How to build an award-winning company culture while working remotely

December 9, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has seen the workplace turn virtual; millions of workers around the world have not stepped foot into the office since March.

Navigating the unsettling switch from office-based working to having staff working from home five days a week is difficult and many businesses have struggled to recreate their company culture online. However, while the shift to a virtual workplace isn’t easy, certain behaviours can help enormously in smoothing the transition.

Global tech company SafetyCulture, which owns the world’s largest safety checklist app, has dedicated the past eight months to re-creating its award-winning culture for employees while working remotely. As a result, it has just been named one of the UK’s Best Workplaces in Tech 2020 by Great Place to Work®.

As General Manager, EMEA at SafetyCulture, I thought I’d share my insights into how we’ve achieved this, in the hope that you might find it helpful for your own organisation.

1. Create certainty

The pandemic outbreak threw everything into a state of flux. No-one knew when this would end, what it meant for their jobs, or how it would impact the business. That level of uncertainty can quickly breed anxiety, so we set out to give as much certainty, reassurance and visibility as possible to our employees.

We increased team meetings and business updates. We were open and honest about the potential impact on the business and how we were set to ride it out. We invited questions and got senior management in front of employees to answer them.

By sticking to our core value of being open, honest always, we grew trust among the team and a new level of closeness – which is an essential component of our culture.

My advice is to always be as authentic as you can. Even in uncertain times, you can create certainty and rally everyone together when it matters most.

2. Invest in things that will keep your staff smiling

It’s monotonous working from home and that can be detrimental to a company’s work culture and long-term talent retention. We’ve been bold and proactive in our approach to bringing a bit of happiness straight to people’s doors.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve sent out meal boxes, cookie deliveries and postcards with personal messages of recognition. Our staff have received t-shirts, wellness packs, even SafetyCulture-branded face masks.

We’ve also been active as a business in celebrating and championing what’s important to us. We held virtual events for International Women’s Day, International Men’s Day, Pride, Wellness Month and recently had a team of ‘Movembers’ raising money and awareness for prostate cancer.

3. Focus on connection

Connections between people are what really makes a culture, but as we all know, that’s been harder to foster remotely.

We’ve not left it to chance. Different ways of connecting work for different people so we created a range of activities to suit everyone’s needs. We created a virtual pub so people could still get those Friday drinks in; smaller groups also met through virtual coffee breaks and we now have weekly catch-ups where three randomly picked colleagues meet virtually to chat and share professional and personal experiences. It gets staff out of their team siloes, replicates that all-important ‘watercooler talk’, and gives us different ways to stay connected. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Perhaps most central to our team ethos is our focus on kindness: we keep reminding people that this is not just ‘business as usual’. We are surviving a pandemic by working at our homes for a long and unknown period of time. Nothing is normal about this and it is totally understandable for moods to go up and down.

We say to our employees: be kind to yourself and check in with each other. Then, we back up our words with actions, supporting our staff with virtual fitness and medication classes, manager check-ins, and wellness initiatives.

4. Think customer

We’ve always had a customer-led approach; one of our main values is to Think Customer. We made sure this wasn’t neglected during this crisis; instead we ramped it up.

When the pandemic hit, there was this sense across all different industries of everyone coming together to do their part. It was an anxious time, but that sense of purpose helped many of us through the initial lockdown.

We knew as a business that we had a critical role to play, and the mindset of our team from the offset was to help support our customers when they needed it most. So we threw ourselves into helping the best way we could – with our own technology.

For example, our app iAuditor now has over 100,000 safety checklists to support better working environments, including checklists for those working at home, covering desk setups, electrical safety, stress and welfare and lone working. And we have increased the services that people can access for free on our app so that all businesses can get the support they need in these difficult times.

This commitment to putting people first and adopting a ‘safe culture’ is the key to improving workplaces around the world. In supporting our customers, however, we’re also helping our staff: giving them a sense of purpose and pride in knowing that the work they do every day is helping those on the frontlines to be safe, and encouraging them to continue to do their best work every day.

About the author

Dan Joyce is General Manager, EMEA at SafetyCulture. SafetyCulture owns the world’s largest safety checklist app and has been helping businesses manage safety and efficiency during the pandemic. It supports more than 26,000 companies globally.

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