Although the forthcoming Covid vaccine promises an end to the pandemic, it will still take time to reach us all. In the meantime, businesses will still face more uncertainty in the months ahead.
Unfortunately, the mandate to “work from home” (WFH) has created varied threats to company culture and team bonds. One particularly damaging and creeping threat is silo thinking. Although this occurs even during normal periods, this ‘new normal’ has decreased physical interaction and face-to-face communication, leading to disconnection among team members, and to wider use of communication backchannels.
This threatens established team norms on communication, and leads to greater risks of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Less interaction and communication can also push team members to the outside fringes where they rely more on informal relationships at the cost of establishing relationships within their team and the organization.
So how can we strengthen company culture and team bonds in this new normal of remote work and social distancing? We asked Mr Luigi Mapa, our resource person on leadership and organisational development, for some noteworthy practices he has gathered from the organizations he has worked with these past few months:
Regular temperature checks and communication of perspectives: One very proactive HR team fulfilled a commitment to meet regularly (online) with different departments and employees across all levels to understand how the changes impacted their work, and also their personal lives. We documented these perspectives and then shared these anonymously with both team leaders and team members, thus increasing overall empathy and understanding within the organization. This tells us that temperature checks are not just for our foreheads but also for what’s inside our heads (and hearts!)
Periodic Re-Planning and Scenario Projecting: Despite their busy schedule, a data analytics team dedicated time to conducting short-term strategic planning sessions, in order to improve focus, and ensure everyone is on the same page. We saw how they applied a combination of planning tools and methodologies to improve execution and calibrate agile responses to the varying scenarios they projected. More importantly, these sessions enabled them to operationalize their team culture and values even while working from home.
Virtual Team Dynamics sessions: In order to keep things light and positive during this tough year, several support and operations teams would schedule game nights, appreciation events or different types of virtual celebrations and fun activities. To make these more meaningful, teams would ask us to inject a bit of learning, or facilitate conversations where teams can bond, be sincere and grow deeper in their personal and professional relationships while strengthening their commitment to the team’s shared goals and norms. It’s always fulfilling and inspiring every time we would see team members get emotional as they openly shared their appreciation for one another and their commitment to bouncing back in 2021.