The importance of company culture in managing the new normal
Attitudes towards remote working have undergone a sea change in recent months. In the past, when some employees would lobby to work from home, companies would not approve it, but today employers are beginning to see there are some advantages, including the potential for lower operating costs, if they adopt some form of remote working on a permanent basis.
Elise Sallis, Head of Communications & Culture for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, describes some of the cultural programmes and practices that have supported their successful remote working to date.
Creating an open, supportive culture
For some of our UK-based Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting employees, e.g. those in Sales and Professional Services, remote working is part and parcel of the job, as they travel around the country supporting our customers. Other colleagues are sometimes able to work remotely if they require quiet concentration or need to work around family responsibilities. However, today most of our employees are working from home and this, of course, requires us to change the way we work. Our transformation to a digital company has helped us adapt quickly to this environment.
Here are some of the practical steps we have taken to enable and support remote working.
- Our Personal Leadership Programme
This programme, undertaken by everyone joining Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, underpins our interactions with one another. Through the programme, we help our new joiners acquire tangible skills such as how to hold open conversations, give constructive evidence-based feedback, and take responsibility for their actions and behaviours. We introduce them to the guiding principles that help us become good corporate citizens.
- Information not speculation
When it comes to communication, a healthy balance is vital - if you overcommunicate, with too many virtual meetings, your team could become fatigued. If you under-communicate, employees may feel they’re in the dark and, in the absence of information, that is where misinformation can take hold.
We hold two online ‘all-hands’ meetings every week that everybody joins. They are led by Matt Crook, our UK Managing Director, and provide a forum for two-way communication. These sessions are an opportunity for anyone to ask any question, knowing it will be answered openly.
- A sense of community
Remote working brings the challenge of recreating the social interaction, teamwork and buzz that are characteristic of traditional office life. As well as the twice-weekly all-hands sessions and regular team meetings, we hold fun get-togethers online, such as regular bingo, coffee chats and quizzes. Furthermore, Wolters Kluwer offers a programme that provides both employees and their family members with confidential support, resources and information for personal and work-life issues and additional resources around working from home, stress management and managing teams remotely, to name just a few. It’s all about keeping teams connected and supported.
- Technical provision
Finally, we mustn’t forget the need to equip people with the right tools to do the job as safely and efficiently at home as in the office, including providing any specialist software systems and communication platforms.
Adapting for future success
We know that we’re not the only ones considering how our approach may need to be adapted going forward. We listen to our customers and know that they’re adopting new practices as they also navigate a changing landscape.
Many tell us that the past few months have given them space to review their business strategy. Others have been encouraging their teams to broaden their skills set, with a view to strengthening their business advisory offering to support clients in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, many senior partners in practices and firms nationwide have reported seeing productivity levels remain high. Some believe that their teams can maintain an efficient, collaborative relationship with clients without face-to-face meetings. They realise flexible working can help to build employee loyalty and, with distance no object, they can fish in a larger pool of talent when recruiting.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in mid-June nearly half of all working adults (49%) in the UK were working from home; it’s unlikely that things will go back to exactly how they were just a few short months ago. While some employees may feel desperate to escape their own four walls, we may actually end up seeing more requests to work remotely, and many practices and firms begin to actively consider this way of working.
The recent acceleration in remote working may mean this is not as dramatic a shift as it might once have been. Blended working, with the week split between office and home, may well have come of age.
“According to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), nearly half of all working adults (49%) had worked from home between 11 and 14 June 2020, an increase from 41% the previous week.”
Office for National Statistics