What a YEAR: How to Culturally Thrive Despite Distance

By Linda Chang, Talent Resource Manager at Green Room Communications

One year into working from home and here we are: braver, stronger, and more connected than ever. While COVID-19 tested companies’ remote work abilities, Green Room did what we already do best — we pivoted (word of 2020!) to elevate our existing infrastructure. Along the way, we uncovered important insights.

Flexibility and Agility is Key

When our office-based team packed up our desks last March, we thought work-from-home would last two weeks. We quickly realized we needed to prepare for the long haul. Luckily, Green Room already established a nimble and flexible work culture – we refer to it as work/life integration. This term took on a deeper meaning as team members juggled work priorities with the demands of home life, virtual school, and keeping families safe and healthy. Having the tools already in place, like the ability to flex our hours, allowed us to remain responsive to clients while still being able to take care of personal needs. This already built-in mutual level of understanding, trust, and support gave team members a fighting chance at getting it all done, because as we all know – it takes a village.

Team Connectivity and Mental Health are Essential

Since we are still not able to physically be together in the office, we added to our arsenal of collaboration platforms like Slack and quickly got onboard with Zoom and FaceTime. We also implemented Coffee Buddies – a weekly video coffee chat with a team member selected at random. We held a virtual Trivia happy hour, Halloween costume contest, and shared Starbucks QR codes for a pick-me-up. Perhaps, most important, we prioritized offering bi-weekly meditation sessions and encouraged brain breaks, walks, and lunches away from laptops. During a time where we are being asked to stay home and distance, we found that little acts like this go a long way to show how much we value our team. These new staples will live in our culture well beyond COVID.

New Hires Need More Connected Onboarding

Our new hire onboarding process was reworked to be fully virtual … and it worked! Aside from the logistics of shipping laptops, issuing cell phones, accessing tools, enrolling for benefits, etc. – our biggest challenge was: how do we welcome new team members virtually and help them feel comfortable and connected on day one?

In addition to bringing our new hires in on virtual team activities like Coffee Buddies, we also now pair them with an onboarding buddy, schedule more and quicker onboarding meetings for their first weeks, welcome them on Slack (followed by an onslaught of excited team member welcome messages) and introduce them at our quarterly Town Halls. We are currently working to up our game in company swag and with a team welcome video. And like all processes, we listen to feedback and implement as we go.

A Look Ahead

Vaccines are finally here, and we are so hopeful to reunite in person sometime soon. This pandemic threw big curve balls, but one positive is how it shined a light on the importance of work culture. Green Room is proud we had a strong foundation that is flexible and respectful of our teams’ lives outside of work, so that we bring our best selves to work. Our advice: listen to what your employees truly need, create a space for feedback, make real solutions happen, and do not be afraid to pivot when things change. This will ultimately strengthen your culture, help to retain talent, and better position your team for success post-pandemic.