will feel validated and supported and that they are part of an organization that cares. Being a friendly voice and showing your concern will help build loyalty and teamwork.
By the same token, if you get wind of rumors or gossip that are circulating, your best bet is to come out and address them head-on if possible. For example, perhaps there is a rumor of impending layoffs when you know there are no such plans. Setting the record straight will help dispel fear and keep your workers happy and productive.
The times we are in are extraordinary, but the good news is that sound leadership and business practices still apply and will be just as effective as ever. Don’t be afraid to show your human side if you are struggling, allowing a bit of vulnerability will make you more human and give your staff an understanding that you are going through the same things that they are. Keep a hopeful tone, lead by example, and in the end, your business will emerge stronger than before, and you will win the admiration of your employees for your leadership.