Creating a positive work environment during COVID-19 and beyond

During the grind of starting a business, entrepreneurs have a laundry list of goals to achieve. And, often times, creating a positive work environment is not one of them. However, once the details are fine-tuned, should a positive work environment be your next focus?

What is it that you will provide to your employees and future employees?

More specifically, how does creating a positive work environment help your business?

Creating a positive work environment

During this mandated stay-at-home period, many are wondering what the work environment will look like moving forward. What exactly makes an employee (happily) show up for work, or their remote home desk, day after day? For the 7th year in a row, Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) has been honored with the prestigious Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Here are some tips on how the organization maintains a great company culture year after year, and how they’ve shifted during COVID-19. 

Maintain clear expectations


Countless factors go into ensuring an employee is satisfied with their position and work environment. Each employee is unique, but clear expectations in a world of uncertainty top the list of must-haves. 

The COVID-19 shift has looked different for us all. Some companies have transitioned to complete teleworking and some reduced hours, but almost everyone has been faced with new procedures. The most important aspect throughout all of the change is to clearly communicate with your staff about your current expectations and update them frequently. 

Be flexible

It’s important to remember that this crisis has affected everyone differently, and this is true with employees as well as businesses. Focus on the human aspect of each employee, and realize that they have a personal life after their work shift ends. Remain as flexible as possible when offering remote work options, be understanding about personal and family situations, and check in on mental health regularly. If possible, allow the employee to focus on achieving the work duties at hand, and be open with the exact hours worked. The standard 9-5 hours may no longer be applicable or even achievable.     

Encourage connection


Entrepreneurs often have a small and mighty team behind their efforts and organized “human resources” get lost in the shuffle. No matter the size of your team, it’s still composed of people who need support. BBB has created a People and Culture Department devoted to maintaining the personal connection and overall well-being of the staff. 

Related: How big and small businesses are shifting to remote work

“Our People and Culture Team is dedicated to making BBB a place where our employees feel welcomed, appreciated, and motivated to do their best work. We have a great mission that our employees can be proud of. They are working hard to increase trust within the communities they themselves and their families live in. Without our staff, we would not be able to advance our mission. We believe that by creating a positive work environment that balances hard work and fun, we can achieve our full potential as an organization. All of us need to go to work…why not make it the best place it can be?,” shares BBB Vice President of People and Culture, Noelle Rooke.

Even without a dedicated department like this, small businesses can check in on the well-being of employees and set up dedicated times to talk openly. Higher levels of stress among employees has increased throughout COVID-19, so fostering a culture that is supportive of good mental health is key.

Communicate, then communicate more

Keeping your team connected virtually can be a challenge, but optimizing online platforms to the best of our ability can help. BBB has many opportunities in place for teams to virtually connect within their department, in the organization, and with direct supervisors. They also facilitate a brief weekly update on all company happenings and a more robust monthly team meeting. Encouraging your team to keep their cameras on during meetings can also help to feel more connected. Seeing faces, expressions and some body language adds a human element. 

Aside from gathering for essential work duties, time is dedicated to more personal methods of connection. Small group chats, spirit weeks, and meetings at the virtual “water cooler” have become staff favorites. The BBB People & Culture Department has also created an employee dashboard with resources to utilize at home.

Make sure your actions are noticed 


The Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award is a direct result of the actions BBB takes every day with their team members. Presented by Arizona Commerce Authority, partnered with Republic Media, The Arizona Republic, and BestCompaniesAZ recognize exceptional companies in Arizona. Awardees specifically go above and beyond to ensure their workplace is top-notch, helping Arizona skyrocket as a leader in great places to work.

Prior to receiving the recognition, an employer questionnaire was completed on policies, procedures, and benefits. Most striking about this award, however, was the honest answers from BBB employees who completed an in-depth survey on areas such as workplace experience, company culture, role satisfaction, training, and development opportunities. A company can share many hopes and dreams, but when you walk the talk, employees take notice. 

Concentrate on diversity and inclusion

BBB takes pride in the culture it has created for its employees and strives to make the work environment better every day. It’s newly created diversity and inclusion committee named IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness) stands up to ensure our policies, internal affairs, and culture offers a welcoming environment for everyone. BBB maintains an open and honest policy for all voices to be heard. 

“I’m so proud of the culture we’ve cultivated and the unity that has grown from it. Our richly diverse leadership and inclusive, multi-generational team enhances every level of service we provide. Each individual we bring onboard delivers passion for our brand, and exudes this positivity through various platforms. It significantly amplifies the work we do to make a difference in our community,” shares BBB President and CEO, Matthew Fehling. 

Cultivate a positive team culture


When the physical doors were open, the moment a new employee walked through the door, the value placed on people and culture was confirmed. While this has changed slightly as new team members have come on board virtually during the COVID-19 shutdown, genuine care for staff is still evident. From the onboarding experience to sharing motivational messages and daily huddles, BBB wants team members to feel at home (even if they really are at home). Don’t forget that traditional mail still exists in our virtual world, and a welcome care package may be received as a pleasant surprise. 

Related: Leadership tips for bringing teams back together during COVID-19

Keep your focus forward

While working from home may stick around longer than we expected, BBB is excited to once again welcome team members through the door. 

“Even through turbulent times, our staff has risen to the occasion, truly working harder than they ever have. We’re honored to do our part and advance our mission of trust, integrity, and ethics led by this dedicated team,” continues Fehling. 

Continue to reassure your staff that this too shall pass, and we all hope to come out the other side stronger than ever. For more information on Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest, please visit our website.

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