Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World

Your company culture and the connections you have with your team does not need to be sacrificed for the sake of remote working. Here are four tips you can implement today to stay engaged and productive.


Many companies and small businesses are still working in some type of virtual capacity as the global pandemic (hopefully) winds down. Some businesses might even choose to keep some virtual working options even after COVID. 

Over the last handful of months there have been many articles and webinars about how to transition to this new way of working. 

What is often missing from the discussion is how to maintain and foster your team connection while working virtually. We, at Zephyr Recruiting, have been virtual for years. So, we are old hats at this, and we want to share some of our favorite ways to foster connection while being virtual. 

Here are four tips to maintaining culture and connection in a virtual world:

1. Communicate often. It is easy to take for granted all the ways, big and small, that we communicate with each other while working together in an office. The small ways, especially, get overlooked. When you go virtual, it takes a more conscious effort to keep those small ways alive and well. At Zephyr, we use Slack as an internal communication tool. If you take a look on any given day, you will see that we share random thoughts, jokes, photos, ideas, and simple hellos. All the things you would have shared at the watercooler and lunch room. 

2. Increase the number of meetings you have but make them short and productive. Instead of having one longer meeting per week with your team, break them up into two meetings, or simply add in some touch points throughout the week.  

My husband’s company does a quick 10 minute, daily Stand Up meeting, as an example.  At Zephyr, we have a longer All Hands team meeting, and then shorter meetings with specific teams—the sales and marketing team; the recruiting team; the operations team. We also have short one-to-ones between supervisors and their team members. It sounds like a lot, but we are efficient and keep them short. These allow for more opportunities for the team to see each other and connect about business as things evolve during the week. 

3. Continue to find ways to do social things together. We have the occasional meal together over Zoom. Other ideas are a movie or book club; lunch and learns; or use an app designed to encourage your team members to have “virtual coffee.” One such app is called donut and it works with Slack. It sends a fun conversation prompt and the rule is no talking about work. Trello (a popular project management software company) promotes a cooking challenge among their team members. They pick one ingredient, and everyone uses that in a dish they make, and then shares photos and the recipes with the team, inevitably, conversations ensue about the recipes and cooking. What fun ways can you find to engage your team?  

As a side note, we have been asked about paying for these types of things and we feel that depends on what works best for you and your company right now. At Zephyr, due to the way we work and pay, this is voluntary, but our whole team is showing up because they want to stay connected. For your team, it might just be something you do during regular work hours. Only you can decide what is best for your organization. But if you do not pay for the time, then it cannot be mandatory. 

4. Have senior management engage one-on-one with the team members. I, as the CEO of Zephyr, have regular Zoom calls with each of my team members. I want to check in personally and offer a space for them to talk freely about how they are coping with the pandemic and work. This is fostering our connection in a deeper way and I know it is helping us both manage better.  

The most important thing, no matter what you do, is that you do it. Be intentional, stop for a moment and think about your team, what would they enjoy, ask for their ideas, then write them down and plan for them. Make space and time for socialization and connection. It will go a long way in keeping your team engaged and connected!

Erin Longmoon is the CEO of Zephyr Recruiting, which she founded in response to her clients’ needs for help in with building effective and successful teams. Zephyr Recruiting serves the small business community—the mom and pop places that are the backbones of our communities and our economy.

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  • Next up: Make Screen Time Easy On Your Eyes
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  • Make Screen Time Easy On Your Eyes


    In today’s digitalized world, extended screen time has become the norm in our everyday lives. The average person spends around eleven hours a day on digital devices*. Whether it’s for work or play, statistics show our day is infused with technology, from the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep. According to The Vision Council’s annual VisionWatch survey, nearly 67 percent of adults say they use two or more devices simultaneously, close to 55 percent report looking at some type of screen in the first hour they’re awake, and nearly 80 percent say they use digital devices in the hour just before going to sleep**. Staring at blue-light-emitting screens all day must have some effect on our bodies, right? When you mix together prolonged usage of smartphones, computers, tablets, TV, and the use of other electronics, it adds up. Blue light is all around us and, although a lot of this technology is beneficial, prolonged usage may impact your visual comfort and leave you experiencing digital eye strain symptoms like eye fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, and dry or watery eyes.

    How can you combat digital eye strain and blue light?

    Avoiding blue light is impossible, but there are several options for helping to combat digital eye strain and reducing your exposure to blue light which include limiting screen time, observing the 20-20-20 rule, using computer glasses, and enhancing your glasses with a blue-light-reducing lens coating. 
    The best digital eye strain treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the symptom which requires proper diagnosis. With regular eye care and proper diagnosis by your eye doctor, your symptoms of eye strain can usually be alleviated. 

    Why is an eye exam important?

