Care and connection: How to build a company culture during coronavirus and beyond

Before the pandemic, it may have seemed impossible for SMEs to compete with larger firms’ company cultures.

But in truth, smaller companies have advantages over larger organisations, like being agile and having closer bonds with employees.

A workplace culture is a combination of mindsets – a core set of beliefs that inform behaviours. When it’s working, a business will embody what they stand for and norms set in. With everyone adapting to ‘the new normal,’ company culture also has to adapt and evolve.

Establish a common set of core beliefs and live them

True company culture is when a common set of values is realised across all employees. If you don’t have a set of core beliefs, now is the perfect time to establish some. Over time they become the norms of the organisation. Every employee, especially the CEO and C-level executives, must be “signal generators” of the desired culture.

For example, if your company believes in employees’ wellbeing first, in times of crisis and uncertainty make sure everyone in the company is checking in with one another.

The collective aim of company culture should be to inspire employees; this can only be achieved by having a say-do ratio of one, which means your common beliefs must manifest in real-life.

Create a safe and desirable virtual working environment

By taking an entirely virtual approach, new ways to facilitate teamwork and conversations have been discovered, bringing many teams closer together and creating a place to thrive and learn outside the office.

Moving online also allows people to connect and co-create with others who might have previously been disconnected by geography.

In turn, the company benefits from the creativity and innovation harvested – everyone wins. To facilitate this, it’s important to take advantage of the tools out there: Zoom, Slack and Asana to name but a few.

Something that’s missing virtually, however, is physical interaction; though technology comes close, we can’t replicate it. To combat this, practice mindfulness as a company. You could host mindfulness webinars and give employees access to emotional health tools.

Think about shaving off five minutes from all meetings so employees have time between calls to stretch, gather their thoughts and have a cup of tea.

Emails can be overwhelming too, so add a note if you don’t need a reply (particularly late at night or over a weekend or working globally in different time zones). It’s the little things.

Care and connection

If you create the right culture, you will have an extremely productive workforce, wherever people are located. A Malwarebytes in-house survey found 40% of employees had been more productive working from home and the majority were at least equally productive.

Ultimately, if you trust your employees, remote working isn’t an issue. Trust is the foundation of any company culture but it’s not something that happens overnight – create an ethos and stick to it.

We fundamentally trust our employees, which is why – even when our offices are reopened – we are empowering our employees to have the choice to return when it’s right for them.

We know this process isn’t going to be over quickly and involves a lot of personal factors for each employee, we don’t want anyone returning until they are able to do so without compromising their wellbeing, or that of their family.

When this is over, companies will likely continue the flexible company culture they’ve built; remote working gives you access to literally the best talent in the world.

The world’s working from home experiment has proven you can be one organisation with no borders. Ultimately, company culture isn’t about how many types of cappuccino you offer; it’s about the whole company feeling cared for and connected so you can work towards a collective goal.

Camellia Ngo is chief people officer of Malwarebytes.