It seems we’re all hearing about “the new normal” of work these days. Telecommuting has quickly become the norm, and we’re all trying to figure out how to best be successful at work in this new era. This means more than just figuring out how to unmute yourself during a teleconference or how to juggle pets and family members who always seem to appear when you’re on video. For employers, it means how to engage employees and make them feel valued so that they are performing at their best and also are staying around for the long haul. This is why a company culture matters now more than ever.
Company culture is much easier to demonstrate in a physical space. Office layout, decor, company traditions, social gatherings, all-hands meetings, and contact with executives all play a role. Office culture can be seen in the break room and in conference rooms. But how to show it when everyone is home? Some Seattle companies are doing an excellent job of this during the COVID pandemic. They had a strong culture before remote working and that culture shows.
- Demonstrate caring. One of the most important things a company can do now is to show they put the health of employees first. Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle were two of the first large companies in the country to announce working from home and employees appreciated it.This move led to other companies following suit, and as large employers made a big impact on the city. They also showed support for hourly contract workers such as food services and custodial staff who could not work remotely by continuing to pay them. Some companies are likewise supporting small restaurants near the office hurt by the lack of customers. These gestures mean a lot to employees and earn loyalty.
- Communication. In uncertain times, people look to leaders to communicate. One Seattle tech company, Ekata, has won praise from employees by having near daily communications from the CEO. Rather than being aloof, he’s engaging employees directly, informing them exactly what is happening with the business and customers, and steps they are taking to keep both thriving. In times like this, overcommunicating is great. With no coffee chatter in the office, people can feel isolated and not in the loop. Hearing a daily message works wonders.
- Creating new social channels for employees. It can’t be all work, all the time. Let’s be honest, it isn’t all work even when we are at the office. There is usually time for a coffee break, lunch with colleagues, and the occasional baby shower for an employee. It should be no different during remote working. If they haven’t done so before, employers need to make sure there is some space for play. A Slack channel for quarantine updates, the latest takeout food options, or pet photos. A Zoom meeting just for lunch each day or a virtual happy hour at the end of the day. Some employers are setting up trivia nights or other social activities just so employees can blow off steam together.
- Incentives. Sometimes flat out money talks. Companies that are giving bonuses for working on the front lines are making the news. But there are other incentives too. Seattle company Adobe recently authorized cash for all employees to enhance their home offices, to be spent as employees saw fit. Like several other companies, there was also a surprise day off/company-wide closure to encourage employees to get out from behind those screens. These types of incentives keep employees around.
Hiring for Seattle’s tech companies continues during this pandemic. In fact, business is booming for many companies, and new businesses are certain to spring up to serve the new environment. Top candidates are going to have options. Now, more than ever, employers need to step it up to remain competitive and to attract and keep top talent.