In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies across the globe have shifted to working from home. Because of rapidly changing circumstances, there was not much time to prepare and plan for a completely remote team. There are many benefits of remote work such as flexible lifestyle; however, many companies have already run into challenges that come with it, including a decreased sense of belonging.
BOWEN Group’s Executive Assistant and Office Manager, Roni Furgeson, shares her insights on how BOWEN adjusted its internal communication strategy to manage communication, culture and employee engagement while working remotely.
“The pandemic completely redefined the way we work, communicate and interact with our colleagues,” says Roni. “It took some adjustment, but luckily, we already had our infrastructure in place to make it all possible within a matter of days. From communication to collaboration and employee engagement, we are making an effort to ensure employees maintain their productivity levels and feel connected.”
At first, BOWEN implemented virtual crisis communication meetings daily to update the leadership team on what was going on and how the pandemic was affecting the business. As things started to slow down a bit, BOWEN changed its internal communication strategy and started all-company updates to keep everyone informed. Roni emphasises that regular communication and transparency are essential to help everyone stay on the same page and understand the direction the company is heading.
“Remote employees don’t have the opportunity to be part of the day-to-day buzz in the office and overhear crucial business matters. That is why we have set up regular team meetings within departments and all-company meetings weekly. Frequent communication has also improved our collaboration and productivity,” says Roni.
BOWEN is a culture-focused environment. When everyone was working in the office, employees were always doing something collaboratively. Whether there were company retreats, monthly potlucks, holiday events or even lunch together, BOWEN has strong relationships among the team members. Working remotely has changed the way employees engage with one another. Roni is a significant driver for corporate culture in the organisation. When COVID first hit and everyone went home, she quickly came up with ideas to do something together. First, she introduced online games, such as Tell Me More (a set of 16 questions to get to know everyone better), Two Truth and a Lie and an online Scavenger Hunt for employees and their children.
In addition to online games, Roni scheduled virtual stretching activities and Friday Happy Hour calls via Zoom. “We are a tight-knit organization, and we must continue that while we are remote. It is not natural for us to be apart. I never want to lose the connection and have everybody just working remotely,” adds Roni.
To help employees maintain their productivity levels and not feel disconnected, BOWEN sent out an employee survey asking for their feedback on remote work. Employees shared their experience, concerns, as well as recommendations on how to improve the quality of the work environment. Based on the feedback, the executive team established a work-from-home policy to support mental health, work-life flexibility and office ergonomics – all while maintaining employee productivity. Encouragement and emotional support go a long way in increasing employee confidence during these uncertain times.
Overall, remote teams need to be equipped with resources to succeed, whether it is clear guidance and expectations, technology, ergonomic home office equipment or opportunities for social interaction. For Roni, the most significant components of managing corporate culture are communication and connection. “We need to make sure we are constantly communicating with our people. We do not want to lose the culture BOWEN has built over 46 years. We need to continue our focus on Making People Matter.”