Adjusting to the new normal: a positive corporate culture is essential with your workforce at home

April 4, 2020

Article originally published in LinkedIn

By Barbara Fox

As social distancing and working at home become the new normal, my long-held belief in the importance of a strong corporate culture has been confirmed.

I wanted to share some thoughts on how building one is more important now than ever from the perspective of a mid-sized consulting firm with 40 employees now working from home.

Last week, out of the blue, I received a message from one of our team members titled Gratitude in These Dark Times, saying “the way everyone pulls together to support one another and help even when isolated in our own spaces is really incredible.”

Calling our firm “a masterclass in teamwork,” the message goes on to say how proud everyone is of our culture and environment and that the team doesn’t take it for granted.

Nor do I.

As a national strategic communications and public affairs firm, our clients at Enterprise are counting on us more than ever to provide sound advice and deliver the issues management, crisis communications and public affairs support they need – quickly, efficiently and accurately.

We do our best work in times of crisis and change. And I’m proud to say that our team is responding and operating extremely well.

To succeed, we need our team to be pulling in the same direction. We need a team who can come together seamlessly while working from home to do it.

Technology makes this possible – yes, we’ve switched to video conferencing and added slack for office chat (which is a lot of fun!) And if I’m being honest, the adjustment has been easier for some members of the team than others. I’ll be the first to admit new technology isn’t my strong suit, but it doesn’t have to be to see the enormous potential it’s given us to continue serving clients who need us.

But what’s become more apparent to me throughout this is that corporate culture is what truly makes it work, no matter what technology you’re using.

Enterprise Canada, staff pic

A strong corporate culture doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. I have spent an enormous amount of time cultivating and modelling the kind of environment that I and others want to work in. It starts with how you treat people. I have operated on the golden rule – treat people the way you want to be treated yourself. It’s a philosophy that has served me well my entire life and in my business career, today more than ever.

Getting to know your team, trusting them, celebrating their success and understanding when things are difficult and not going well, are fundamental. We all have good times and challenging times. We need to support one another through these times and not put barriers up that make it even more difficult for people.

It’s simple common sense but over the years I have seen many poor examples and talked to many unhappy people in their work environments. I constantly see and hear of examples of companies not getting this right. Things have changed in the workplace and will change again as a result of COVID-19.

Organizations must support their people at times like this to keep them healthy, productive and committed.

While it starts at the top, everyone plays a critical role in ensuring a positive environment. We have more than 40 consultants in Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa and Hamilton. They have all jumped in, working long hours from small home offices, supporting each other and our clients, finding ways to work together as a team to overcome the barriers.

I have seen members of our team helping one another both in day-to-day client work and as friends, supporting one another with tips on anything from how to effectively operate at home to maintaining each other’s mental health and ensuring that everyone is doing well.

Last Friday when we couldn’t get together in person for our social start to the weekend, people joined remotely, with a glass of wine or beer in hand to talk about the past week and the week ahead.

Enterprise Canada, staff pic

The best work comes from people who feel connected and part of a team that they can collaborate effectively with. Happy, engaged people produce the best results.

I am enormously proud of our team and how they have quickly mobilized and responded to this unprecedented situation we are all in. And I’ll be following closely to ensure the corporate culture that exists in our physical office stays intact as we work from home.

So let me leave you with this: there are tough times ahead for businesses all around the world. The temptation to take short cuts on corporate culture or treat people differently as we manage the coming economic downturn will leave a lasting stamp on your business.

No matter what decisions you need to make, take a lesson from my 25 years of building a corporate culture that’s enduring the COVID crisis and treat your employees as your number one asset.

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