There is no denying that it has been a strange past month. Travel restrictions, business closures, empty streets, social distancing…it is an easy time to become introspective.
As the lockdown is extended for a further two weeks, it is important to reflect on lessons learnt from the first wave, as we adjust to the ‘new normal’.
The month of August has been a tumultuous time for everyone, especially for those living in ACT, who went 15 months without any new cases.
It has been a time of struggle, but also resilience, innovation, and agility – with many great stories and insights to come out of it.
Whether it came from waiting in a virtual lobby, forming new bonds with your IT helper, or trying to send that work email from the bathtub at home (would not recommend), we have all learnt something new during this time.
My great epiphany has not come from working at home but working at work. And here it is: Culture matters.
It’s being tested around the world right now, with businesses and staff hustling to adapt to new environments. It’s one of those things that exists every day right in front of us but is rarely addressed formally or planned out in advance.
I have continued to work from our office (and studio) in the city since the pandemic first started. Over the last few months, I have seen our office transition from full capacity, to virtually empty. It is only about now that things are starting to return to ‘normal’.
When the first few contentgroupies began returning to the office, it was amazing to see the difference it made to the energy of the place.
It became more lively, more engaging, more positive. Now that almost everyone is back, it is a new place entirely.
It does not matter if you’re introverted, extraverted, CEO or intern, a positive culture matters. I think our recent GovComms podcast guest, Rachel Clements hit the nail on the head when she came in to speak about mental health in the workplace. It is all about meaningful connectedness.
Sharing stories, collaborating, being supported by leadership, and feeling heard all go a long way in creating this feeling of connectedness. It also leads to more satisfied, more engaged staff.
A closer look at the benefits of positive culture
Positive culture and meaningful connectedness have been consistently linked to better outcomes for individuals and business. Some of the many benefits associated with forming positive workplace bonds include:
- greater productivity
- reduced absenteeism
- reduced workplace errors, defects, and accidents
- greater staff retention
- improved immunity
and even the Increased release of oxytocin (the hormone associated with connectedness, satisfaction, and love).
There is an overwhelming amount of research out there to support the notion that a positive work culture is the best work culture – but what does this have to do with comms, and why should it matter to you? Well, better culture means better outcomes. The benefits are the same across industries, and it is an easy win for any team.
Build a positive environment that engages and supports people and you will enjoy the dividends of more motivated, more satisfied, more productive staff.
How to get there
A positive work culture will obviously take time to build. It requires invested staff, good leadership, and some noteworthy experiences to bond over. However, it is never too early (or late) to start building an atmosphere that brings out the best in people. Here are some simple tips to kick off your next cultural renaissance:
Develop a mission and purpose that is easy to align with – This advice is more for executives than anyone else, but it is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Creating a mission and purpose that gets buy-in from staff will help boost morale and relatedness. It will even help inform business decisions. The key here is to create a shared goal that the team can work towards, together. A goal that people will be passionate about.
Share stories (and vulnerabilities) – Sharing stories and vulnerabilities can be a powerful tool for creating a sense of connectedness. People are used to the brave-faced you, which is why taking a layer of armour off every now and again can be so compelling. Storytelling is also a key component to building resonance with your colleagues and helping the team relate.
Get social – At contentgroup, we huddle every morning to discuss what is on everyone’s plate. Do not be afraid to ask your colleagues if they would like to grab a coffee with you throughout the day to touch base. We also encourage staff to stick around on Friday evenings for staff drinks and a non-work related catch-up. It is the conversations that happen over a drink after a big week that go the furthest in building authentic relationships.
Empathise – Before casting blame or dismissing unpopular opinions, always try and put yourself in the shoes of your fellow colleagues. Sometimes thinking about their circumstances can help explain the things they say and do, while helping you relate to them at a more personal level. Taking an empathetic approach can help build a more positive culture, not only by preventing conflict, but by fostering a sense of kinship with your colleagues
A great workplace can be defined by so much more than just high salaries and staff benefits. Sometimes it is the culture that dictates how enthusiastically people come through the door in the morning, how engaged they feel while they’re there, and how excited they are to come back the next day. By taking the time to invest in your office relationships, you will be investing in your team, in yourself, and in a work that works for you.