    Even if you have 20/20 vision and don’t have an eyewear need it’s important to get your annual eye exam. Our eye health and vision can change over time no matter what life stage you’re in. Having a routine comprehensive eye exam every year is the most important thing you can do to help prevent or treat computer vision problems—along with other eye and health issues. During your exam, talk to your VSP network eye doctor about your lifestyle and how often you’re using a computer and other digital devices. This will provide your doctor with a full picture of your vision needs and help determine which options are best for you. NEED AN EYE EXAM? Find a VSP Premier Program Practice near you and schedule an appointment.

    Depending on your diagnosis, treatment can range from only requiring modifications to your home and work environment like limiting screen time, finding a comfortable viewing distance, changing brightness, contrast levels and font sizes on your computer. 

    In other cases, treatment may consist of providing relief from digital eye strain with non-prescription, ready-made blue light glasses. Shop styles for the whole family on Eyeconic® starting at $69 and get 20% off any pair just for being a member. If you’re needing prescriptive blue light options, you may benefit by enhancing your glasses with a blue-light-reducing lens coating like TechShield® Blue. Your VSP benefit provides a savings of up to 40% on TechShield Anti-Reflective Coatings, including TechShield Blue.***

    *Q1 2018 Nielsen Total Audience report

    **The Vision Council’s VisionWatch July 2018 survey 

    **Savings based on doctor's retail price and vary by plan and purchase selection; average savings determined after benefits are applied. Available only through VSP network doctors to VSP members with applicable plan benefits. Ask your VSP network doctor for details.

    See Well. Be Well.™ Make your eye health and eye care a priority, starting with scheduling a comprehensive eye exam. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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  • Next up: Make the Smart Hire: Presented by Pre-Check
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  • Make the Smart Hire: Presented by Pre-Check

    For small businesses, finding and hiring good employees is an eternal struggle. Steve Millard, executive director of COSE, says at any one time, approximately one-third of the organization’s small business members are hiring. And of that one-third, another third have difficulty filling the open positions they have.

    “Talent is what really drives organizations forward,” Millard says. “That’s why being able to find qualified employees is such an important part of small business growth.”

    Bob Drusendahl understands why these businesses are having such trouble when it comes to hiring. The president and CEO of Pre-Check, a premier provider of comprehensive background and employment screening solutions, says it simply comes down to not having the time. 

    “It’s like Jim Collins says, ‘You have to get the right people in the right seats.’ Frankly, a lot of companies aren’t very good and the reason is they don’t spend a lot of time on hiring. They spend several weeks looking and then they just settle on someone. That’s going to cost them a lot of money on their bottom line because they don’t get the right person for the job.” 

    So, what’s the best way for these small business owners and hiring managers to make the best hire for their respective businesses? It comes down to hiring smart—or, more specifically, Smart Hire.

    What is Smart Hire?

    Smart Hire is a service provided by Pre-Check that adds that extra time small businesses need to make informed hiring decisions.

    “We have our own applicant tracking system to source the job ads that utilizes the same technology that’s in place by Fortune 500 companies,” Drusendahl says. “But we’ve customized it to be optimal for small businesses.”

    Companies that make use of the Smart Hire system are led through a simple process that yield results, Drusendahl says. “The first step is talking to the company to make sure we understand the culture of the company and can match applicants to that culture. We ask qualifying questions about the culture of the company, the skill set the company is looking for, etc. And we seek to find three or more qualified candidates for our clients.”

    Pre-Check’s search process is exhaustive. The company’s team of experienced search professionals will contact schools and others organizations and individuals who might be able to provide insight on candidates.

    The typical Smart Hire contract is for 60 days, though on average qualified candidates are delivered to the hiring company is about 30 days. And, if for some reason a candidate quits within 30 days of being hired, Pre-Check will reengage the search for no additional fee other than costs associated with reposting the job ad.

    Pre-Check also stays hands on with its clients.

    “Once we get the initial program going, we don’t just let it run for 60 days,” he says. “What we do is we come back after a week or 10 days and let the client know the response we’re getting. We also consult with our client on whether any tweaks might need to be made to the ad.”

    All of this can be done on for a price that fits easily into the budget a small business has set for hiring. It’s typical for a hiring company to spend up to 30% on a candidate’s first-year salary when they engage an employment screening solution provider. The cost to use Smart Hire, however, is currently just 8% of the candidate’s first-year salary.

    Proven results for clients

    Stephen J. Kovatch, president of Compliance Technologies, Inc., can attest to the effectiveness of Smart Hire. For a recent hire, he says the company tried an Internet-driven service that promised screened resumes, but Compliance Technologies was actually flooded with what he described as “worthless” applications.

