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The pandemic situation is putting extraordinary pressure on company culture this past few months. A set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterise an organisation is essential for a business to thrive, especially while its employees work remotely.
Anthropologist James Suzman, author of a new history of work, said during a great discussion at the recent FT Weekend Festival, that over decades, the office became “what the village used to be during the agricultural era. But lockdown began to cut away at the social function of the office [and] it ceased to be a binding force.” When offices around the world shut down their doors, the “together” needed to be reinvented.
Facilitating conversations through video, instant messaging and beyond was the first step for all. As a result, during the first weeks and months it was the strong colleagues relationships that sustained teams. Now, we’re thinking about the next step on how to create a strong, sustainable online work community.
It’s all about authenticity
Leaders and HR departments around the world are keen to hear best practices around how to keep the enthusiasm and motivation going in the era of remote interactions. Some human resources departments are overwhelming employees with pre-recorded videos from leadership or getting food delivered to their doors.
What is true for corporate culture initiatives in the office is also true online. Coming out to meet the employees and offering a nice gesture is very valuable. Nevertheless, in such challenging times it is as important to proactively listen to them.
Letting the employees build your company culture by asking what they are thinking, feeling and, most importantly, how they are experiencing the new normal, is key. Each and every story about what working from home looks like is different. Don’t be afraid to give the employees a platform to speak out during company calls. Sharing these stories and reflecting them in the company’s mission can help employees feel appreciated and give them a true sense of belonging.
All organisations have a very clear operational model, and some are doing a great job hitting their numbers. Still, employees might start wondering why are they doing their job here, why not do the exact same thing somewhere else? Bringing clarification to the company’s mission and purpose matters. While we all work from home, we need to feel a part of something bigger in order not to feel isolated
Define how your organisation wants to influence the world even on the smallest scale, tell that story well and the employees will follow.
The value of video
While we continue building online work communities, experts believe that video conferencing and remote working will continue to accelerate. We’re entering a landscape where anywhere work is the new norm, and video enables this reality.
In the era of working from home, video meetings present a whole new possibility for connection. We meet the employees at their desks, in their rooms and get a glimpse of their personal lives. Bringing people together online from the comfort of their homes provides a new perspective with the safe space to connect with their employees on a more personal level.
Here at RingCentral, we are extremely fortunate to have the leadership that understands this opportunity. For example, the company recently celebrated Purple Tuesday with a webinar in which five employees shared their very personal experiences with disability in the family, in some cases for the first time in a work environment. Attendees were blown away and said the call brought them closer as a team and offered a powerful lesson in empathy.
Now’s the right time for all companies to begin investing in video and discovering what it can do for their workforce.