Workplace culture attracts, retains, and inspires talent. While every organization’s culture is unique, we all have experienced challenges related to workplace culture, especially in the transition from on-site to remote work. While some organizations are finding ways to maintain the culture they had cultivated pre-COVID, others are reimagining their culture altogether. 

At last week’s Future of (how we) Work Task Force Meeting, we heard from leaders at Teamraderie, Google Cambridge, and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard about practical applications for enhancing workplace culture for both in person and remote employees. Here are several best practices to help you cultivate great workplace culture:

  • Social connectivity is the most powerful lever for team productivity. “In distributed work, individual productivity rises while team productivity declines,” said Michael McCarroll, Co-Founder, Teamraderie
  • Building team or company-wide events into the middle of the day keeps employees engaged. Research has shown that corporate teams need each of these: opportunity for bonding, inspiration, discovery, overcoming, and celebrating. Expert Tip from Google: Learning new skills during these events not only adds value to team productivity but also celebrates camaraderie. 
  • Employ all communications vehicles. Utilizing monthly surveys helps measure employee attitudes and needs relative to caregiving, mental health/anxiety, safety, and connectivity. Lee McGuire, Chief Communications Officer, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard said in addition, “monthly Town Halls, public scientific talks, and regular emails from leadership are keeping employees invested and inspired.”
  • Engage local businesses, especially using a DEI lens. “This kind of commitment [to local businesses] supports the local economy and makes employees feel more satisfied and engaged,” said Rebecca Silverman, Program Manager, Google Cambridge. Supporting our streets and storefronts keeps our community vibrant and gives us all something to look forward to when we return to Kendall.
  • Keep company wide gatherings casual (and even family friendly). Some employers are sending home activity kits for employees to use during virtual gatherings, while others are relying on activities segmented by employee interest, to create space for employees to engage with one another and reshape our former “water cooler” conversations.  

As we refocus our approach toward creating an inclusive and productive workplace culture, we should be aware of several “watch-outs.” Kendall leaders flagged the following to be more mindful of this year:

  • Zoom Fatigue. While a day full of in-person meetings once felt exhausting, now we all realize that a day full of Zoom meetings takes an even higher toll. 
  • Onboarding Remotely: Companies continue to hire new employees, but have indicated that integrating them into their company culture is difficult when they may have never set foot in Kendall Square or met any of their new colleagues in person.
  • Work/Life Balance: HR and Culture leaders noted that prioritizing work/life balance into their evolving workplace cultures is a continuing challenge as the boundaries of our workweeks have become blurred. 
  • Providing Feedback: Employees have shared that providing feedback virtually is less ideal, especially compared to doing so in person – regardless of whether it is constructive criticism or praise. 
  • Equity and Inclusion: KSA survey respondents indicated they are struggling to strike a balance between incentivizing employees who are returning to the office without disenfranchising those still working from home, especially caregivers who may not necessarily have the choice of whether they will go back to the office. 

As we head into a holiday season fraught with childcare challenges, year-end responsibilities, and the complications of the second surge of COVID-19 cases, culture has become more essential than ever. The way we support our employees and foster teams will forever change the way we understand and operate within the workplace. No community has more creativity or ingenuity than Kendall Square. Let’s harness our power of proximity and spirit of innovation to invigorate our community, remembering together we go further.