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Picture: 123RF/ANDRIJ POPOV
Picture: 123RF/ANDRIJ POPOV

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, companies have been forced to embrace remote working operations. Luckily this is possible with modern technology. As agencies are dedicated to ensuring that remote working doesn’t hamper efficiency or quality of work, there is one potential danger that many might overlook — the effect that remote working has on a healthy agency culture.

At Wavemaker, a healthy familial culture is at the heart of our agency. It’s the reason we have a high retention rate (which is rare in advertising), and why our employees all describe one other as family, or “a home away from home”. 

Our CEO, Lwandile Qokweni, describes it best: “We laugh together, we cry together, we take care of each other.” So, when we started to institute remote working, we had to look at how to maintain this culture with staff who are no longer spending time together and are anxious about the current uncertain circumstances.

We soon realised the following:

The importance of company values

Company values are crucial in driving culture. However, these values need to be something that the entire organisation lives. At Wavemaker, all our values are grounded in a core concept: Grow fearless. This is something that our entire staff complement embraces. 

We recently asked our staff to describe the qualities and characteristics of a Wavemaker and their answers are indicative of a team that lives this concept: wild, strong, fearless, proud, unstoppable, badass, willing to fail and go again, team player, honest, witty, intelligent, intuitive, streetwise, passionate, taking care of each other. 

Having an organisation where everyone really lives the culture made it easier for us to continue living this culture remotely.

Stick to the routine

In a period of uncertainty, sticking to your original routine will provide a sense of stability. Continue those staff meetings (online obviously), have virtual lunches and coffee together. Having occasional water cooler chats doesn’t only help normalise the remote working environment, but it is an integral part of building employee camaraderie and trust. 

Wavemaker coffee catchup. Picture: SUPPLIED/WAVEMAKER
Wavemaker coffee catchup. Picture: SUPPLIED/WAVEMAKER

Have more regular one-on-ones

Outside the normal scheduled meetings, ensure that you check in with people on a regular basis. Now more than ever, employees might have some concerns not only around job stability, but also around their physical and emotional health. Regular check-ins will help you to address these issues that might be bothering employees.

Transparency is more important than ever

A lack of transparency and honesty can be detrimental to trust among employees. This pandemic will have a negative effect on the economy, and businesses will feel it. Keeping your staff in the dark on the company performance and decisions will break down trust, which you as a company will struggle to regain. 

Relax the company WhatsApp rules

A work WhatsApp group can be intrusive. Many companies have a strict business-only protocol when it comes to communicating on the WhatsApp group. During this lockdown period, it might be wise to relax those rules. Allowing staff to share memes, jokes and a bit of banter might be exactly what is needed to lighten the mood. 

Nothing like some virtual team building

Virtual team building can really do wonders to keep team morale high. An online version of 10 questions is an easy way to get teams engaged. Motivate the team to share pictures of their home offices, lunch or views can create a sense of connectedness and lighten things up a bit.

Wavemaker team working from the office. Picture: SUPPLIED/WAVEMAKER
Wavemaker team working from the office. Picture: SUPPLIED/WAVEMAKER

Work on something that contributes to society

A corporate social responsibility project is a great way to give staff members a purpose and do something great for the community. Identify a project where staff members can get virtually involved that can contribute some goodness to SA.

The Loeries recently launched their Wake The Nation effort, where agencies can work on one of six briefs geared towards solving real problems in Africa and the Middle East. Visit the Wake the Nation website to learn more. 

As much as technology allows us to work remotely with ease, we will need to remain tuned into the organisational conversations and the needs of employees to ensure that we maintain a healthy culture. This will mean more to employees than you might know. 

This article was paid for by Wavemaker.

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