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COVID has fundamentally changed the way companies operate. No longer are partners and employees sitting in crowded office spaces from nine to five, and in many cases they are not going to the office at all. The lack of cohesion and in person interactions makes it easier for company culture to slip. Here’s your guide for maintaining — and even increasing — company culture while working remotely.
Beginning in December of 2020, Physis began hosting virtual company parties and happy hours. Our first company wide party was a holiday event, and you’re probably thinking: great. another awkward, online happy hour with small talk and weird holiday sweaters. But no; well yes to the sweaters.
At Physis, we took our holiday party to the next level. With break rooms, team competitions, and a mix-your-own drink challenge. We had data analysts doing cartwheels and our CEO completing a cookie challenge that involved having to move an oreo from her forehead into her mouth without using her hands. Things got competitive quickly and we hardly realized we were online. Here’s an example of some of our challenges:
One of things that we immediately noticed at Physis was that we missed popping in to say hi to coworkers when we had a minute, or being able to quickly and efficiently answer minute questions and engage in small conversations between or about tasks.
Queue Sophya. For the past month now, Physis has been using Sophya as a tool to fuel team collaboration despite being away from each other, and often in different time zones. At Physis, we have moved Zoom to the back burner; we meet on Zoom only for official meetings either with advisors, clients, or VCs. For any internal meetings or meet-ups, we use Sophya. The platform works like an online office space: each team member has an avatar that exists in a virtual office space — fully equipped with tables, computers, and even a ping pong table to play virtual games. The best part about Sophya is that any team member can approach your space at any time for quick check-ins, clarification questions, or just to say hi. No more awkward five minute Zoom meetings to clarify a task, and now we know who can school at online ping pong.
At Physis we created a Slack channel called #gratefulsmiles where we share anything but work related content. Lately, the channel has been filled with photos from our Head of Development who recently got a puppy. Last week it featured a stellar homemade pizza by one of our ESG analysts. The list goes on. The #gratefulsmiles channel has become a hub where we share funny or wholesome things that have happened in our lives outside of work.
Another channel we created is #curiosity-questions. In the #curiosity-questions channel, team members pose questions on a broad range of topics from finance and fintech, to the weather and sports. Some questions will go unanswered for days until someone gets to the bottom of them. Not only are we all learning interesting and oftentimes funny facts, but we are able to engage in a way not related directly to work — just like with the #gratefulsmiles channel.
We all need a little extra love these days, and sometimes an extra check-in goes a long way. A good habit to form is reaching out to each team member you work with on a daily basis. Mornings are a great opportunity for this. Something as simple as “any updates here?” or even a “good morning!” to kick off a conversation can make a world of difference. Not only do morning briefs help you stay on top of your team members’ tasks, but these messages also open up the opportunity for direct communication and dialogue between team members. Rather than waiting until a pressing matter to reach out to a team member, start practicing an intentional morning message to each person you work closely with.
Remote is hard, but there are easy tricks you can employ to stay close to your team members and to increase efficiency in the workplace. Company culture is everything, and each of these above steps has made a world of difference for Physis Investment and likely will for you as well.