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Building Workplace Culture and Connection During the Pandemic

By Elantis on October 27, 2021
Building-workplace-culture-connection-during-pandemic

Technology has become essential to building workplace culture, connecting, and collaborating with our colleagues during the pandemic. At this point, another discussion about the way COVID-19 has affected our professional lives may be just as emotionally exhausting as the pandemic itself. Instead of adding to the long list of articles that have already effectively detailed the strain the pandemic has put on our working lives, we aim to daringly look at the pandemic through an optimistic lens.

There is no question that workplace illnesses such as burnout, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and imposter syndrome have all been exacerbated by the pandemic. That said, these conditions existed before 2020, especially in relation to the ways these personal issues are caused by our relationships with technology.

One of the challenges of the pandemic, and the work-from-home culture that came with it, is that technology—the widely-considered cause of the these illnesses—has now become something we depend upon to work, communicate, and survive. The pandemic, in this sense, has accelerated us socially into the conundrum we were already trending towards, and now we are forced to reckon with all the implications of immersing our social and professional lives in the world of technology.

As psychotherapist Esther Perel explains, we are not necessarily “working from home” but, rather, we are “working with home.” This means that all the lines that previously compartmentalized different aspects of our identities have disappeared, turning our homes into existential melting pots. We are simultaneously employees, partners, parents, children, yogis, competitors, allies, activists, etc. All of these different lifestyles, previously distinguished by travelling to different places, wearing different clothes, abiding by different social codes, and seeing different people, are now predominantly taking place in our own homes.

For example, a supervisor holds a weekly check-in meeting while also supervising their children in the next room. A lawyer appears in court virtually before a judge, sitting above a puddle of their own sweat from their Pelaton workout. An employee works in isolation not only out of concern for their financial health, but also out of concern for their physical health. We are now living in a time when it is becoming impossible for us, as individuals, to separate our professional, private, and social lives.

A less optimistic article would cite a few sources to support the above insights and end things there, but, at Elantis, we are more optimistic and look for solutions. As John Adams once said, “every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” The pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink how we view ourselves and our fellow employees in the workplace. In this sense, maybe the problem with employees being unable to separate their private and professional lives is simply the fact that this has been viewed as a problem to begin with.

If we encourage workplaces to be safe spaces where employees are allowed to be vulnerable and where they can share their personal troubles affecting their performance, and if employers listen to these troubles with compassion and understanding, this will naturally eliminate the shame and stress that comes with the blurred lines of the pandemic and can create a greater sense of unity within a company.

Elantis has used the pandemic as an opportunity to evolve and strengthen our company culture. Following are some ways we helped bring our employees closer together while working from home, and the main lesson we learned throughout the process.

Using technology to connect dispersed teams

As workplaces quickly transitioned to remote, work-from-home, or hybrid working arrangements, there was increased demand for communication tools, services, and software. In a previous blog article, we detailed the pros and cons of Microsoft Viva, Microsoft’s first attempt at an Employee Experience Platform (EXP).

At Elantis, we have found success by working collaboratively through Microsoft Teams, allowing us to recreate the feeling of working in an office space while we work from home. This collaborative online workspace has not only benefited our local offices, it has also allowed us to work collaboratively between branches daily. Now, it is not simply one office that is a tight-knit community, but all employees across all locations are working together. Working collaboratively on Microsoft Teams throughout the pandemic has, ironically, brought our employees closer together, transforming how we interact and work as one team.

Building culture through the “Elantis Experience” 

One of the most important aspects of our company culture that has helped to keep us unified and uplifted during the pandemic is the Elantis Experience, a weekly company-wide meeting where we share team updates and kudos. This meeting is inspired by one of our core values: Focus on People. We win together, so we celebrate each other’s successes.

There is no greater feeling than a pat on the back for a job well done, and the effect of this reinforcement is amplified when it is announced to all team members in the same space. When positive performance is acknowledged and appreciated, we stay motivated and feel connected.

Learning lessons along the way

The pandemic has taught us many lessons, but the main one is seeing beyond traditional indicators of performance in the workplace. Rather than focusing on the amount of effort an employee puts into a project—counting the hours and making sure they are working on it during regular business hours every day—we have noticed results in placing higher value on the outcomes of our employees.

This is why, during the Elantis Experience meetings, we have found so much motivation and connection to our core values. In a sense, we are seeing our employees with more compassion. We are sensitive to the struggles they may be experiencing in their personal lives, and we put faith in them as reliable team members who will get the job done in an effective and timely fashion—regardless of where and when they’re working. Simply put, this is the Elantis Experience.

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