Missing the Office: How Businesses Are Creating New Cultures through Technology

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The events of 2020 have changed the future of the workplace as we know it. As news headlines are rife with predictions on what a “new normal” might look like, 86% of UK bosses now believe that the shift towards remote working is here for the long haul.

We generally perceive workplace culture to be the environment a business creates for its employees. So, what happens when that environment is no longer a physical one?

RingCentral’s Chief Product Officer and SVP, Will Moxley, is set to deliver a talk on “Redefining Work Culture Through Technologyat the upcoming UC Summit Conference & Expo in 2021. Here’s a preview into the latest talking points around business culture and enablement through technology.

Remote working: the demands and the disadvantages

Demand for office space fell significantly in 2020. Surveys conducted by the office marketplace platform HubbleHQ showed that 86% want to work somewhere other than the office, at least once per week.

Now, having proven that remote working truly works on a mass scale, many of the well-rehearsed reasons for not allowing a work from home policy will simply no longer wash. UK businesses must find a way to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world. That means staying ahead of the curve by offering remote working could be a make-or-break decision for organisations wanting to attract a dynamic, talented workforce.

Modern businesses should view remote working as a foundation to build upon rather than a fix-all solution for the longer term.

Acknowledging the perils of remote work

It’s fair to say we know all about the advantages of remote working – but what about the pitfalls?

Homeworking side effects such as longer hours, isolation, an always-on mentality, and even burnout have emerged as consequences of this new way of working. The work/life boundary, formerly punctuated by a daily commute, has become decidedly blurred in a home working world.

Organisations must acknowledge a duty of care instead of defaulting to an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach. Businesses should now be going above and beyond, to build and implement a supportive, communicative culture for employees.

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Health, safety, and mental wellbeing

Businesses such as Facebook have recently been the spotlight for not supporting workers appropriately during the major health crisis. Turning a blind eye to health challenges now could be detrimental for many. Now is the time for organisations to step up and address employee health, safety, and emotional wellbeing.

Some businesses have offered their staff gym memberships, while others use video technology to provide virtual exercise classes. Online desk assessments are now the norm, helping employees to prioritise their health and wellbeing.

Many organisations are finding ways tech might help their staff look after their own emotional wellbeing as mental health rises on the agenda.

Although many studies have proven the value of remote working for businesses, today’s remote workforces find that there is a fine line between productive solitude and loneliness. 46% of UK workers have admitted to experiencing loneliness in lockdown. With other factors at play, including burnout, business leaders must consider implementing new strategies. That means revising organisational culture mandates, built for a brick-and-mortar workforce community, to better address these novel mental health challenges for their remote teams.

Some businesses are beginning to think creatively and utilise technology to support employee mental health as autonomous working becomes the norm. One recent example is the HR and payroll organisation: Paylocity.

Paylocity’s approach was to use technology to help recreate the touchpoints colleagues might have had in a physical office. To alleviate feelings of isolation for remote workers, the company’s CEO Steve Beauchamp actively advocates using technology to encourage non-work-related discussions between colleagues, helping them use technology as “the bridge for making them feel supported and connected.”

Building a tangible culture alongside a ‘virtual first’ approach

This year, many business leaders decided to allow remote working for the long haul. Nielsen, Coinbase, Salesforce, Twitter and Square are among many businesses who have vowed to allow an ongoing homeworking policy.

But there’s a difference between merely allowing employees to work from home for good and implementing a completely virtual workspace with a comprehensive remote culture.

The file-hosting software company, Dropbox, have taken a “people first” approach. Implementing a brand-new manifesto for their newly “virtual first” workforce, Dropbox promises to use its own software and other technology to drive a supportive, inclusive and collaborative digital workplace.

Dropbox has pledged to implement the following:

  • Non-linear workdays to allow accountability in managing personal schedules
  • A ‘Virtual First Toolkit’ of resources to encourage individual and shared learning
  • Dedicated teams to support employees and track progress
  • Access to the nearest ‘Dropbox Studio’ for in-person collaboration and community building

The rise of remote working has shone a light on the businesses lacking a cohesive workplace culture. Changing how we use technology is going to be a decisive aspect in determining the endurance of many companies, helping them retain and attract the best talent.

Now is the time for organisations to ensure that employees are not simply connected, but also engaged, happy and healthy in a post-pandemic workplace.

Watch Will Moxley’s talk at UC Summit to learn a little more about how technology is substantively changing the way we approach workplace communication.

What else do leaders need to deliver in preparing their businesses for the new world of work?

Originally published Jan 20, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023

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