How do we stay connected from 6 feet apart & keep culture alive during a pandemic?

Peter Norman – Code3AV

It’s been over a year since I shut down our office for a “few weeks” last march. I had no idea at the time how long this would last, or what it meant for our small business. We had a lot of questions at that time. We have a lot of questions now, but we’ve also got some answers. Here’s what we’ve done so far, and here’s what’s been working and not working for us and the clients we serve.

Down time:

We had some serious down time in the beginning of the pandemic. The first issue we had to solve was how to keep the team busy when everyone shut their doors. No one was letting us on site. All work was stalled or cancelled. We needed a way to make some kind of progress and be accountable for hours. We offered hours for specific certifications, and let the team pick what they wanted to go after. Show the cert – claim the hours. We divided and conquered every certification we could complete online. We focused on turning our company down time into opportunity as best as we could, which was only possible because of the PPP program. The biggest struggle we had here is that working and learning from home is hard when the kids are having to learn from home as well. Families with school age kids have had a tough year.

Process:

Process is everything. At Code3AV, when we look back at a problem and ask – “How did this happen?” It’s usually because we decided to bypass our process. I’ve become a firm believer in the importance of solid process. Throughout the last year, we needed processes that worked from the office and from home, and we needed to adapt quickly. What we learned: Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your processes, and don’t be a slave to process for process sake. If a process doesn’t serve your team, toss it. If it’s not efficient, tweak it. Our Managing Director began scheduling regular meetings where we dug into the minutiae of our processes. We continue to evaluate our processes regularly. This regular evaluation and review helps us with employee buy-in and it helps make our processes stick.

Teamwork:

Our office space continues to be mostly closed today. Most of us continue to work from home. We realized pretty quickly that we needed some way to be able to collaborate and work as a team. We couldn’t just walk down the hallway to meet anymore. At first, we thought that just having Microsoft Teams available as a resource would be sufficient for our needs.

We discovered that when working from home, we tended to form silos – we were losing our cross team collaboration. We were losing some of our “secret sauce.”

To combat this, Code3AV has implemented what we call “the morning check-in.” Our team leaders join a teams meeting every morning. There is no agenda to this meeting. We simply discuss what we need from each other to be successful that day. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes long and sometimes it’s a good bit longer, but it helps us all to coordinate and focus on the tasks of the day. We turn our cameras on. We see each other’s faces. It’s also a chance for everyone to say what they need to say. Microsoft Teams has been a great tool for us, but we’ve found that we needed to be much more intentional now with communication. The morning check-in call may be here to stay at Code3AV.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I think Code3AV and our clients are finding that this new hybrid style of business meeting where some people are using meeting spaces in the office, some people are in remote offices, and others are at home or mobile, is just the way business is going to happen. It’s the way students are learning. It’s the way local governments are running. This new hybrid way is here to stay.

we’ve found that you need to be more intentional now with communication.

Code3AV has spent much of the last year working with our clients to build or adapt existing systems to include automatic camera switching with Teams and Zoom integration, closed captioning and streaming capability to bring all of these locations together and make it feel seamless to the participants, presenters and to the public. From a technology perspective – We’re talking about solutions that are hybrid, automatic and touchless.

Culture:

Code3AV is many things, but more than anything, it’s a culture. We have a culture of playful teamwork, excellence in execution, and client satisfaction. Clients work with us and stay with us because of our culture. It’s the key to our success. We needed to find a way to keep promoting that culture from 6 feet apart. I still struggle with this one. Here at Code3AV everyone needs to participate to make it work.

We needed a way to keep promoting our culture from 6 feet apart.

We have a culture of pausing to celebrate our wins. It’s easy to get caught up in the machine and keep moving on to the next task. We’ve had socially distanced lunches outside. We’ve sent out care packages of snacks and online movie rentals to the Code3AV families, This year we ordered new company jackets for everyone. Last week we rented a movie theater and invited the office staff to see a socially distanced / limited capacity “Back to the Future.” We could only have 10 people there, but it was fun and it was my first time at the movies in over a year. It lifted my spirits for sure. I look for creative ways to encourage company pride, camaraderie, and positive attitudes. There’s a lot of darkness and loss out there right now. Leaders need to fight that darkness. Code3AV often comes together as a company to support good local causes. I’d like to encourage more of that this year as well. Nothing feeds the soul better than serving those in need. What has your company done to keep your culture alive?

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