How to maintain the corporate culture by teleworking

When the Covid-19 epidemic closed the offices of the SME Avrobio in March, the gene therapy expert from Massachusetts (United States) responded to the most urgent. Its employees received $ 750 (about 630 euros) to install a chair, a new screen, a helmet… in short, better equipment. And the parents got $ 1,000 a month to pay for the babysitter. The message ? “We make a massive commitment to them”, explains Georgette Verdin, the company’s human resources manager. But the remote work that was thought to be temporary has become established over time. A good part of the 130 Avrobio employees keep one foot at home. And Mme Verdin wondered how to preserve the culture of the company in the long term.

“But beware, the abundance of meetings of all kinds is such that some people get tired of it.

At Avrobio, like in many other companies, remote meetings via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex have multiplied. The human resources manager (HR) organizes a public meeting with the number one every two weeks to talk about strategy, budget or the results of the last internal survey. She also created more intimate sessions between managers and employees, without an agenda. “This is the opportunity to really listen, she says. These are intense conversations about what is going on in their life. “ In addition, there are birthday parties. We enjoy together a piece of carrot cake sent by the company to everyone’s home.

“Huge pressure”

The companies saw their virtual meetings fly away during the pandemic. Seth Patton, general manager and marketing manager of Microsoft 365, sees a 55% increase in the number of weekly meetings of users of Microsoft Teams and twice as many virtual chats outside working hours. The employee is certainly out of sight, but always at the heart of the company.

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But is this explosion of remote gatherings enough to maintain the spirit of the house? Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, doubts this. “The symbols, the visual signals that the employee normally perceives in the office have disappeared, he explains. Informal discussions between colleagues about who is being promoted, why and when are no longer there. “ So there is a “Enormous pressure on department heads” in order to compensate. “They must communicate much more remotely, welcome new ones, pass on information so that the employee feels part of the company”, advises the professor.

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