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As companies embrace hybrid and remote work, human resource departments have begun to reorganize their priorities. When asked what they saw as their primary role in their organizations in 2021, 65 percent of HR professionals pointed to “keeping employees engaged and building a supportive company culture,” according to a recent survey. This represents a 21 percent increase from 2020.

HR teams are desperate to protect and maintain company culture because it’s a direct reflection of an organization’s core values. These values define reputation within the industry and among potential clients. To create an authentic culture and improve employee engagement, a company must actively support the values it advertises, rather than just tossing them around as buzzwords.

The remote work experience hasn’t been universal. Some employees have found themselves working from home alongside partners, children and pets. Others have gone months living and working in isolation. Recently, some companies have started reopening their physical offices. But while some workers have returned to their cubicles, others are still working remotely. In short, employees are not inhabiting the same physical space or sharing the same external or personal factors.

This lack of common ground can cause employees to feel unmoored and disconnected from not only their teammates, but their company as a whole. Companies must adopt greater flexibility, transparency, and empathy to provide each employee with the unique support their circumstances demand.

HR professionals can start by asking questions like “How are you doing?” and “What can our company do to better support you?” They should take care to actively listen to the answers. The next step – taking action to drive change – may seem daunting, but unified communications (UC) tools can be harnessed to build an inclusive and authentic work culture independent of a physical location.

Replacing the Physical Workplace with a Collaborative Space

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when attempting to define “corporate culture”? The physical office looms large in the conversation. Historically, the workplace environment has had an outsized influence on corporate identity, employee productivity, job satisfaction and morale.

Offices with snazzy perks like ping pong tables and lunch time sports leagues encouraged a fun company culture, where employees could make connections through some light-hearted competition. Some companies equipped their spaces with nap rooms and yoga studios, thus promising a company culture based on wellness and mental health.

Yet, organizations transitioning to hybrid or even fully remote work can’t rely on physical spaces and in-person activities to create company culture anymore. But that doesn’t mean supporting employee happiness or wellness should fall by the wayside.

Realistically, an authentic company culture today looks very different from the pre-pandemic one. The needs and values of employees have evolved. Rather than speculating on ways to revive the old culture and re-create it, companies should be using employee input to visualize and create a new culture that transcends the confines of physical space.

How to Create an Authentic Company Culture using UC

Of the organizations that indicated significant transformation since the beginning of 2020, 75 percent reported they expect to be significantly more reliant on remote work, according to a recent survey. Not surprisingly, 69 percent also said they expect to be significantly more reliant on technology for internal collaboration. Unified communications tools can help companies achieve workplace equitability in a hybrid work environment by providing all employees, regardless of location, with equal opportunities to collaborate, thereby supporting an inclusive company culture.

During an episode of the podcast Tomorrow’s Tech Today, Professor Sally Eaves interviewed Dave Silke, Mitel’s Chief Marketing Officer. After discussing the need to redefine what the workplace and office space looks like at this moment in history, Eaves jokingly suggested that collaboratory could be the new word for office. Perhaps she’s onto something. After all, collaboration and participation are integral to any culture. Although employees might not share the same physical space, they can share space in the cloud. Here are some of the ways organizations can use collaboration tools like those from Mitel to create and support company culture:

  • Leverage video conferencing tools so both in-office and remote employees can remain informed and engaged on important topics, whether they’re related to an upcoming project or the office book club’s latest novel. Equal facetime is important for employees to feel involved and valued. 
  • Create shared workspaces where employees can exchange files and documents and store them in one place. This can stem virtual meeting fatigue by reducing the number of status calls and facilitate collaboration across time zones and geographical locations.  
  • Record calls when you need to use flex hours and catch up on what you missed by listening to the recordings at a later time. This feature allows employees to achieve better work-life balance while staying involved.
  • Use UC monitoring tools to track project completion and delivery milestones, rather than just time spent on a given project. Employees are more empowered when they’re able to dictate their personal workflows.

An authentic company culture is one that can adapt to include all employees, allowing them to be themselves both professionally and personally. To create an authentic culture and redefine what the workplace and space is, companies must take the time to listen to the needs and desires of their employees. For instance, allow employees to identify their ideal methods for collaboration as well as determine how they’ll balance their professional and personal lives.

No two employees work the same way, and UC tools can be used to accommodate different approaches to achieving goals. Employees that work best independently might prefer to take advantage of shared workspaces to collaborate, rather than working via video calls. On the other hand, employees that thrive in a group environment might be most productive and efficient when they can meet virtually and share documents on-screen to receive instant feedback and brainstorm solutions. Company-wide access to these tools will ensure all employees can engage and work authentically.

So, how can companies create authentic culture? By listening to their employees, understanding the challenges they’re facing and providing them with the flexibility and tools they need to feel like they’re part of a community, rather than just cogs in a machine.

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