Just a few months back, employees were used to commuting and going into an office.
Now, because of COVID-19, many are working from home. In fact, as many as 63% of companies went fully remote by the time COVID-19 hit its peak. Unfortunately, these massive changes in how work is being conducted can make it easy for your employees to forget why they’re working for you in the first place.
Change brings uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds discomfort. Too much discomfort and unrest can lead to an anxious workforce. If your workforce is anxious, it’s easy for them to lose sight of your company's purpose. If they lose sight of their purpose at work, performance will suffer as a result.
This is why it’s important to reinforce your purpose to your workforce – especially during a crisis. Here are 5 ways to accomplish this.
1. Focus on employee well-being
The well-being of a business is driven by the well-being of its workforce. The success of a business is often reliant on the health of its employees and the vibrance of its community.
As a result of a crisis, it’s possible that your staff have experienced a sense of loneliness, stress, or anxiety. Additionally, many employees may have lost people they care about due to COVID-19, which can lead to increased feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation.
When these issues arise, it’s easy for your workers to lose a sense of purpose. This is why it’s important to focus on employee well-being.
Here are some ways you can do this within your business:
Incentivise your employees to practice gratitude - Studies show that gratitude is positively correlated with increased happiness, better relationships, and overall improved mental health and well-being. By incentivising both your management team and workforce to express gratitude to one another, you’ll experience heightened happiness among your workforce.
Keep work hours flexible - Employee well-being isn’t just about physical health, it’s about a good quality of life for your workforce. While work is important, it’s important that your employees are able to engage in things outside of work that give their lives meaning and purpose. This flexibility is why many employees prefer to work for smaller companies, but that doesn’t mean larger organizations can’t become more flexible as well. You can even allow employees to work at home while keeping them connected to the office with screen sharing software.
Show employees you trust them by offering unlimited vacation - You read that right. Companies like Netflix and Hubspot offer their employees unlimited vacation. This doesn’t mean that your workforce can take 6 months off to vacation in Europe, it simply means that vacation time is attached to results. For employees, this means that as long as they meet their deadlines and deliver results, they can take as much time off as they want. This can help them avoid becoming burned out during periods of intense work. Just make sure you continue to follow-up with your employees to ensure they’re meeting the required deadlines.
2. Continue giving back to your community
Because of the pandemic, many organizations have cut down how much they give back to their communities.
While this is an understandable move on the surface, and may even be necessary for companies that are in survival mode, it’s easy for this to come off negatively to your employees and customers. This is especially true if you were previously giving to causes they care about.
Instead of cutting charitable donations completely, consider shifting your method of donating to one that’s more able to fluctuate with the changes in your business. You can do this by donating a percentage of your revenue or profits, or matching employee donations to causes they care about.
Employees, especially millennials, love to get behind companies that support a cause they care about. Rather than cutting donations completely, make your donations more manageable, and keep your employees informed about these changes. If they see that you’re still making an effort to support causes that identify with your organization, they’ll continue to perceive a sense of purpose for their work.
3. Allow your core values to guide tough decisions
Similar to changing your donation strategy, it’s important that when making tough decisions, you allow your core values to guide you. This will show employees and customers that you take your company's purpose very seriously.
Starting every decision by looking at your purpose, even during a crisis, helps ensure that these decisions align with your core values. Leading with your purpose at the core of your decision making is the best way to communicate to employees and customers alike that this is really important and that it isn’t just for the sake of the brand’s image.
On the flip side, not doing so will communicate to employees and customers that your purpose isn’t something your organization truly cares about, which can cause stakeholders to question the authenticity of your purpose.
Culture is very important in reinforcing your purpose. This is especially true during times of great change, so don’t let go of it. Allow it to guide you when making difficult decisions.
4. Re-imagine the idea of what a workplace really is
Many individuals in professional work environments picture a “workplace” as an office, but with many working from home in the wake of COVID-19, it’s time to reimagine this. We need to think about it more broadly.
Employees are now realizing how productive they are away from the office. They’re learning to use new tools to do their job more efficiently.
Combine this with the potential to save on overhead expenses like rent for office space, and it becomes clear that the concept of a workplace is quickly changing in a significant way.
It’s important for organizations to look at what’s possible as well as what employees prefer. If your workforce prefers to work from home, and this is a possibility, it might be time to make it a reality.
It’s also important, however, to balance the desires of your workforce with the results of your business. If having them work from home reduces productivity, maybe something in the middle, such as scheduling your employees to work-from-home on Friday’s, is the right solution.
Whatever the case, if you take into account the desires of your employees when defining what a workplace really is, it becomes easier for them to maintain a positive state of mind and focus on the purpose of their work.
5. Do good while doing well
As businesses and economies of all sizes emerge from the pandemic, there will be opportunity to do well while doing good. One doesn’t need to be at the expense of the other.
The best way to reinforce your company's purpose is to make it a core value of your business to do good. This means maintaining charitable donations, taking care of employees, and taking care of your community.
However, this goes beyond simple talking points. This requires all levels of management, from C-suite to shift manager, to actually live out their organizational purpose. Being transparent and authentic in this effort, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be, is the strongest way to provide answers to customers and employees who may be questioning the company’s purpose.
In the end, this is what will separate the high-performing companies from the pack.