Building a culture fit for the new everyday
By Alison Bawn, People Director, Virgin Media Business
63% of public sector organisations want to continue with remote working beyond the end of the pandemic.
Over half of businesses we spoke to said the same.
All those things we’ve enjoyed in the wake of increased remote working – more time with the family, no more long commutes, more freedom to focus on ourselves – are now our new everyday.
But it isn’t just individual employees who benefit. There is a genuine business case for increased flexibility.
Our recent report with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that continued investment in Covid-driven digital change could add £74 billion to UK GDP by 2025.
By 2040, that figure could be £232 billion.
What lies at the heart of this growth opportunity?
Empowering people to be productive and collaborate anywhere has huge benefits to organisations, from opening up new talent pools to reducing overheads and improving the employee experience.
But in doing so we can also build a better, more inclusive economy. One that leaves no-one behind, where life revolves around work, not the other way around.
That starts with individual organisations like yours and the culture you decide to build today.
The role of culture in a hybrid working world
In its analysis of employee-written reviews on Glassdoor, MIT Sloan Management Review found that between April and August 2020 employees were ranking their organisations’ culture higher than at any point in the last five years.
This pandemic has clearly shown that it’s possible to build a strong culture even when none of you are in the same room.
In many ways it has created a more open approach to running organisations and communicating with staff.
88% of those surveyed were also more likely to write positively about leaders’ honesty and transparency.
Having integrity and communicable values goes a long way in creating a successful culture that makes people feel empowered.
IBM set up a grassroots Work From Home Pledge – led by its CEO – to reaffirm its company ethos and show how employees could support each other in balancing work and life while operating remotely and how to stay socially connected.
But this doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges as flexible working persists and we move from mass homeworking to a hybrid workforce.
We’ll need to cater for long-term implications of people permanently working from anywhere – preventing siloed cultures developing between physical workspaces and the virtual environment.
Continuing to communicate with transparency and integrity and organising shared experiences – even if they take place virtually – will be important in the coming years and decades.
As employees look for fulfilment and meaning in their work, it will be through strength of culture that compassionate leadership will help them.
Put people at the heart of transformation
Making the new everyday work is partly about giving employees the right tools to manage their time and how they collaborate so they can work how, where and when they want.
It’s about giving people the space to take regular breaks, work around personal commitments and manage screen time so they can approach work with energy and enthusiasm.
Employers and managers can help colleagues tackle the blurring between work and personal lives so they’re empowered to strike the right balance.
In his excellent book, A World Without Email, Cal Newport discusses how email and instant messaging programmes have created unnecessary disruptions that make it hard to focus – with workdays often descending into a ‘battle against their inboxes.’
With flexible working here to stay, we need to empower staff to use collaborative tools in the right way. This shouldn’t be left to individuals to figure out on their own – they need proper guidance and training from managers to ensure they’re managing their time effectively.
From using tools such as Calendly to schedule meetings, to setting up more informal channels for non-work related communications, there are numerous ways organisations can help their people to be happier and more productive, wherever they happen to be.
Communicating how technology will help empower them and make their work easier is such a crucial part of implementation. So often, talk of digital transformation and innovation leaves out the secret ingredient that actually makes it work: bringing people along for the journey.
If employees don’t recognise the benefits, the opposite effect can happen: they feel disconnected from the technology that can help them.
Put people at the centre of your workplace strategy. Show them empathy, understanding and flexibility. Give them the right tools they need to revolutionise their own way of working.
Empowerment starts with culture, driven by the right leadership.
Technology makes it possible.