Trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and work. It is affecting how teams work and communicate. Like others, at Aercoustics, we are respecting the government’s travel restrictions, moved to remote work, and increased physical sanitation in the office to minimize potential spread.
Fortunately, we have had a flexible work culture for about four years. It has meant we could respond appropriately to the public health guidelines as team members are asked to work from home. The move to social distancing sped up our transition to go fully remote. We are completely production capable while being 100% remote.
Hold onto Your Company Culture while Working Remotely
But we have worked hard to build a community culture at our company and now we are trying to figure out how to keep our culture strong even if we are not physically together and interacting. We took some lessons we learned when we opened a couple of satellite offices. There is more to remote work than just the technology side.
This is a new experience for all of us and there are going to be some challenges.
As many people struggle to work from home while playing referee with their kids, we wanted to share some of our experience on keeping the social aspects of a remote workplace so your team feels connected even if they are not together. It is possible to keep your culture while maintaining social distancing. Many of these tips are applicable in any event, but we have also included specific aspects as it relates to this particular crisis.
Keeping the Client & Project Connection
We have been able to manage the majority of our work remotely, so there has been no impact to production and project schedules. And our clients are adjusting to remote contact. Thanks to technology, we can deliver all the aspects of a typical in-person design meeting including drawing markups.
Our one challenge is site visits, including site inspections in construction and ongoing projects. With site visits, our approach is about managing risk. We do not involve large groups and our team can opt out if they feel unsafe. We respect the legislation that ensures no one has to work if they don’t feel safe. And in situations where the project allows, we are delaying or postponing most site visits if possible.
One other option that has also proved successful is to use Skype or FaceTime to conduct site inspections. In these cases, we are grateful to the construction workers who are already on site, and willing to “walk” us around in order to inspect specific items. This has proved to be safe for the teams that are already on site and for our team in limiting exposure where possible.
Social Distancing Does Not Mean Don’t Be Sociable
For companies new to remote work and adjusting to this new norm, there are many things to keep in mind:
Socialize! Keep Your Company Culture Thriving while Apart
Recognizing that we are social beings, we need to be creative in virtual interactions. We have found that Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom can give you good quality social interactions and we are experimenting with it now. Because we are no longer able to chat with colleagues in the office kitchen over lunch or during a break, we have created an online “watercooler” where teammates can sign in and catch up over coffee or lunch.
We have also started the “Not-so-Social Social”, which allows us to catch up as a team virtually on Friday afternoons. It’s a chance to connect and it’s BYOV: Bring Your Own Vice – whether that be a bubbly beverage or ice cream.
Know That Uncertain Times Cause Insecurity
Recognize that many of your team members are worried and concerned about their jobs as most economic activity has significantly slowed. Communication is very important. Be transparent about your plans through this time and communicate the plans and changes to the full team. Informed employees can make better planning decisions for their future.
Find Creative Ways to Invest in Business Development
We are looking for new ways to expand how we do business in this new environment. This may include virtual lunches or drinks with clients. There are ways to build and maintain relationships in this new climate – client-wise and internally.
Keep a Check on Mental Health while Working from Home
Address emotional and mental health impact – long periods of remote work can feel isolating and lonely, so it’s important to consider this aspect. We are encouraging our team to use our Employee Assistance Program if they need to talk and keep in touch with colleagues.
As remote work may initially sound exciting to many people, it may be a challenge. We have had some excellent lessons learned to help guide the new work from home employees:
- Keep up with your regular routine of getting dressed for work. It will help structure that work time is for work.
- Call/text your social network as needed. Use FaceTime/Skype video calls to reinforce your social connections.
- Set timers to get up and move regularly. If energy levels drops, step away from the computer and walk around, do some pushups or jumping jacks and get the blood pumping before returning to work.
- Stay hydrated and plan time for caffeine and meal breaks.
- Turn on your lights.
- Check your thermostat – being cold is linked to loneliness.
A Little Understanding Goes a Long Way
This is a new experience for all of us and there are going to be some challenges. No one has done this before. Take it a step at a time. We are all adjusting, particularly people on our team who are now working from home while caring for their kids.
We know a little understanding goes a long way. Our priority is the health and safety of our team, our families, and the community at large. As a company, industry and community in general, we will all emerge stronger having learned and adapted in the face of adversity. But for now, try to remember how great your team is, and that generally it’s a fun place to be, so make sure that despite all the seriousness, try and find ways to still “Make It Fun” and reinforce the positive aspects of your culture.
Our thoughts are with the families and friends affected by COVID-19 and the healthcare workers caring for them. We wish everyone good health as we try and contain the spread.