You’ve Figured out Remote Work. Now Let’s Figure Out Remote Culture.

by Ted Burnham

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t just threatening employees’ physical health and forcing an awkward transition to remote work. Leaders who want to support their employees properly through this pandemic – which had better be all leaders – need to recognize that isolation and fear are also taking a toll on employees’ stress levels, mental health, and attitudes about their work.

And that, in turn, takes a toll on culture.

If all you’re doing to support employees through this pandemic is requiring a weekly Zoom happy hour and talking about work-from-home logistics, then you’re not doing enough.

The last time the world faced this much economic disruption was during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, when many international studies found workers around the globe experiencing more stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. And while remote work has its perks, it’s also prone to burnout and loneliness and low engagement.

Today the economic outlook is even worse, and thanks to shelter-in-place measures we can’t even give each other an encouraging pat on the back. If all you’re doing to support employees through this pandemic is requiring a weekly Zoom happy hour and talking about work-from-home logistics, then you’re not doing enough.

According to a recent survey, 70 percent of U.S. employees say this is the most stressful time ever in their careers – but 63 percent say their company needs to do more to support their emotional and mental health. Yikes.

There’s good news though: we can do something about that. 93 percent of employees say providing holistic support will determine which companies survive the pandemic.

The workplace culture that supported employees in an office doesn’t translate directly to a fully remote team.

Expanding mental health benefits and hosting online happy hours are good next steps. But the workplace culture that supported employees in an office doesn’t translate directly to a fully remote team – especially when stress and loneliness are spiking.

We need to find new ways of relating to each other. Ways that help us feel like we’re together again. Like we’re okay. Like we can get the job done.

We need the glue that’s always held human societies together: we need stories. Good and bad.

Stories have a unique power to help coworkers hear and understand each other, learn from each other, and motivate each other to reach shared goals. Here at Avanoo we’ve been helping organizations like Google and KPMG build stronger cultures through storytelling for seven years, and it’s clear the world needs those stories now more than ever.

We need the glue that’s always held human societies together: we need stories.

That’s why we’re building the Avanoo StoryApp – a mobile app that makes it easy for employees to share stories that support connection, belonging and performance, no matter how physically separated they are. And it’s why we’ve made the app free through the end of May.

StoryApp isn’t just another tool. It’s a way to encourage all of your employees to be more intentional about the culture you’re building together and the results you want to see for your organization – during the pandemic and long after.

Check out our eBook Using Stories to Support Connection & Belonging During the COVID-19 Crisis to learn more about how you can sustain your organization’s culture through the challenges ahead.

Our clients find that when they adopt workplace storytelling practices, as much as 68 percent of employees choose to engage within the first month. And by sharing and reacting to each others’ stories, they quickly build stronger relationships, align around shared values, and generate new ideas.

Chances are, that’s the kind of culture you were building in-person before this pandemic started. The sooner you can get back to it, the better your employees will feel and the better off your organization will be.

So instead of virtual happy hour this week, upgrade to virtual story hour. You can still BYOB.

—Ted Burnham, Avanoo Lead Content Marketer

About Ted

Ted Burnham loves the power of words – to tell stories, explain big ideas, and help people connect. He is a writer, editor, multimedia producer, storyteller, and “professional combobulator”. Ted’s work has appeared on NPR, Popular Science, and elsewhere.

About Avanoo

Avanoo brings together the world’s oldest artform – storytelling – and the world’s newest technologies – AI, machine learning – to support teams in experiencing more connection, belonging, and performance. Our app makes it easy for employees to share and listen to each other’s stories wherever they are, and our insights dashboard makes it easy for leaders to understand where and how stories create lasting impact on their teams. Learn more: Avanoo.com
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