Who knew that 2020 would be the start of a revolution to a remote work culture for all – whether we were ready or not?

It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that this has been a challenging year for everyone. All of us have taken on different roles, morphed, pivoted, struggled and conquered – and almost all of that happened virtually.

And while it’s been a struggle to adjust, remote work is here to stay.

A recent study of 800 employers surveyed by an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm found:

  • 83 percent of respondents said that even after the health crisis has passed, they plan to put more flexible work policies in place, such as allowing more people to work from home or letting them adjust their schedules.
  • Ninety-four percent said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely. (source: SHRM.org)

We are all more than ready to say goodbye to 2020 and roll on into the new year, but what’s going to be different? How can you make changes to make sure that 2021 is smoother, better, and more enjoyable than 2020?

What you can do differently to bring out the best in each of your team members?

Before you prepare yourself for the unknown year of 2021, just lurking around the corner, start with some assessment.

Remote work can be a culture challenge for team leaders and supervisors. The same strategies may not work. Your team may be responding differently than they have in the past and it can be confusing and frustrating.

First of all, take time to reflect on all that went well this year. In the midst of chaos some really cool things happened. Start there.

Then, think of the areas that you are still struggling in. Where do changes need to happen to improve your team rapport and work culture?

Here are some ways to gather input and end 2020 well with your team:

Don’t Stay Stuck

Doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting different results can get you into a ”stuck-state cycle”. That’s what happens when things aren’t really going well but you keep repeating the same behaviors. You may expect something different to happen, but it doesn’t. If things aren’t working like they used to try something different. Be creative. Try new ways to translate the face-to-face workplace to remote work. Work on culture, engagement and how to best communication together.

Create Space for Feedback

How can you end the year well and give your work culture the boost it needs?

Ask your team to share their perspective.

Take the time to sit back, reflect, think and really listen to your team. Schedule individual or small groups to meet to give feedback on what’s going well and what isn’t working in the new world of remote work. I like to call this process coffee chats or listening circles so your team knows the purpose up front – to share and be heard.

Ask how you make each team member successful in the new year. Specifally ask; what can I do more of or less of in the new year to better support you?

Your team will appreciate the opportunity to be heard and you will gather ideas and information that you may not have thought of to improve your workplace culture and productivity.

Address individual development and group training needs

Ask your team to identify the tools and resources they need to be better equipped in the new year. You may want to send out a survey and ask what kind of training and support they need.

  • Provide training for cross-team tools that team members use, such as Trello, Slack or other project management tools. Make sure they have cutting edge info to use the tools to get the most out of them and so that everyone is at the same skill level.
  • Think about holding a team retreat, attending a virtual conference together or provide individual training opportunities to refresh and inspire your members.
  • Take an online class together. It’s a great way to give your team relationship a tune-up. 

Keep in mind that people want to learn to communicate better together. After every workshop I present, I have several participants share that they wish their co-worker, or boss could have been at the workshop with them.

Send a personalized thank you note or card. 

Finally, and most important of all, make sure your team members know how their hard work is appreciated, personally and directly from you.

Take the time to write a handwritten note to each one of your team members and mail it to them. It is a simple gesture that will mean a lot. In your note, be specific and share how that person has excelled, made your job easier, supported you and the team, stepped up or describe whatever way they contributed during the chaos and adjustment.

Regular appreciation will get you everywhere when it comes to improving your work culture. If nothing else, start there.


Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She offers several online courses to help individuals and team communicate better. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.

Check out her new course that begins on Feb. 1 The Remote Boss: Master Mangement in a Remote Environment (Early Bird Registration open through Dec 31).