Culture in the time of COVID-19

As many organizations are into the third or fourth week of managing business remotely, the challenges and opportunities are becoming more visible. At this point, learning how to manage video meetings and moving operations into the cloud have been addressed. Processes are up and running and folks are getting by and getting the work done from home. But as it becomes more clear that we’ll be working this way well into the spring and perhaps summer, it is also becoming clear that company culture can suffer if it isn’t addressed in the new environment.

So how do you maintain a strong company culture during this time? While there are many companies who have operated with virtual staff, the environment right now is still unique, so as we’ve researched for ideas and advice, the ideas haven’t quite addressed such complete isolation. So today we offer some ways that we at Thoma have been working to maintain our culture in the time of COVID.

First, we made a commitment to maintain all standing internal meetings using the G-Suite video conference function. This includes our daily check-ins, our management one-to-one meetings, our weekly team building/professional development session (a.k.a ThomaThoma University or TTU for short), and our regular EOS meetings (we utilize the Entrepreneurial Operating System model). 

We’ve become increasingly aware of the informal moments of communication about clients and projects that happened just around the office as we worked together. So we’ve added some new internal check-in points to account for those moments such as an end-of-day group meeting to close the loop on projects in the works. 

To every extent possible, we’re encouraging our clients to take employee rewards and recognition programs online and consider clever ways to reach out to their sheltered employees. Our own Core Values awards program is operating online. It takes a little more effort and encouragement to look for and reward efforts from a distance, but it makes a difference in bridging the gap.

Many organizations are taking advantage of every online tool they have to maintain communications and a sense of water-cooler community. We use G-Suite video chat for quick interactions along with Slack to communicate and update. These tools also allow for virtual applause, high fives, emojis and memes that serve to create a more personal environment.

Oddly, life online somehow has us forgetting that we can always pick up the phone and really talk through issues that just can’t be negotiated via email or BaseCamp. And right now, we’re finding that our Friday virtual happy hour is a real boost in maintaining esprit de corps.

You might be thinking that this is all well and good inside a small company like ours, but we’re seeing plenty of evidence that larger organizations are able to use these tools equally well. At The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the regular monthly President’s Breakfast was held via Zoom video conference for all 300 employees. New hires were announced, anniversaries celebrated, the executive team was able to provide important information and employees responded using their online chat tools and taking part in a Q&A.

There’s very little certainty right now, but one thing we know for sure is that nurturing culture and enhancing communication are key business and leadership skills–now more than ever.

Author Suzanne Sage

Suzanne Sage has spent more than 20 years in the marketing industry, including six at Rapp Collins, the world’s largest direct marketing agency. Suzanne brings this experience and a knack for planning that serve her and Thoma clients well in her role as Director of Client Services.

More posts by Suzanne Sage

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