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Supporting Culture in a virtual world

We’re all currently working differently in one way or another. Even if you’re classed as a key worker and attending your place of work, the chances are you’re still having to adapt your practice to minimise the risk of catching or transmitting coronavirus.

For those of us working from home, it took a while to settle into this new lifestyle. By the time we had adjusted, it was announced we could return to the workplace. Fast forward to now and coming out of the back-end of a 3rd spike and lockdown in the UK, its now more important than ever to ensure we have the right tools and skills to adapt for any similar future events.

But this doesn’t have to be a gloomy picture!

For anyone who is used to working in the digital space, 2020 presented some really interesting debate about digital transformation. Online services has proved invaluable to society, helping people stay connected and reducing that feeling of isolation that could and probably did impact on so many. Some have reported that they've seen the equivalent of 2 years worth of transformation in just 6 months during lockdown.

Lots of businesses are taking advantage of flexible working and thinking about how to make it a permanent feature. Many will have wanted to make this transition for some time, but the people, technology and circumstances have all needed to be in the right place to make it work.

Covid has presented an opportunity to test, learn and adapt the concept of remote working, whilst keeping our customers at the heart of everything we do - after all, they come first! Steve Allcock

Lots of companies will still plan to return to an office or physical workplace – which is fine. There is no right or wrong and many industries will depend on physical interaction and manual work to survive.

Whatever category you and your business fall in, we all need to accept that this is the ‘new norm’ – certainly for the foreseeable future. We can still develop and enhance a #oneteam culture to get some amazing work done and make things happen.

How to keep and maintain a positive, open and united culture:

Here are some tips which have proved really successful for us at Johnnie Johnson Housing:

  1. Communicate with your colleagues. If you’re a leader in your company, this is your number 1 priority!

  2. If you have an internal colleague engagement team – engage them, they’re incredibly valuable and can help shape direction and influence colleagues when delivering key messages.

  3. Survey your colleagues and understand how they feel today and what they think works and possibly doesn’t work with flexible working.

  4. Share the results of your survey and talk about the action you will take – make it a pledge/promise to your colleagues.

  5. Remind your colleagues of your business and individual purpose – why you exist and the value each and every one of your colleagues brings! This can get lost in all the stress and worry of the pandemic.

  6. Focus on mental health and wellbeing and make time for leaders to speak openly and personally with their teams – it’s ok not to feel ok and we all have our down days.

  7. Make time in the diary for regular social events – such as an online quiz or virtual pub. People can get a bit fatigued with staring at a computer screen, but if you have a slot for a general chat (non-work related) then this is something for your colleagues to look forward to.

  8. Seeing people face-to-face on a screen certainly helps humanise daily online interactions. However if you’re meeting up with the same people on a regular basis, try and mix things up with a walk and a chat over the phone, just to get away from the desk and stretch the legs.

How to help your colleagues feel connected…

There is plenty of evidence to support that working from home full-time can have a negative impact on morale and the #oneteam culture we all strive to create. This is certainly not helped by the fact we're all forced to work this way at the moment. There are however lots of great tools and technologies in the market that can really help maintain a strong supportive and collaborative culture.

Here are just some that are proving to be really valuable for businesses:

Office 365 & Microsoft Teams:

Lots of companies are using Office 365 and Teams to manage all of their virtual work, which is no surprise – it’s a brilliant feature and data rich platform. There are lots of other platforms out there, but Teams (in particular) is a brilliant platform for collaboration.

Here are some of the features we have found really useful:

Office 365:

  • Office Solutions – virtual access to the usual office tools we’re all used to using (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.).

  • Co-work and authoring – never fall into the version control trap again – O365 allows you and your colleagues to co-author and edit documents in real-time.

  • Cloud storage – OneDrive & SharePoint – virtual storing and sharing of files and documents. No need to access on-premise servers and VPN.

  • Access to loads of Apps – O365 comes with loads of additional apps and plug-ins.

Microsoft Teams:

Teams Feature – the great thing about Teams is you can organise your work into groups and then create channels underneath. Users can then be invited into the Group and can access the channels you create to chat, collaborate and share and access files and documents. This allows you to keep all of your work in one place without risk of losing important documents and information.

Video calling – similar to Zoom, Webex and GoMeet platforms, Microsoft offer a great video conferencing function which is being updated on a regular basis by the Microsoft Dev Team. Microsoft have recently deployed new features to their video services which allow you to:

  • See up to 49 people on the one screen in a gallery format

  • Arrange attendees into an audience using their Together Mode setting

  • Take meeting notes within the service

  • Create breakout rooms for networking

  • Reframe and pin someone’s screen

Microsoft Planner – if your familiar with KANBAN and/or want to have all of your teams tasks in one virtual place, then Planner is a great App within Teams to achieve this. Its features are fairly limited compared to some of the industry leaders, but Microsoft continue to roll out more features on a regular basis.

Here are some of the great features within Planner:

  • Create boards, channels and tasks for your team.

  • Assign tasks to existing Team users.

  • Set milestones and deadlines within tasks.

  • Change the status and any settings within the tasks.

  • Create, amend or close off actions within a task to keep you on track.

  • Add comments and attachments.

  • Filter on people, days and categories.

  • View performance and progress in graph format – making it easier to manage productivity.

There is lots of free training material online about Microsoft Office 365 and Teams, including direct on the Microsoft website - or via their official YouTube channel -

Here are some other tools we've found really affective:

Now you would think I’m paid to endorse Microsoft, but sadly I’m not. They just have a great solution for virtual working. However there are some other great platforms which we’re using really well:

Miro: A virtual collaboration tool

Although Microsoft has Whiteboard as a collaboration tool, we are using Miro as our virtual creative space to co-working on new products, services and processes. If you think about the benefit of getting colleagues together in a room and doing a brainstorm or post-it exercise, Miro allows you to do this in a virtual way and offers a wide range of off-the-shelf templates to jump straight in.

The platform is cloud based and the cost model is per-user based. However, the platform does allow you to invite quest editors to your boards. A virtual project and operational management tool

We all need to invest in our project management skills to help transform our businesses – mainly to manage the wide variety of digital and technical projects we need to deliver. is a great tool to help manage a virtual PMO function in a collaborative way. Here are some of the logs, trackers and dashboards we have created in the last few months:

  • Interactive executive summary dashboards

  • Programme roadmap

  • Master and individual backlogs for requirements

  • Project plans

  • Project status reports

  • Risk logs

  • Financial control sheets

  • Communication plans

The platform is cloud based and runs a cost per-license model similar to Miro, but again, you can invite people to view the reports for free.

One thing to note is that is not exclusive to Project Management. We have quickly established that it has a wide range of templates and formatting that can benefit lots of operational areas in your business.

There is a lot of information here to digest, but we’re finding that there are lots of virtual tools in the market which can really help you adapt and navigate through this state of change. Please let in touch if we can help you in any way.

Although the technical tools are a real help, the effort is really driven by the people in your business. Support and look after them and the rest will follow.

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