working remotely with dog

Culture Matters–Now More Than Ever

I hope you and your family are staying healthy as we face uncharted territory with COVID-19. I know I am grateful that my family is safe and sound but do worry and wonder when I will see them again. My cousins are in Seattle, Washington, the first state to get hit with the virus. My brother and I are in Virginia and DC, and we have family and friends in India, England, Europe, Mexico and Canada. We all say the same things when we talk or text…its “surreal,” “dystopian,” “it feels like we’re in a SciFi movie”… 

Yes, it’s stressful AND let’s think about all the positives.  Like many of you, my husband and I are working from home along with our two teenagers who are navigating online learning in a new way.  And this brings new opportunities to slow down, appreciate what we have and be supportive. 

It’s really great to see families getting to be creative, spending time together.  I am happy to have more time with the kids – while they miss their friends and activities, they are also a bit more relaxed not having to get up super early for school and having more time to learn at a less frenetic pace. My husband and I can have lunch together every day. What a treat! We are using video and Facetime to chat and stay connected. My team and I have a virtual happy hour planned.  People are trying to help one another by lightening the mood. Kids are dancing up and down our street, with the requisite six feet between them, to let off steam. 

It has also been terrific to see how leaders are guiding their organizations compassionately through this crisis and to see how we’ve come together in our communities, neighbors helping neighbors. While we are all in survival mode right now and thinking about how to get through the day, take this opportunity too to think about your organizational culture and how you can care for your employees today and in the future.  

The issues raised by this pandemic are an opportunity to show leadership and cultivate it in your teams.  People need to feel safe.  Even in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty, they need to know that leaders have a plan.  Leaders must anticipate and prepare to navigate challenges that will continue to lie ahead.  Listening and communicating clearly have never been more important.  It will also be important to take lessons learned from past crises and apply them to this moment. 

Remember to take a human-centered approach

Also, consider how specific groups of employees are impacted and remember to take a human-centered approach. 

Working women in particular are hardest hit by this pandemic – they are often in service and caregiver positions that are most negatively impacted.  Parents are now juggling childcare and, in some cases homeschooling, while also doing their jobs.  Single people supporting themselves, and possibly others, on one paycheck are especially concerned about job security.  Concern for elderly relatives is on the mind of everyone.   

While physical health is necessarily the focus right now, companies should not forget about supporting employees’ mental health as well.  Starting in April, Starbucks is rolling out an incredible new mental health benefits to its employees and families. We’re talking 20 free therapy sessions, mediation apps, and more! Some employees thrive on remote work and see it as a way to stay productive and focused.  But others will have the opposite experience.  According to one study, as many as three-quarters of millennial and Gen Z employees already feel isolated at work even when they’re in the office.  Think about ways to use technology to share positive updates and work-related good news to help everyone stay connected to the larger team.  

Is your culture built to withstand these new challenges? 

In this new environment, workplace culture is being tested like never before. By one estimate, less than a quarter of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.  And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Is your culture built to withstand these new challenges? Take time to reflect on what you can do so your workplace culture doesn’t just endure these difficult times but can emerge even stronger.  Reach out to us if you’d like to chat further, we’d love to hear from you! 

Shaara Roman is founder and managing director of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.

The Silverene Group is proud to be a 100% minority, woman owned business.