If your region is gearing up to restart travel, it’s time to rebuild your company culture and prepare to welcome back your customers.

If your travel sector is still on ice, we have some great tips to revive team spirit while you count down to restart.

Company culture is more successful by design than by default. Let’s get proactive and face the challenges of distance and uncertainty, so that you can rebuild your team into a mean, cohesive, travel-selling machine, wherever you work from.

Assess your company culture

Understanding everyone’s head-space is the starting point. If you don’t know what they’re thinking and feeling, even what they’re hopeful about, it’s going to be hard to steer that boat. Identify who in your team is still on board and who’s fallen over and needs a buoy. Because from this distance, you can’t tell who is dry and who’s soaking wet.

Check on your crew

Survey your team. Be as specific and detailed as you like, anonymous or open, but get clarity on how people feel about the situation now and the immediate future. Asking directly about the extent and root of their anxiety, helps you identify solutions or set up workshops to tackle the problem.

Acknowledge fears and concerns

As a company you’re in the same boat but working from home means different things to different people – issues like space, privacy, even furniture, vary from one household to another and can impact comfort and productivity. Once travel resumes and offices reopen, some among your team may be anxious about being allowed to continue remote working if that’s what they need to do. Empathy is easily achieved through the simple gesture of a phone call from a leader or peer, or a survey question that demonstrates understanding.

Show your open-door policy

Employees on short-time or those working harder than ever under stressful conditions can suffer from grief or burn-out, compounded by the feeling that they’re alone in their situation or no longer part of the working crew. That’s why the lines of communication must be (kept) open – invite ongoing engagement and input from team members. Create safe spaces to acknowledge those feelings, and advocate that it’s okay not to be okay.

Reawaken team spirit

If team spirit was strong before, you have good foundations to build on; if not, that needs your focus now. The new normal has unceremoniously nudged aside most of your plans, budgets and goals set at the start of the year, but gifted you with a relatively blank slate to reconfigure what you want your culture to be.

Embrace a growth mindset

Use this opportunity to address company culture if you previously never had time for it because, crisis or not, your team needs to be on the same page. Confront burn-out, loss and stress with urgency in order to build the right momentum to move the team forward. What values support those ends and the actions needed to get your team there?

The way you used to do things has already changed. There’s a lack of separation between work- and home-time, and distractions to contend with at home. This calls for a shift in how you measure productivity, moving away from logging work hours towards results-driven deadlines.

Focus your team’s attention on values: get them thinking about the type of company they want to work for, through and beyond the crisis.

Continue with rituals that work

If you had a solid company culture before COVID-19, use this opportunity to determine what still works, what needs to adapt, or what’s become irrelevant – the staff drinks together at the end of the work week, your company-sponsored lunches… Team Wetu’s stork parties for expectant parents are legendary, and we’re doing our first remote party this week. Virtual can never replace physical interaction but you can still make it fun and create fellowship. Arrange lunch dates for everyone together or arrange ‘coffee dates’ for small groups via video call.

Focus on connection

How do you re-connect people who’ve been physically far apart for so long? Create opportunities for conversation; even make some mandatory. Remember your teammates who work in different time zones – schedule meetings, socials and team building activities at suitable times. Camaraderie now needs a virtual, inclusive forum.

Invite and enable interaction

Make daily or weekly check-ins a ritual, with line managers, departmental teammates, and the entire company.

Positive reinforcement is a good remedy at a time when confidence is low and uncertainty is high. Managers must dig out their score cards and give credit where it’s due – either to commend a colleague for past contributions or exceeding expectations during this crisis. People who are fortunate enough to work right now are under enormous pressure, while those who’ve been temporarily laid off have to cope with unimaginable stress. It can really make a difference to someone’s mindset to be reminded how awesome they are.

Transparency breeds trust

From leadership to HR, visibility is crucial during a crisis. Provide regular news updates on future planning, emergency measures and ongoing operations. Being out of the loop makes it easy to jump to inaccurate conclusions – it benefits the entire team to lay the facts on the table. It demonstrates respect and inclusiveness – values any company should aspire to.

A team consulted is a team invested

It’s hard to see the goal posts through the fog but the way forward still needs a plan – make your team part of that journey and earn their buy-in. Arrange meet-ups to brainstorm how to diversify your products and add new value to existing offerings. Several diverse minds put together are better able than one or two to find out-the-box solutions that can take your brand forward.

What to do next

All the research points here: connect as humans, not just for work.

  • Check out the free survey tools from SurveyMonkey and other digital communication tools from Google.
  • Encourage virtual home tours via phone. Satisfy the voyeurs and exhibitionists in your team, and make a connection.
  • The Travel Corporation got their travel counsellors to share some personal travel anecdotes. Invite your team to share their own stories on your blog or in bite sizes on your social media platforms. Make it a celebration of the passion they have for their job, places visited, activities done, people they’ve met and tourism partners they’ve worked with. It’s a way to re-connect with their professional pride and focus on the prospects ahead.
  • Upskill and re-skill on products you sell or the tools you use for work. Source free online courses, like with LinkedIn, Udemy or Wetu, and encourage your teammates to do something uplifting.
  • Practise gratitude in this time of crisis. There are simple exercises you can do to recognise things to be grateful for, expressed in a video call or on an internal communication channel, documented on e-cards or shared on social media. Thank a teammate for having your back and share the love among your team.
  • KARRYON curated these wonderful quotes from travellers praising their favourite travel consultants, stuck them on a blog and social media for the world to see. If you’ve stayed connected with clients during lockdown, they might be keen to share some happy memories of their last visit or appreciation for the service they received on their last trip.
  • Adventure Works👇🏻 hosted the members of Team Wetu hardest hit by short-time and temporary layoff, helping them re-connect through fun virtual team building activities.

The future shape of work

It’s a tough time to set goals but the saying goes: Tough times don’t last. Tough teams do. As you start navigating the new realities of working in travel, focus on short-term goals and celebrate their achievement. Some of your staff will emerge from this crisis preferring to work remotely, while others will need to return to an office space. How will your infrastructure support hybrid operational needs? Now is the time to act, to keep your team unified, working together with mindfulness, and truly living the hashtag #TogetherInTravel.

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