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3 tactics to navigate company culture in a remote world

In many respects, COVID-19 reframed our thinking about worklife balance. While this was already a fatigued concept, the pandemic and resulting quarantine fully demolished the fourth wall that stood between work and the personal lives of our team members.

In the early weeks, given our technology enablement already in place, a near immediate shift to fully virtual didn’t seem like a huge shift for many. As the weeks wore on, working parents and those with different challenges at home felt the effects almost immediately. As a working mom myself, I have first-hand experience around what it means to be a mom and an employee at the same time and in the same space, along with my partner also working from home. In fact, my daughter may or may not have “Zoom bombed” a session with our board. Of course, none of them were bothered by it and it probably embarassed me more personally than anything.

Read more: Three keys to creating remote team chemistry

As the chief people officer of SailPoint, I’ve seen how balancing continuing to educate our children from home while working full time has taken a toll on many. Half of our workforce have children under the age of 18 living at home. To move forward as a distributed workforce in a way that is sustainable and productive, HR teams need actionable steps to empower today’s working parents.

By implementing specific guidelines that help employees navigate these waters, HR teams can better instill confidence in their employees and provide them with the resources required to drive successful and productive engagement. Small changes, simply starting with an acknowledgement of this issue, helps teams to get their work done on the terms they’re able to design to best fit their needs.

Give employees the formal gift of time
When the pandemic began earlier this year, SailPoint’s approach was centered on “returning to normal.” It’s clear now that a return to normal is not in the cards, and organizations should look at this time as an opportunity to rebuild and create lasting culture changes through new programs and initiatives.

One strategy we’ve found successful at SailPoint is implementing a 2-hour block twice a week when employees have no meetings and can focus on what is most important to them individually. This could range from taking care of their children to getting a presentation done that they haven’t had time for, or even scheduling personal appointments. Whatever it may be, this block we call ‘Free2Focus’ is about giving our crew space to balance the personal demands with the work demands. So far, the response to this time block has been very positive and it allows SailPoint crew members to use their time during the day how they wish in a flexible but formal way. Some crew members are using this time to focus on helping their children with school work, others have used it to have lunch with loved ones. Given that much of schooling from home may fall to women, we also look at this as an inclusion initiative to ensure that part of our workforce isn’t faced with a choice of one or the other.
Restructure your physical office
One aspect of corporate culture that was long overdue for restructuring is the use of the physical office space. At SailPoint, we’ve always offered our crew members flexibility, and this extends to trusting them to decide where they work. We believe that work is our identity, not our cubicle, and COVID-19 has presented us all an opportunity to rethink the office space.

As of September, we have allowed crew members to voluntarily return to the office if they wish at 25% capacity. Moving forward, we’re asking the crew to think of our offices like they would a college library. In college, you would likely go to the library for a place to focus or a place to meet with otehrs. This is how we want the SailPoint offices to operate because we know our crew makes the most impact when they have the autonomy to make their own decisions that work for the individual, their family and their work. There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to working styles and personal situations, which is why we want our physical office space to be as flexible as our remote office space.
Commit to community
While this time may have brought us closer to our families, it can be isolating from an employee culture perspective. Some of us are lucky enough to have family support at home, but many do not. It’s crucial that those looking for companionship and emotional support are able to find it, within our community.

Having a strong culture in place is not only invaluable for the individual’s well-being but also vital in keeping employees engaged and motivated. One strategy to achieve this is taking advantage of the technology that connects us. At SailPoint, we have several Slack channels that aren’t related to work to keep our community connected. We have channels for parents, pet lovers, beauty gurus, Texas Longhorns and more, but we also have a channel called SAIL ON. This particular channel is a place for people to post supportive messages, or to just have fun and connect with their community of crew members. So far, this initiative take on a life of its own, as we’ve seen our crew organize fitness competitions, build standing desks for each other’s homes, share their thoughts on "Feel Good Fridays.”
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