Maintaining Cultural Continuity | The Daily Digital Dial-in

Simon Ellis | September 14, 2020

Back in the Dark Ages when working in an office was all the rage, we would have two immovables in our default diaries: Monday and Thursday morning team talks.

Why Monday and Thursday? Monday allowed us to catch up on each others’ weekend, ease into the week with a strong coffee and plan priorities for the week ahead. Thursday’s were all about seeing how things are progressing, touching base on any problems arising, and refreshing our priorities with two days to put those revisions into action.

The process worked really well. It made us closer and more productive too. Then came lockdown. Tom immediately suggested as we made our way to the door with our Macs under our arms, that instead of twice a week we adopt a daily check-in. How wise a suggestion that was.

We knew they were good for us, almost immediately. But writing this article forces me to examine exactly why. I think for the team, the daily digital dial-ins have been important to maintain some sort of working structure, and it’s important to maintain tangible leadership too, with a plan of action. And when the atmosphere grew darker, to be able to assure them that EJ was in good shape to weather any storm; and that I too was still wearing my pyjama bottoms on our video call.

From a Leader’s Perspective

From a leader’s perspective, the value was most certainly in being able to check the wellbeing of my wonderful team. If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’ll be aware that I, like many, many others, suffer a bit with the black dog of depression. In unique circumstances that threaten a range of unknown effects, even the brightest smile can be weathered away by the dire pummeling of the media and our own imaginations. Suffice to say, the parental nature of my role as a leader really came to the fore. Not that the team was depressed – they are uniquely capable of making me laugh at the worst of times – but I felt I was able to gauge how they were doing and if needed, give them a bit of breathing space from work demands, or tell them to put the bottle down and make a cup of tea instead.

Personally, the dailies were essential for my wellbeing.

Cultural Continuity - Technology

Technology

Jumping back to apps for a minute, we began by using Whereby, a seemingly little known video call app. It was free to use and for a time had all we needed. We used Zoom too, mostly for client conversations, which was definitely better for larger groups with better quality over Whereby. But again, Teams has trumped them. Or ‘Bidened them’ as I prefer to say these days. Better video quality and of course, seamless within the wider Teams app.

Cultural Continuity

Cultural continuity is essential, and Tom’s prediction that we would need to invest more time in keeping in touch face to face was brilliantly empathetic.

Of course, through our lockdown experiences, the world has learned how effective we can still be working remotely. For many businesses, this has been something of a revelation and defines a new normal for how we will continue to work, and for what we will expect from our employers as part of our work-life balance. Which means cultural continuity will be all the more important, and all the more challenging to uphold.

Culture is driven by Purpose, and together they define the true nature of a brand – what a brand sets out to be, and how that Purpose is pursued by its people. For many a decade, colocation of staff has been the bedrock of brand definition, with the office being the physical delineation of where a brand’s culture begins and ends.

How then, does culture define itself when half its workforce works remotely? For the duration of lockdown, technologies like Teams and Zoom helped us to achieve that, but will that be sufficient in a year’s time?

Cultural Continuity in the office

The Take away

We’re a tiny business at the moment, but how do we scale cultural continuity? To varying degrees, we all define ourselves by our work and who we work for – by our daily ritual of getting up and commuting to an office. How can I as a leader ensure team members old and new define themselves in part as EllisJames people; essential if I am to maintain and grow a vibrant culture?

I haven’t got the answers yet, but at least I am alive to the challenges of the near future. I predict that we will spend more of the time in the office dedicated solely to cultural ‘recharging’.

Next week we will continue with The Three Things That Thaw us Through: Part 3.

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