    Compliance Technologies then began working with Smart Hire. Kovatch says he was very impressed with the service he received, which included:

    • An organized job search process
    • Professional and branded job postings
    • Skilled resume reviews and candidate screenings
    • Concise and accurate candidate recommendations
    • Interview-ready candidates
    • Excellent value

    “As a result, I made the best hire in years and actually enjoyed the process,” Kovatch says.

    Andy Lembach, the chief marketing officer for Spooner Risk Control Services, also shares his success story of working with Pre-Check.

    “I wanted to take this opportunity to thank their staff for helping in my recent hiring of a sales professional,” he says. “I had been struggling for months trying to find a qualified candidate to fill a sales position at Spooner. I won't bore you with all the trials and tribulations of those fruitless searches because all of that changed when I reached out to Pre-Select Smart Hire. It was such a relief to have this hiring burden off my desk. All I had to do was answer some easy questions, and before I knew it, really good qualified applicants were sent directly to my email inbox. All I had to do was set it and forget it! My only regret was not enlisting their help sooner!”

    Click here to learn more about Pre-Check and how the Smart Hire system can help your small business solve your hiring challenges. 

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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Make Your Culture the Key to Employee Engagement
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  • Tips for Your Business: Make Your Culture the Key to Employee Engagement

    For years, companies around the world have focused on measuring overall employee satisfaction. How happy are our employees? Do they enjoy coming to work each day? Because, it’s been said, happy employees make for a great workplace. Logical, right?  But satisfaction is only part of the story. 

    For years, companies around the world have focused on measuring overall employee satisfaction. How happy are our employees? Do they enjoy coming to work each day? Because, it’s been said, happy employees make for a great workplace. Logical, right?  

    But satisfaction is only part of the story. What many have come to realize over the past several years is that employee engagement – a recipe of satisfaction combined with how committed and involved your employees are to and with your organization – is a much more meaningful measure for employers. Strong employee engagement ties more closely to two outcomes that are critical to the success of any organization: productivity and employee retention. 

    So how do you drive strong employee engagement within your organization? Simply put, it’s all about your company culture. Culture can make or break a company; it is a long-term strategy.  

    Today’s workers, increasingly those of the Millennial generation (ages 25-34), thrive in an environment where they can add value, feel respected, influence work outcomes, be held accountable and have an opportunity to grow their careers. They look for a company that commits to their overall wellness, recognizes a job well done, has a commitment to the community and knows how to have fun. An employee can, perhaps, be satisfied in an environment lacking in these areas, but they likely won’t be engaged.  

    So, what are some ways to develop your culture and nurture employee engagement?

    Communicate – Take the time to define and explain the company’s vision and the role employees play in achieving this vision. Communicate with candor and encourage your employees to do the same. Let your employees know what it takes to get to the next level.

    Celebrate and Have Fun – Work and fun don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Celebrate business accomplishments. Celebrate the CAVS. Celebrate your customers. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Celebrate Throw Back Thursday events.  But celebrate!

    Challenge and Recognize High Performers – Give your strong performers an opportunity to contribute in another area, while at the same time growing their careers. Recognize and reward them for a job well done.

    Collaborate – Employees have ideas on important aspects of your business, like customer satisfaction, efficiencies, innovation and possible pitfalls. They will be more engaged if they are heard and involved in driving the business forward. 

    Gen X and Millennial workers comprise more than two-thirds of today’s workforce. Millennials by themselves will comprise 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. This generation values a collaborative work culture, fun and flexibility, and a company with a social conscience. Developing an engaged workforce will not only drive productivity and employee retention but will also better position your company for the workforce of tomorrow.

    This Tip was contributed by Geo Money, Manager of Branding & Culture at OEC, an award winning technology leader and innovator of original equipment replacement parts solutions headquartered in Richfield.

    This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

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  • Next up: Making Ohio a Safer Place to Work
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  • Making Ohio a Safer Place to Work

    The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation relies on the outstanding support of many Ohio organizations to assist in our mission to create a culture of workplace safety around the state.

    Through sponsorship of more than 80 Ohio Safety Councils, educational institutions, industry associations, training providers and consulting businesses promote the importance of safe workplaces and rally businesses large and small to embrace safety as a core value within their organizations.

    Ohio employers clearly value safety. Their success shows in the numbers.

    Workplace safety by the numbers

    Claims have fallen steadily—approximately 86,000 new claims were allowed in fiscal year 2017, down from 104,000 in 2010. The number of employers using BWC safety services grew by 70% since 2010. Since 2011, Ohio employers have taken advantage of BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant Program to purchase more than $77 million in tools and equipment that make their workplaces safer.

    Here's an additional look behind the numbers:

    •             A $1.5 billion employer rebate this summer followed rebates of $1 billion in 2013, 2014 and 2017. 

    •             The cost to purchase coverage is at its lowest point in 40 years.

