Tuesday 31 March 2020 4:39 pm

How technology is helping to maintain positive workplace culture during self-isolation

Julien Codorniou is vice president of Workplace from Facebook.

Covid-19 has been disruptive to many aspects of our lives – including our work. 

For most organisations, remote working is quickly becoming the new normal, yet it’s a muscle many are just starting to develop. And while this transition is vital to keep employees safe, it brings with it a wealth of new challenges. 

Without those all-important office interactions, businesses need to be on the front foot in closing the communication gaps that may arise in remote working situations. Maintaining a positive culture during a period of physical isolation is crucial and we’ve seen many companies using collaboration platforms in new ways to rise to this challenge – here’s how.

Engaging remote employees

At a time when employees are looking to their employers for guidance more than ever before, organisations have a responsibility to get their internal comms right. This means real-time clarity and guidance for employees on where, when and how they should be working, and where they can go for support. 

This is especially critical for organisations on the frontline of combating Covid-19. The World Health Organisation, for example, is using Workplace to share critical information about the virus among its global workforce, host staff seminars and create an open forum for employee questions.

But in organisations of all shapes and sizes, managers must stay in touch with their teams to create a support network and sense of connection. For leaders, this could mean sharing weekly posts summarising what’s on their mind and making themselves available to employees via “office hours” or regular Q&As. We’ve even seen organisations use tech to help, creating bots that check in on the welfare of employees with daily surveys. 

A great example of a company that’s working hard to ensure employee wellbeing is Moneypenny, which answers telephone calls and Live Chat remotely on behalf of thousands of companies across the UK and the US. Moneypenny has been using our tools to manage both work and company culture. Not only is this enabling employees to discuss mental and physical wellbeing online, they’re also organising “working from home” groups for sharing workouts, recipes and pictures of the four-legged friends keeping them company.

Maintaining community

Creating such spaces for employees to connect outside of work is invaluable. And too often when working remotely, it’s these social interactions that get dropped. That’s why we’re seeing hashtags such as #WFHfam, where people share images of their remote set-up, gaining in popularity. 

Take Honest Burgers for example. With their restaurants temporarily closed, the company is helping staff remain connected through a series of daily Workplace events and Live videos – from cooking classes and pub quizzes to a morning radio show. 

The emphasis is on authentic, employee-driven content, and in many cases these video sessions are encouraging deeper connections between frontline restaurant staff and central team members. 

Video certainly has a powerful role to play in providing a personal touch when people are apart. Encouraging teams to maintain face-to-face rituals, like virtual coffee meetings, and even create new ones, which can have a significant impact on wellbeing and morale. 

Beyond internal office culture, we’re also seeing new communities spring up as organisations find ways to face this unforeseen challenge. Companies from different industries are rallying together online in multi-company groups to discuss shared challenges and show support. From offering advice on common issues to sharing tips on how they’re making remote working work, technology is bringing these businesses together to help each other through this difficult time.

Being apart, together

Connection is crucial for both employees and organisations during this period of self-isolation. And it’s important in every part of our lives that keeping our distance doesn’t lead to disconnection. By supporting employees with the right information and encouraging them to share moments together virtually, colleagues can be apart together.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.