The era of remote work and its challenges
by Nompumelelo Mokou. How technology and organisational culture intersects in the era of remote work.Wednesday, 09 Jun 2021
by Nompumelelo Mokou. The past 18 months have been a challenging time for organisations across industries globally and across the region as countries, companies and people continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The blurring of the boundaries between home and office will no doubt impact the way we continue to work regardless of the industry we are in. The nature of work and the relationship between a company and its customers and employees, will impact the company culture.
A recent special report in The Economist entitled ‘The future of work’, pointed to the massive impact of COVID-19 on work patterns in the USA. “Before the pandemic Americans spent 5% of their working time at home. By Spring 2021 the figure was 60%.” The implications for companies wanting to maintain and build their corporate culture are significant. Corporate culture implies a unity of purpose that is predicated for many companies on personal interaction, collaboration and communication.
Corporate culture is a key component of organisational identity. Our corporate culture is defined by our ability to work together as different people centred on a common business objective. This ability to collaborate is a fundamental part of creating a corporate culture. The strength of our corporate culture is built on our internal and external engagements, creating a sense of belonging for our employees, our stakeholder relationships, brand equity and work effectiveness. It is a complex and delicate dance that has been put into sharp focus since the first national lockdown in March 2020.
Corporate culture has internal and external components. Over the last year we have been implementing our One Dimension Data strategy. We learnt though that we can be effective working in a distributed environment especially those work functions better geared to remote work.
Secondly, One Dimension Data was a consolidation of four brands, four different cultures and four different identities. The proximity of our working relationship under our Group enabled an effective transition. At the same time, we had to face the challenges of implementing a major structural change in a time of great uncertainty. This is where the integrity of our culture came to the fore with a focus on open and regular communication with all of our staff.
While we already had the infrastructure and tools to facilitate an easy transition to remote work this is a new world for all of us; it has been interesting to see how people have learnt to engage, connect and remain productive. These days a significant portion of our workforce now prefers to work from home and there is a lot of pre-pandemic research that show the benefits of remote work. The office is still seen as an important place for our people to reconnect and collaborate, so I think a hybrid model is key and this is where technology and tools are an important way to bridge the home and the office.
In our business, corporate culture is built on formal and informal interactions and group collaboration, so one must take extra care of the corporate culture in a remote working environment. This new era of work might be good time for a company to reassess its culture, particularly how it handles employee physical and mental health. Technology will play a more important role in enhancing or changing corporate culture. This trend began before the pandemic accelerated remote working. From early iterations of Microsoft Office and Google Docs to more recently, advanced collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, virtual whiteboards and chat apps such as Slack, the technology groundwork has been laid over the last decade. Some will struggle more than others to adapt.
I think retailers, particularly those with a strong brand will adapt to this new environment quite quickly because their business is built on a network of outlets and branches. Many retailers already have well-developed omnichannel strategies that put the outlet at the centre of the brand experience. For many successful retailers brand experience is tightly linked to corporate culture. I think that retailers have an opportunity to really illustrate and amplify their uniqueness therefore enhancing brand equity and trust.
Communication is the key to any successful corporate culture. This is a challenge when employees are dispersed and either working alone or in remote teams. Communications must be managed in a way that does not become intrusive or seen as a tool of control. Finding a balance between a technology-centric approach and a human-centric approach will be crucial to developing the corporate culture of the future.
Main image credit: chris-montgomery-smgTvepind4-unsplash.
Nompumelelo Mokou, is the new Managing Director of Dimension Data as of May 2021. Formerly the Executive: Intelligent Customer Experience, Mokou is a Chartered Accountant by profession but has always been known for her love for business. She joined Dimension Data in 2016 and is constantly inspired and challenged by imminent change. She believes that greatness is not achieved alone but through multi-faceted people, expertise, contributions and opinions. This is what makes teams work. Her core philosophies by which she lives her life are to have faith and courage in all seasons and to never be afraid of challenges, no matter the size or complexity.
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