September 15, 2020

Five Simple Tips to Boost Your Team Culture During a Pandemic


Here at Your Other Half, we believe that the way you treat people in your business, regardless of their status, position or relationship to you, defines who you are as a leader. We believe even in the midst of these challenging times, you can ensure your own humanity remains intact and you demonstrate your commitment to your entire team through the culture you cultivate. Here are five tips to consider when continuing your team culture.

Tip #1: Lead by Example

As a leader, it is important to lead by example; it’s also super annoying when you’re already feeling frustrated, tired, and like you’re living through Groundhog’s Day on a daily basis. But it doesn’t change the fact that your team looks to you to identify what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Whether or not you’re in the office, the truth about culture is that you, as the leader, create the foundation for your culture through your behavior. Through your energy in a team meeting, a quick Slack message or a client email, your behavior demonstrates to your employees how you want them to behave. Make an effort to lead with behavior you want your employees to emulate – demonstrating relationship-building chit-chat on a client call, encouraging mindfulness and consideration of others on a team video meeting, or simply smiling with your team can make a huge difference.

 Tip #2: Communicate with Humanity

One of the most common topics that our clients have asked us about these past few weeks is how to communicate and implement furloughs, layoffs, and hour reductions. These are tough business decisions that are often necessary, especially as revenues are inconsistent and full reopenings are far in the future. Keeping your own humanity front and center as you consider these or other changes your business is facing will make them more manageable. As a strong leader, you already know your employees deserve more than a brief email. They need clear, effective communication, delivered in the most human way possible. Go out of your way to communicate these changes individually, by video or phone chat whenever possible, and then follow-up with the changes in writing so your employee can absorb them after the shock has worn off. Use compassionate language that lets the employee know that the termination, furlough, or other business decision, was carefully and thoughtfully considered. When in doubt and you don’t know what to say, think about how you would want to be addressed during such a situation; the words will flow. In the conversation with them, be present, focused, with notifications turned off and an awareness of their feelings. No matter how well those conversations know, you’ll know you gave your employee and your company your best, and were human in the process.

Tip #3: Think Before You Send

While this tip is good at any time, it’s especially critical when tensions and frustrations are running high for most of the people you’re addressing each day. Before sending any message, make sure to review it and see if it is clear, concise and kind. When emotions are high, we are more inclined to send messages that are either super enthusiastic (excessive punctuation or capitalization), or, simple messages that may be interpreted as being short with someone. While it is true that so many things can get lost in translation, do your best to consider your team and review your message. Adding a bit of levity when appropriate, like gifs, memes, or emoji, can be especially helpful during tough times. Make sure you’re leading with your communication to the tone and attitude you want your employees to be able to access for themselves.

Tip #4: Create More Opportunities for Connection

Organizational culture is not only cultivated by verbal and physical communication; written communication is just as important. If you only cultivate your culture during in-person or video interactions and ignore written communication completely, you may reduce opportunities to maintain culture while working from home. We are huge fans of the messaging app Slack, but whether you use that or another resource from a tool already in place (i.e. messaging apps from Google, Microsoft, etc.), we think a team-based chat app is a huge addition to building a work-from-home team culture. When implementing a chat tool, we encourage defaulting to public channels, which encourage group communication and culture, rather than 1:1 channels which can end up duplicating significant information (wasting time) and sometimes encourage gossip. Using this as frequently as you would turn to an officemate to ask a question really makes it a robust tool that encourages continuing connection and culture.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Celebrate

Work culture is at its best when teammates and collaborators celebrate, acknowledge and enjoy each other. On our team, we do this by having a celebration/wins channel on Slack, where any team member can acknowledge another team member’s or their own work, or feedback from a client that is positive. We also added the giphy extension onto Slack and often use emojis in internal communications, to allow for some silly and delightful self-expression in our team’s day. Acknowledging the contributions of team members verbally and publicly on team calls is a huge contributor towards creating a culture of acknowledgment in your organization, and has an even bigger impact when folks are stressed. Make an effort to spread it around and acknowledge even those who do lower-level or more administrative work for your organization. And finally, make time to connect and laugh about each other’s daily lives and work trivialities. You might be surprised how much of an impact it makes.