4 min read

How to Create a Positive Workplace Culture from Afar

How to Create a Positive Workplace Culture from Afar

In June, the CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network hosted Innovative Concepts for Working Together in a Post-Pandemic World, a panel discussion featuring Manisha Mistry, Senior Director, HSSE & DEI, CSA Group; Nada Vuckovic, Head, Environment Health and Safety/Sustainability Officer, Siemens Canada Limited; Akela Peoples, President and CEO, Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC); and Maureen Juniper, Founding Partner of PRAXIS.

Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer Dr. Joel Moody kicked things off with opening remarks and 
Sandra Miller, Vice President Strategy and Governance at WSPS moderated the discussion.

The panelists explored topics such as staying connected in hybrid and fully remote workplaces, workplace culture, attracting and retaining talent, and innovative approaches for working together. It was a rich discussion full of ideas, lessons-learned and insights. 

Their organizations have adopted a variety of work structures. PRAXIS and MHRC are fully remote. During the pandemic, PRAXIS began a four-day work week trial and has just signed on for another pilot period. CSA Group has a flexible structure and Siemens Canada is a hybrid mobile organization, meaning employees can work anywhere. 

Each of the panelists shared that they, like most other organizations, are working to establish a sense of workplace culture in these new work environments where people only occasionally come together in person. 

It’s a critically important topic. Earlier this year, MHRC, in partnership with Canada Life and Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, surveyed 5500 Canadians to evaluate psychological safety in the workplace. Fewer than half (47%) of employees in large workplaces with more than 500 employees said they are experiencing a positive workplace culture.

Panelist tips for building a positive workplace culture

Peoples noted that there is no longitudinal data on what the impact of remote work will be on us in our workplaces and as individuals. “Right now, people are happier at home, but that may change. We don’t want to just be transactional in our relationships. As leaders, we need to nurture teams in ways that keep them mentally and socially healthy.”

[Read: 35 Tips for Valuing the Whole Person and Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace]

In interviews after the session, each of the panelists shared steps they are taking toward building a positive culture in their workplaces.

Maureen Juniper, PRAXIS – Create a fun, collaborative experience
Culture matters more today than perhaps ever before. We have to provide for ourselves and our families but there is so much more that goes into the work experience. Being fully remote and working four days, we are particularly aware of this challenge. We bring people together quarterly for face-to-face connection and collaboration but it’s mostly about the social aspect. When we first started to do this, people were used to their routines of staying at home and they were exhausted when they got to the location. Now, I feel people are really energized by coming together.

We encourage directors to use their budgets for co-working space and employees who are closer geographically to do the same. We are really urging people to get together for work and socializing.
When I was a young employee, my work experience was fun. We had a baseball team, and we went out together for lunch or after work. I feel the younger generation is missing out on this. That’s what drives me to ensure people are connected and having fun as part of their work experience.

CSA Group – Balance technology and in-person opportunities 
During the pandemic we wanted to make sure we maintained high quality onboarding and training. We saw we could connect with employees globally on a virtual platform in a collaborative and interactive way. People have gotten used to virtual meetings and break out rooms. We’ve upskilled our employees to some degree.

Now as we make our way back, we are restarting onsite tours, training and team meetings. We had new employees join the organization during the pandemic who don’t work in the lab. They had no idea what their site looks like. Now we can show them what we do and how we do it, in person. They can see the test labs and understand the full scope of our organization.

Siemens Canada – Build culture and comfort 
It is hard to connect new people to the culture without a lot of effort. When we were fully remote, we did a lot of webinars, coffee chats, cooking classes, trivia games, wellness challenges, cultural celebrations, volunteering, etc. We want new hires to fit in and have a sense of belonging. We still do a lot of team building activities such as axe throwing, boat cruises, and last year new hires were given  a ticket to TIFF. We do fun activities where people feel relaxed and get to know each other on a personal level to build culture and comfort. Understanding who people are, how they fit and how we all fit together is key. Our workforce is a crucial component of our success; therefore, we have developed a wellness strategy with the needs of our employees in mind. This strategy encompasses the physical, mental and financial health of our workforce. 

Our EHS motto is “One World – One Life – We care.” We do this by empowering people, ensuring supportive working conditions, caring for mental and physical well-being, and enhancing competencies. By fostering the well-being of our people and a safe and healthy work environment, we contribute to and improve organizational resilience.

MHRC – Define the culture you want
We were maybe better positioned than others because we are in our formative years compared to an established organization that has been operating a certain way. We created an HR and Organizational Culture Committee because we felt it was important to talk about the key elements of the culture we wanted to develop and nurture. We wanted our culture to include responsible risk taking – we felt it was important that we take reasonable and strategic risks to establish ourselves in a busy sector on a crowded national stage. Collaboration, flexibility and support have also been a big part of who we are from day one. 

Now on days I’m in the office, I enter it in my calendar in advance, and I tag everyone as an optional attendee. Some come in every week, others once a month, but it’s optional, for the most part. Not all our team members are in Toronto (some are in other provinces) so we are cautious about lunches and after work gatherings in relation to an “us” and “them” optic where geographically close colleagues have a different experience. This can be a challenge. But we now bring people together from across Canada more regularly for “all hands” meetings to facilitate important relationship building. Since the start of the pandemic, I have asked staff to hold one-on-one “coffee meetings” with each other and the only rule is you can’t talk about work. This helps build social connections. We have continued these now that we are remote, and we also plan other engagement activities such as lunch time Trivia sessions. Building a sense of team is different in a remote workplace but even more important as natural socialization does not occur through a screen. 

I am not saying we’re doing enough, but this is clearly in our line of sight.  This needs regular monitoring and reassessment as the team grows and evolves.  Needs change and we need to adapt and evolve our cultures accordingly. 

Learn more about this panel discussion

This information was excerpted from the soon-to-be-released white paper Innovative Concepts for Working Together in a Post-Pandemic World. If you would like to receive a copy, contact simona.mazat@wsps.ca.

Get to know the author – Fresh Communications



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