The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our working networks apart like never before. Australians have been forced to work remotely in huge numbers and this change of scenery gives us a chance to consider what we really value in the workplace.

Operating solo has also proven a unique challenge for teams who want to maintain a strong company culture, whilst also keeping productivity and morale levels high.

Now more than ever, the success of an organisation is in its people, so when working from home became the norm, we started wondering, how do we keep the team together when we are all apart? Being an agency recognised for our company culture, we thought we’d share some of our key learnings:

1. Go back to your values

Currents of instability and unease are running through everyone’s mind right now as we seek to adapt to the new status quo. Employees have been forced to take a step back and look at their work through a new lens. What they should see are the key values and underlying reasons why their company does what it does.

There is no better time to reaffirm the cornerstone company messages and mission and ensure that they are reflected in every part of the response to this crisis. In response to this Agent99 set to work on realigning our values (which previously had been varied amongst the team) and what we found was that each of us came back with one unified answer – honesty and integrity.

Looking back over the weeks when COVID-19 first took hold, honest and integrity were the key values that shone through for our team in every conversation and tactic.

This crisis provided us clarity to see these values as a fundamental part of our DNA and now they have become so central to our approach moving forward, both for our team, but also for our clients and campaigns.

2. Keep up the connection

Company culture is about the company. Productive cooperation and the collaboration that drives success are the result of an atmosphere in which employees feel able to open up, contribute to a team and learn from others.

This is an intangible money-can’t-buy commodity that is built up in conversations at the photocopier and hang outs over lunch. So make sure there’s time for people to connect and check in with each other from home as they would in the office.

We did this by setting up Zoom calls and lunchtime hangouts to keep face-to-face communication going, as well as some other fun team activities such as communal yoga, book clubs and Friday drinks .

3. Reach out on a personal level

Just because a team might be isolated physically from one another, it doesn’t mean that regular communication and check-ups stop. Support should be provided that reflects the unique challenges faced by each individual as they cope with the COVID chaos.

It was a welcome change to have our monthly goal-setting catch-ups with Agent99’s Managing Director, shifted into virtual one-on-one discussions about our individual well-being during the pandemic. As we try and juggle partners and kids at home, as well as simple challenges like buying groceries, we have seen that it is paramount to understand each personal situation and respond with corresponding flexibility.

4. Learn, adapt, change

Flexibility is the game everyone is being forced to play in 2020. The winners will be organisations that continually take stock of what is working and what could change. The ability to listen well is an often-forgotten trait of a good communicator; and communication is everything in a crisis. No one has done this before so there’s no shame in making changes to find the right formula.

At the same time, encourage individuals to share their tips on being at their best while working from home. Taking feedback on board and sharing new insights around means people feel heard and appreciated and strengthens the team solidarity that is needed to push through.

5. Celebrate

While it isn’t easy to see silver linings right now, organisations need to accept that their parameters for success have to change. As we continue to work towards long term goals it’s important to celebrate every small win along the way. Attitude is everything and positivity is the antidote to uncertainty, so any chance you get to celebrate as a team, take it.

For us, this means our team got dressed up at home to celebrate the Mumbrella Awards (for which we were nominated as Boutique Agency of the Year), we email our daily wins to one another and we find unique opportunities to ‘send 1 ups’ and encourage the team on a weekly basis.

Company culture is the driving force for success. Feeling recognised, supported and celebrated on an individual level while contributing to the work of a likeminded team, is the key to moving forward. This vital feeling of community is under threat as we are forced to work from home; but those who can bring their team together even as we remain apart will emerge from Covid-19 with real hope for the future.

Intern Agent Peter

Further reading:
Maintaining Your Mental Health While Working Alone at Home
Five Ways to Beat Isolation Procrastination