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Building a culture that supports team members
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that workplace burnout is on the rise — 52% of US employees report suffering from burnout in 2021, up from 43% the year before. You’ve probably seen it or experienced it first hand. I know I have.
We’re all a little tired. We’re all a little uncertain about what the future holds. But this exhaustion and anxiety doesn’t magically disappear when we log onto our computers for the workday.
As leaders, we need to recognize and react to our people — as humans first.
Creating a positive workplace culture has always been important to me. At Biteable, we’re laser-focused on culture and always searching for new ways to support our remote workforce. We pride ourselves on being “Always Human”, in whatever form that takes.
Over the years, I’ve seen the positive impact of a purposeful culture firsthand. Now more than ever, I believe it’s a leadership imperative to create a company culture that cares.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what works (and what doesn’t). These are my top takeaways.
How we prioritize being Always Human at Biteable
One of our company values at Biteable is Always Human. We strive to support our teammates with flexibility, compassion, and understanding. It’s not just something we say, it’s something we do. Always. In a hundred ways.
Here are four of my favorites.
We invest in our people’s happiness and wellness with bonus days off throughout the year. We call them Play Days (Get it? Because we’re all about video…)
On play days,we tell the team to take the day to do something they love. The only item on the to-do list is to relax. We’ve seen Biteableers set off on long bike rides, recharge with loved ones, take their dogs to the park, visit their favorite bookstore, or just take a well-deserved midday nap.
It’s a way to celebrate our achievements, encourage self-care, and promote the kind of culture we believe creates happy, productive employees.
And sometimes we get creative gems like this as a result. Ben, a Biteableer based in Australia, made a video to tell the team what he got up to on his day off.
Feeling a sense of connection at work is so important. It’s all too easy to put our heads down and focus entirely on our to-do lists, but community and camaraderie are crucial parts of building a positive culture.
As a remote company, we have to put extra effort into fostering relationships among team members and within the company as a whole. One of the larger-scale ways we do this is with company retreats.
We’re a global company, and with COVID working against us this year, a company-wide retreat wasn’t on the table. Instead, we met up regionally and shared our experiences across the globe.
My North American team members and I headed to Denver, Colorado.
We made swag kits for all attendees, booked everyone a flight, and spent a few days in the mountains hiking, dining, attending a baseball game, and participating in team-building activities to foster new connections. We even made a TikTok.
We could’ve played hundreds of icebreakers and team-building games on Zoom, but they wouldn’t have come close to creating the same sense of connection that our people experienced at a single offsite event.
Beyond company retreats, we keep the focus on employee connection year-round.
One way we do this is by using a Slack app called Donut to randomly pair two employees together for a 30-minute social chat every two weeks. This gives team members a chance to meet people they might not have met and get to know their coworkers in a more personal way.
It’s a great time to grab a coffee and get to know our team members as people rather than colleagues.
We also use Slack channels like #home-lyfe and #random-waffle to talk about anything other than work. We encourage it, too! We’re a better team when we care about each other.
Flexible and remote
The most important way we support our people is by offering flexibility, however we can. As I mentioned, we’re a remote-first company. We don’t mind where our team works or when they work, as long as they get the job done.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear this makes for happier, more productive employees.
If a team member needs to head out to watch their child’s recital or walk their dog, we’re all for it. Our people are adults, and we treat them like adults. Respect begets respect.
Strategies for supporting culture in your workplace
I don’t need to convince you that a positive, supportive culture is important. We all know it is. The ways we support our people at Biteable work for us, and I hope they just might work for your company, too.
If you’re turning your focus to culture for the first time, or just taking this opportunity to re-evaluate, I suggest you start with these three strategies.
Start from the top
Developing a positive culture starts at the top. As leaders, we have to practice what we preach every single day. Our employees won’t feel comfortable taking a wellness day, or enforcing their work/life balance if we don’t.
For me, this means I take every Play Day too, then I share what I did with my bonus day off #home-lyfe.
Announce your own Play Day with a fun announcement video, then encourage your team to get creative with their recaps with a ‘My Day Off’ video.
Create opportunities for connection
The way you create opportunities for connection will look different depending on where and how your team works. What’s important is finding something that fits well for your team.
It might be a company retreat like we did, a remote cookie baking class (we also did this), or an in-person lunch in the office. It could really be anything. You can’t force people to connect, but it’s so important to create the space for it wherever you can.
Once you’ve decided what works best for your team, let everyone know they’re invited to a good time. We used a video similar to this one when we announced our most recent retreat.
Embrace the future of flexible work
Flexible work arrangements are quickly becoming the bare minimum for employees seeking a positive workplace culture. And the truth is, if you don’t let your people work how they work best, there are a hundred other companies out there that will.
If you haven’t already, consider finding ways to embrace long-term flexibility within your team.
Of course, remote work isn’t an option for every role or every company — and not every employee works best from home. It’s all about being open to changing how the traditional 9–5 looks so you can best support a modern-day work-life balance.
If you’re not sure what that might look like for your team, ask them. I bet they know.
Be your team’s biggest cheerleader
These are just a few of the many things we do at Biteable to support company culture and make sure our team members feel valued and connected with their peers.
However, you choose to support your people, the most important we as leaders can do is create space in your culture for connection. Whether it’s a large change or a small one, moving in the direction of support and connection is always a change for the better.