Recent data has found that 88 percent of workers have reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the last two months as companies have moved to a fully remote business model in accordance with state guidelines on safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. For employers that prioritize their employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing, this data is worrisome. In these unprecedented times, there is no instruction manual for organizations on how to manage this type of stress and ease these anxieties, further complicating efforts by leadership to not let company culture fall by the wayside.
HR professionals need to adapt quickly to ensure employees aren’t just able to effectively work from home but still feel engaged and connected to the company while doing so. Maintaining a strong workplace culture while remote can be difficult, but is critical in order to keep employees happy, motivated, and confident while navigating this new reality.
Planning for Success
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to quickly deploy emergency operational plans, the organizations that experienced the least amount of disruption already had detailed plans in place. At Digital River, we had a pandemic plan as part of the company’s Crisis Management Procedure and quickly brought our Crisis Management Team together to coordinate next steps for directing both our business and employees.
Through the pandemic, our global team has met daily to stay connected and share the most recent information across the company. By helping employees understand the big picture, we have been able to maintain our company’s commitment to transparency and its people. Corporate culture has always been important to Digital River, and through these times we have continued our initiatives to provide a positive workplace.
In addition to having our crisis plan in place, Digital River employees were already properly equipped through our IT department to work from home, with training reinforced by an annual company-wide test to ensure each employee worldwide is able to connect his or her company laptop remotely through VPN.
Give Peace of Mind
Along with keeping employees safe, our Crisis Management Team prioritizes keeping employees informed on the latest news and resources globally, as well as regional specific updates. Our internal communications channel has shifted from company-wide e-mails to a separate “Quaran-Team” portal within Microsoft Teams, in order to not overwhelm employees’ inboxes and provide one centralized location for all of the relevant information they need during this time.
This channel is easily accessible and lets employees contribute content and collaborate across all of our offices. The portal has a variety of subject areas, from official HR communications to helpful advice for organizing your home office. We have even added a humor section that is home to the popular pets’ page, where employees share their new furry coworkers.
Bring People Together
Any effective corporate initiative needs to be supported from the top down. We have increased the frequency of our all-employee company meetings to make sure employees are connected worldwide and understand leadership’s decisions during this time. Through these virtual meetings, employees at all levels can contribute through our real-time Q&A and directly ask executives pertinent questions. This demonstrates a level of transparency that can reduce situational stress for employees and foster bonds of trust throughout the organization.
Throughout this entire process, we have continued to emphasize the importance of our employees and acknowledge that they are the heart of the company. To support this message even further, we organized the delivery of a small gift to every employee’s home with a personal message from our CEO, Adam Coyle, to demonstrate our appreciation for their work and continued commitment to the company.
Empowering Local Leaders
At a regional level, we are coordinating training sessions on new laws as they go into effect, so managers and employees can take full advantage of the support and resources that are being offered. Managers have been encouraged to reach out to their teams and direct reports more frequently to check on their well-being and prevent any feelings of isolation.
Also, at a local level, we encourage office leaders and our culture ambassadors to coordinate virtual events such as happy hours, trivia quizzes, and bingo to reduce stress and bring together employees who typically might not interact on a daily basis but are used to seeing one another around the office. Although optional, we’ve seen strong attendance for these virtual events and positive benefits for employee morale.
Corporate culture goes beyond the physical walls of an office and should not be forgotten during times of crisis when it is needed more than ever. Let your culture shine in the way you treat your employees during this time because that’s what they’ll remember when this is all over. At the end of the day, we are all going through the same experience. We will get through this together, and we will be a stronger company because of it.
As VP of Human Resources at global ecommerce company Digital River, Becky Garroch has been working closely with her team to maintain a strong workplace culture while remote and ensuring sure all employees feel connected and supported. From developing a pandemic plan, a “Quaran-Team” portal with centralized resources and information, and holding daily crisis management team calls, the company has been able to help employees navigate this new normal. Digital River is even still continuing to recruit and add new talent during this time, recently hiring eight people in three weeks.