Keeping Culture Strong During Social Distancing
Around the world, companies big and small have had to make some dramatic changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully here at EPIC, we’ve been able to keep business moving forward, with one big adjustment: nearly our entire staff is working from home. EPIC has been embracing the remote work culture since before I started over two years ago. Meaning our amazing tech team already had our whole agency set up with VPN, Slack, GoToMeeting and other great tools that made the logistics of going fully remote pretty seamless. But maintaining the culture and closeness of our 80+ employees has been a new challenge for our tight-knit agency.
And it’s a challenge that our employees have embraced! In a time of vast uncertainty, our entire EPIC team has made it even clearer that the best part of our company is the people, and this shows by the way we have been able to stay connected.
Still, there are definitely some concrete approaches that we’ve used to help our team adjust to this new work routine.
Finding Common Ground
During the first week of our new work-from-home lives, employees shared photos of their new desk setups and home offices. Not only was this a fun way for everyone to show a bit about their homes, but it allowed others to envision the space where coworkers are getting creative. This has been an essential part of finding common ground during a pandemic. Speaking of coworkers, the EPIC team has had a lot of fun telling stories about working with our young or furry family members, who are now our “coworkers.” From stealing seats, eating toilet paper, and refusing to wear pants (hey kid, we get it)—these stories have not failed to make people laugh, or relate.
We’ve also encouraged employees to show off projects they’ve been working on and are proud of. To help keep these conversations going and organized, we dedicated two new Slack channels (if you’re not on Slack, we highly recommend looking into it!) that embrace our company slogan: #workhard and #havefun. These channels are outlets for folks to share funny memes, pictures of their pets, or client work that has finally come to life.
Staying Connected Face-to-Face
While having chats via Slack is a great way to communicate and stay close, most of us still crave that face-to-face connection that social distancing has us missing. We’ve combatted this by having weekly virtual happy hours on Friday afternoons. We currently use GoToMeeting which lets us have at least 26 cameras going and the option to have all of our employees join in as the app allows up to 150 people to join on a single call. These happy hours are more than just an excuse to have a beer at 4:30 on a Friday—they give employees something to look forward to as well as bring some form of normalcy back to our Friday nights.
Each department at EPIC has taken their own approach when it comes to staying connected. While some have daily check-ins, others do it weekly or by need. It really depends on how your team works and what type of communication you are used to. This doesn’t mean you have to stay on a strict schedule, though. Many of our employees hit that video call button just to check-in on each other, whether it’s about a project, how they are coping with everything going on in the world, or just to catch up.
These are uncertain times for everyone, and while we are very fortunate to still be producing awesome work for our clients, there are still moments of anxiety and worry that can ripple through the agency. There is a simple way to help ease that tension—transparency. We know that nobody has the answers to when this pandemic will end and what that will look like, but employees want to hear that from their leaders. They want assurance that the people in charge are right in the trenches with us, and this is something EPIC has excelled at.
Our leaders have done their homework regarding new restrictions, legislation, and news surrounding COVID-19. Their plans, updates, and encouragement are shared with employees through weekly emails, but they also have an open-door policy and invite anyone to reach out at any time.
There is no perfect way to adapt to a global pandemic, but we’ve found that success comes from being flexible, understanding and most of all, realistic. At the end of the day, your culture is your people, so make sure they’re doing okay and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.