As local business owners, we have a responsibility to create spaces—both literal and figurative—for making connections when it’s needed most. It’s up to us to foster that responsibility in how we run our companies. That starts with ensuring that our businesses are more than just a place for agents and employees to punch the clock—by deliberately and thoughtfully creating a culture of transparency and community.
Why a Community Matters
Despite the physical distance the pandemic has created in our workplaces and beyond, this year has probably made you feel a little closer to the people you work with. It’s not surprising—more than half of the United States workforce switched to remote work with practically every industry inviting coworkers into their homes via video calls from their kitchens, dens, and home offices. With that invitation, we’ve naturally had a greater view of one another’s lives: pets strolling by, curious kids asking questions, doorbells ringing, partners sharing makeshift offices. With millions resigned to quarantining at home, and more than a third of Americans reporting feeling lonely and isolated multiple times per week since the start of the pandemic, our workplaces have become vital sources of sorely-needed social connection.
Creating community is about more than just connecting with your agents and staff, though, it’s about connecting deeply and meaningfully. It’s about making space, not just for your teams, but for every individual on those teams to be heard, seen, and valued.
This year also brought another crucial reminder about the importance of community in the form of powerful calls for racial equality. Just as business leaders must find ways for workers to connect, even when in-person interaction is limited, we must also find ways to talk openly and compassionately when the conversations are difficult.
How to Foster a Community-Centric Culture
Creating a culture focused on community at your company will help everyone feel more appreciated, engaged, and acknowledged—not just now, but always. Here are a few ways that you can foster a culture of community in your business.
- Create comfortable spaces. Nothing makes you appreciate good design like being stuck in the same space for too long. While safety and sanitation guidelines may change after the pandemic is over, our new shared awareness of the importance of space likely won’t. When you think about what you want your physical office space to offer, consider how you can create variety in your workplace. My company approached the design of our new RedKey Training and Media Center with health and safety, and different work styles in mind. The new office also includes a coffee bar designed specifically for social distancing, and spaces for individuals, small teams, and large group work, with enough room to safely spread apart.
- Inspire your team. During highly stressful times, your agents and staff need to know they’re supported. Find ways to make it easy for your team to support one another, both personally and professionally. At RedKey, we started an internal video series called “Lead Connect Grow,” where leadership, real estate agents, and staff can share helpful, inspirational, or empowering information with the group. Each day, we also provide ideas for random acts of kindness so our team can find easy ways to touch the lives of people outside of the company, too. Getting personal with your team will not only help them feel supported during difficult times but also help them work together more effectively.
- Create connections online. With so many people staying home, it’s pivotal that your brokerage is taking advantage of technology to stay connected with agents, clients, and the community. When we opened our second office, we started looking for ways that our physical spaces can facilitate virtual connection, too. So, we decided to include a recording space in our new Training and Media Center, which is open to both RedKey agents and outside agents to help them connect with clients through videos, podcasts, and other digital channels.
- Get personal with your agent and client meetings. The use of videoconferencing surged with the pandemic—and for good reason. When we can’t be face-to-face, being screen-to-screen is a substitute that coworkers and clients alike are grateful for. But something that will be appreciated by your team in a time of potential videoconferencing overload is going the extra mile to make internal videoconferencing meetings fun and thoughtful. At RedKey, we’ve started using bits of pre-recorded videos, live music, and other creative elements to make our virtual meetings just as special and fun as if we were sitting at the same table.
- Be vulnerable. It’s important to commit to discussing important topics as a team. It will help you build trust and embed inclusion into the DNA of your company. Vulnerability begins at the top, so create dedicated time to give tough conversations the focus they deserve—and lead by example. At RedKey, we started by having full-team discussions about topics that may be uncomfortable at times, like race and mental health. Our leadership team has prioritized re-examining how we can make a difference by implementing special programs and creating specific goals around the ways that our company can become a fiercer advocate for inclusion. This includes a deeper understanding of the role that fair housing, race, and behavioral health have in our industry and our community.
While these measures seem small, they will make a big difference to your team. Creating spaces, both physical and figurative, where agents and staff are free and safe to speak openly is what turns your company into a community.
When you foster a sense of community in your company—deliberately, passionately, and authentically—you’re showing your team that their personal successes are just as important as their professional ones. You’re demonstrating that they and every client, customer, partner, coworker, and neighbor, are uniquely and equally valued. The best thing about a culture of community is the ripple effects: When your agents feel connected, the clients they serve see the positive impact, too. And when your business is built around connections, it becomes a source of true togetherness and positive change in your community.