With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been asked to make the shift to a virtual working environment with little or no notice. In this climate, corporate culture is more important than ever.
At Apt, we’ve spent many years cultivating an open, transparent and collaborative culture, because we believe that it benefits our people, our business, and, ultimately, our clients. And this focus on culture has certainly helped us navigate this new terrain with minimal disruption.
For many, the shift to virtual working has been a learning curve, and for Apt, it’s cemented the trust we already had in our people and enabled us to see the true value of our investment in cloud-based technologies. It’s also helped us find new and creative ways to continue enhancing our culture when we can’t see our people.
As we all face the challenge of remote working together, I wanted to share our top tips for maintaining your culture in a remote environment – and some learnings we’ve had along the way.
Keep connected, professionally and socially
We’ve continued our regular meeting schedules, such as all staff meetings, team meetings and manager one-on-ones, and moved them to a video conferencing platform. Maintaining this schedule is critical to keep staff informed and keep them connected to each other.
We’ve also moved our staff social events online and added some new ones. This includes our regular Friday night drinks and a new virtual morning tea. These events are well attended, and I think it’s critical for businesses to provide social outlets for their team to get together and talk the way they previously did in the kitchen, in the hallways or at lunch.
Of course, this will ultimately benefit your business. A happy, connected team is always more likely to deliver on your business and client outcomes, but more importantly than that, it’s good for mental health. In this new normal, we must all find ways to connect and have a laugh, and businesses can play a role in facilitating this for their teams.
Support your people
We are fortunate that our existing culture at Apt means that we have good insight into people’s situations and home lives. Working from home isn’t the same for everyone, and many of your team will have new challenges as a result of COVID-19, whether that’s dealing with sudden unemployment in the family, home-schooling children or an underlying health issue in the family.
Knowing which team members are likely to be in a more vulnerable or difficult situation as a result of isolation ensures you can support them, both personally and professionally. This might be about providing more flexibility in working hours, approving additional leave or just checking in regularly. At the end of the day, this is best for everyone on a personal level and your business in the long run.
Recognise contribution to culture
In challenging times, it’s easy to get caught up only focusing on and rewarding performance outcomes, but, in my opinion, recognising contribution to corporate culture is a performance enabler.
Prior to COVID-19, our Friday night drinks included an award for the team member who had best lived the Apt values during that week. We continue this practice at our virtual drinks, and critically, this is voted on by all staff, not just the management team. Everyone should have a stake and play a role in building the company culture because this leads to a fulfilled, committed team, low turnover, and better client service.
Your technology is critical
We made the move to secure, cloud-based software some time ago, and this has proved a worthwhile investment. Everything from our phone system to our client relationship management platform continues to work as usual – wherever our team is located.
If you haven’t made that investment, it’s not too late to start implementing it. Of course, it will help you immediately, but it will also help you in the long-term. I personally believe, when it comes to the way we work, things won’t be the same when this is all over. Flexibility and remote working were always set to play a bigger role in our future, and in my view, current events have simply accelerated that process.
Make the most of the learning opportunity
Managing your teams and your business remotely certainly has challenges, but it also presents opportunities to learn more about your people and find innovative ways to continue delivering value for your clients.
Used well, video conferencing can be a great tool for your business, but many of us haven’t been making full use of the technology. Now is our chance to learn how to make remote technologies and virtual teams work for our people and our businesses. When we return to face-to-face environments, these technologies and skills will continue to play a role and may even add value to the way we work with our people, partners and clients.
For business owners, managers and leaders across all sectors, virtual team leadership is presenting a new set of challenges. In my opinion, maintaining and even building on your corporate culture is a critical piece to the puzzle that can simultaneously increase remote team motivation, performance, happiness and wellbeing, and the quality of your client experience.
General Advice warning
The information provided in this blog does not constitute ﬁnancial product advice. The information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your individual objectives, ﬁnancial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for speciﬁc professional advice. Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL and ACL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) and Apt Wealth Home Loans (powered by Smartline ACL 385325) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.