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In keeping with social distancing guidelines, working from home (WFH) has become the new reality for many South African office workers. While this is a necessary measure for businesses to take in combatting the spread of COVID-19, it can impact company culture.

This was highlighted in a recent survey conducted by one of South Africa’s largest workplace consultancies, which showed that 70% of people missed the general social interactions of the office, while 85% said they missed the “colleague interaction” while WFH during lockdown.

To remedy this, business owners need to work on creating a positive company culture that their employees can revel in remotely. This can be done by:

1. Up your internal communication efforts

Considering the high levels of uncertainty and anxiety across the board, it’s more important than ever to keep every staff member in the loop by providing regular updates and offering as much transparency as possible. This includes COVID-19 updates, the impact on the business and how it is responding.

Over and above prioritizing communication from business owners to the team, the aforementioned survey revealed that about 81% of respondents felt that WFH made general office communication more challenging. It’s therefore essential for business owners to create virtual spaces to encourage open communication – whether this be through a dedicated Teams or Slack channel, or with a weekly team-wide video catchup call.

2. Organise virtual social events

WFH can feel isolating, so creating a strong sense of community is vital for maintaining employee wellbeing and productivity. With in-person team socials out of the question, aside from socially distanced hikes or outdoor activities, business owners need to implement virtual social events to take their place. Virtual quizzes have proven to be particularly popular over lockdown, but the options here are endless – from virtual exercise classes to dance classes – with modern technology, there are so many ways to feel connected without ever having to leave your home.

3. Continue to celebrate milestones

If the company has traditionally gotten cake on employees’ birthdays or celebrated key milestones in a particular way, it’s important to continue these traditions virtually where possible. For example, you could get a cake delivered to employees’ homes on their birthdays and have a quick video call where everybody sings and sends their wishes. Likewise, when someone resigns, it’s important to still acknowledge their time at the company like you would have “in office” by sending out a company-wide email or calling a quick virtual get-together where everyone can say their goodbyes.

Even as more workplaces reopen their (physical) doors, many industry leaders are predicting that WFH will become a more permanent feature of the workplace environment going forward. Business owners should therefore embrace this change and put the work in early on to create a strong WFH company culture, to avoid a disengaged workforce.

About the Author: Kgomotso Ramoenyane

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Kgomotso Ramoenyane is our Executive General Manager for Human Resources and has been with our company for 6 years. People are at the heart of Kgomotso’s work and her ultimate objective is to assist individuals to do work that is aligned to their purpose. Kgomotso’s initial exposure to entrepreneurship was through observing her grandmother undertake entrepreneurial ventures in order to survive and take care of their family. True to her innovative nature, she has introduced a blended learning approach and executive coaching to our company. She is particularly interested in women and leadership development. Kgomotso is a mother and enjoys spending her time doing gardening, reading and going on hiking trails. She is our go-to-spokesperson for people management, human resource trends and female entrepreneurship articles.