    •             All told, private and public employers have saved $8 billion in workers’ comp costs since 2011 through rebates, rate cuts and credits.

    Those are dollars local employers can invest in their businesses and communities, all while keeping Ohio’s workforce safe and healthy.

    Keeping Ohio’s workers safe

    Thank you to these organizations and every employer that participates in a safety council. We value your partnership and are pleased you have joined our effort to bring every Ohio worker home safe and healthy at the end of the day.

    Ohio needs every employer to follow your lead and embrace the important role it plays in keeping workers safe.

    Together, we’re making Ohio a safer place to work.

    Michelle Francisco is safety council manager at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

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  • Next up: Making Relationships Work
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  • Making Relationships Work

    How well do you know your business partners? Before you enter into a new professional relationship, there are certain things you should know about potential partners so that you can protect your bottom line.

    Entering a relationship with a new client, sales consultant, joint venture partner or any other entity merits thoughtful consideration to protect your business’s value.  Likewise, once you enter a relationship, you need to make sure the relationship stays healthy and productive over time.  This is especially true when working with governments or doing business internationally because if your business partner violates the law, those violations become your problem in many instances. Pleading ignorance about a client or business partner’s misdeeds may not save you.

    As a result, responsible businesses should have methods to understand who its clients and business partners are, as well as where its products and services are being sold.  If you do enter a relationship with another entity, you should have some procedures in place to assure they remain the valuable and reputable business you knew in the first place. 

    Your process should be flexible, allowing for more or less due diligence depending on what the business partner will be doing for your organization, what country they will do it in and what some initial investigation reveals.

    Generally, you should find out the basics of the business, its owners and its capabilities:

    • What is its business? 
    • Who are its owners and leaders? Are they capable? Honest?
    • Where does it do business? 
    • Who are its suppliers? Customers? Joint venture partners? Other partners?
    • Does it have the professional support it needs – capable management, capable IT, HR, finance, and legal? 
    • What are its offices and facilities like?  Do they even exist? Are their facilities clean and safe?
    • How are its finances?
    • What is its reputation in the industry for following the law, for its business capabilities? for integrity?
    • Does it have relationships with government officials?
    • Does it have the capability and experience to deliver its products or services?

    Also, don't just take your potential business partner’s or client’s word for what they tell you – ask for proof, such as the following: 

    • Financial statements
    • Insurance policies
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • Resumes of leaders
    • Visit their offices or factories

    Realistically, failing to check on the entities you work with has the potential to expose you, your leaders, your employees and your business to criminal and civil penalties. Even if you avoid investigations and prosecutions, your bank may discover that you are receiving or making payments to a sanctioned country, organization or individual, and it may freeze your assets.  

    Or, failing to do your due diligence may impact your return on investment or even worse − you may lose your entire investment.

    Finally, failing to know your clients and business partners may not provide you any protection, due to a logical, but disturbing legal theory called “willful blindness.”  Say you want to buy a new Porsche 911 Carrera.  You search around and learn they sell for about $100,000.  You meet a guy at a bar who offers to sell one to you for $15,000 but you have to make the deal the next day He wants the payment in cash, and he will bring his friend, the notary, to sign all the paperwork.  If you go for it, chances are you just bought a stolen car and you will be prosecuted under the theory of “willful blindness,” since you deliberately ignored facts that demonstrated the transaction was probably illegal.

    The same would apply to your business partners – if you ignore or fail to look into obvious or possible indications of wrongdoing, your business may be investigated and prosecuted for being “willfully blind” about your client or business partner’s illicit behavior.

    In other words, not knowing there are prohibitions or sanctions against some countries, organizations and persons does not inoculate you from being prosecuted for violating sanctions laws by doing business with them.  Likewise, not being able to demonstrate that you undertook due diligence before working with your sales agent, who used bribery to get you a certain contract, may be one factor the prosecution uses to show you were “willfully blind” about your sales agent’s illegal tactics.  This is the case even if your business had no hand in the actual bribing. 

    A business must understand how it delivers its products and services to market, how it gets paid and with whom it does business.  Failing to get these types of facts may expose a legitimate and reputable business to accusations of doing business with sanctioned countries or prohibited entities and individuals. It also could result in investigations or prosecutions for your business partners’ actions.  Once you have the facts, it is important to to determine if they are a red flag that your client or business partner may be up to no good. 

    So, as a first step when starting and keeping relationships, get some facts, and then assess those facts to decide what it means for your relationship. As the German director, author and actor Werner Herzog pointed out, you need to analyze facts to actually understand what they mean.

    “If you’re purely after facts, please buy yourself the phone directory of Manhattan. It has four million times correct facts. But it doesn’t illuminate.”  - Werner Herzog

    Margaret Cassidy is principal at Cassidy Law. Learn more about the firm’s capabilities by clicking here.

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