Company culture fails to translate for employees working remotely

In our recent survey, 23% of tech workers reported having a negative mental health experience working from home. 79% of those individuals cite lack of physical interaction with their team as major cause of suffering.

The findings come from our recent global survey on the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. The top frustrations working from home during COVID-19 were “social isolation / lack of socialising with peers”, “working longer than usual hours”, and “difficulty keeping a regular schedule”.

Before COVID, many Bay Area businesses were recruiting highly skilled and energized employees by attracting them with a strong established company culture. Many of these companies are identified and celebrated in lists such as Fortune’s yearly Best Places to Work List. But with COVID keeping us all home, are these companies still managing to attract and retain talent with a completely remote culture?

“Company culture is built on communication, empathy and trust; A workplace is unified through the company values or mission,” says Alfonso Tiscareno, Director at Robert Walters. “While virtual communication channels like Zoom and Skype certainly help mitigate feelings of loneliness, there is still an element of spontaneity that is missing,” he adds.

Many companies have attempted to incorporate team building activities, happy hours, and frequent check-ins via Zoom and other video conferencing services. While these are important tools to combat isolation, we wanted to know if connecting in this way really makes employees feel connected.

“The risk for having a disengaged team is high in a remote work environment. It’s easy for employees to begin to feel that their work isn’t valued and that they aren’t an important member of the team. I think it’s important to actively reach out to employees who you haven’t heard from in awhile to check in with them and make them feel heard and important,” says Alfonso.

You may have heard of Zoom fatigue, as the term has been widely popularized in the media as of lately. So what are some good ways to connect without scheduling an endless array of Zoom Yoga sessions, lunch chats, and “catch-up” sessions?

  1. Experts recommend hiding your “self-view”, so that you can focus more on what the person on the other end of the conversation is saying.
  2. Limit virtual calls to under 50 minutes. Keep the conversation succinct, and avoid asking “stock questions” like “how are you?”. Stock questions always produce stock answers.
  3. Find out how your coworkers are “really” doing. Take time to find out where their major challenges, roadblocks, and frustrations are. Allowing that space for your coworkers to vent is a great way to increase connection despite lack of physicality.

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