What does workplace culture look like when you’re not in the workplace?

How COVID-19 has changed how organisations work

A positive workplace culture is vital to every effective team, but how do you make sure that respect, trust and even joy is translated into workplaces as they move online? While working remotely has been embraced by many, it can be difficult to overcome times of loneliness and social isolation for some.

As a key member at Astrolabe working in partnerships and events, I have found the effort put into maintaining a positive and supportive workplace culture has been critical to the continued success of the team and the experience of our clients during our time living under COVID-19 restrictions.

So, with this in mind I wanted to share my two biggest insights to support a healthy and vibrant workplace culture in a virtual world. These being the role of virtual events and team engagement.

Virtual Events are SO different to face-to-face events!

Technology and a reliable internet connection – the two things that have become the most important factors of bringing people together. And yet at times (especially when you really, really need them to) they don’t always work seamlessly.

Transitioning an event to a virtual setting is a massive jump. It’s a complete shift in the delivery – especially when your event is needing a ‘hands-on’ approach. To keep people engaged through a screen you need to:

Practice, practice, practice – and set the expectations

We did “dry-runs” for our first few online events. Presenting in front of a virtual audience is super weird at first. You don’t have the verbal and physical ques such as heads nodding in agreement or understanding, attentive note-takers or raised hands.

Practicing helps you get used to the format of your delivery and gives you the opportunity to think explicitly about how you want your participants to interact and contribute.

Use interactive tools

This is my favourite part of online engagement and we continue to experiment with interactive features so that our focus isn’t only with heads on a screen! A great starting point is the tool slido. The shift to the virtual realm has seen tools like slido become common in webinars and workshops to enable continued interaction and engagement.

Allow for question breaks, often

While face to face team meetings, workshops and seminars usually allow the audience ask questions and discuss, in the online settings establishing a culture of participation takes some work. Scheduling in question breaks, maybe after each theme of your presentation and providing thought provokers to prompt discussion works well to create an environment for interaction.

Workplace engagement is just as – if not more important

We’re proud of our workplace culture at Astrolabe. Birthdays, achievements, little life moments were some of the many things we celebrated together as a team pre-COVID. While we haven’t been able to be around in person, we have found new tools and ways to celebrate with the team.

We now use kudoboards for birthdays and send flowers to our celebrants. Our 10-minute meditations/stretches and afternoon tea with virtual trivia on each week set regular expressly social only events. Setting aside time to socialise has been crucial to setting up a positive ‘work from home culture’.

Our staff newsletter has also emerged as an even more important piece of communication. Our weekly circulation includes information like:

  • Our ongoing response to COVID-19
  • Organisational Updates – messages from the leadership, requests for help or contributions, reminders and events
  • Project Updates –team members sharing projects they are currently working on
  • Astrolabe Adventures – photos of activities the team do outside of work
  • Affirmations – where staff have the chance to shine some recognition on their colleagues for their help, support, achievements, and the work they’ve done

The newsletter is open to everyone’s contribution and encourages the team to share their success, challenges and even a bit of their life outside of work.

A positive workplace culture has so many benefits not only in productivity and collaboration but to everyone’s wellbeing. Going online and working from home been a huge shift, but by making time to have fun and stay connected we’ve found a balance that works.

What has your organisation done to promote positive workplace culture during COVID-19 disruption?

Czerina Agcaoili is the Project and Partnership Officer at Astrolabe Group and is always excited to get people together at an event. Working at home has given her back 2 hours and 40 minutes of time usually spent commuting. The time saved has been used for painting, seeing friends and exercising around her neighbourhood.