I believe that a brand’s strongest asset is its staff. Cultivating a culture where staff are happy, motivated, and are aligned to the brand’s values and vision is one of the most important but equally challenging responsibilities that a Brand Manager has.

Why do office environments and perks matter?

Would you be surprised to hear that most people in the UK are unhappy at work? Last year a survey by Investors in People found that more than half of UK workers want to find a new job and of the 12,000 workers surveyed, three out of four felt stressed about work.

Brands often use their offices to create environments and a culture that brings their values to life and improves employees’ wellbeing. Fashion brand ASOS offices imbue modern design, Facebook offers its staff free food, and Google, always being one step ahead of the curve, have installed nap pods in their offices.

Being able to nap at work is just one of the many reasons Google has been named as the best place to work in the UK for 2020 by Glassdoor. With one Google employee explaining that Google was “full of genuinely passionate, smart, friendly people with interesting problems to solve and extremely collaborative culture.”

But what happens when brands no longer have a physical environment in which to foster this culture and promote staff wellbeing?

Cultivating culture in a virtual world

During the UK lockdown, more than half of workers in the UK began working from home. There are obvious benefits to working from home (no commuting or hotdesking), but there are also many downsides. I personally really miss my colleagues. Even though our meetings have been replaced with video calls, it simply isn’t the same.

The Financial Times reported that in December, around 10m people were using Zoom daily. During April, this increased to 300m people! To help put that into context, 330m people are living in America. I’ll let you decide what to make of this. I’m sure you’ve seen many Zoom memes, but I wanted to share one of my favourites from W1A that parodies the BBC’s coronavirus response:

The pandemic has left many questioning if work will change fundamentally, with brands like Twitter announcing that their staff can work at home forever if they choose to. I wonder if this new way of working would be better for brands? On the one hand, their staff may appreciate the new work-life balance and the time and money they’d save. But on the other hand, working from home would make it difficult for brands to create a strong company culture underpinned by their values. Values and culture are important as staff can identify with a brand’s values and be more likely to feel motivated and engaged with their work.

Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, believes that:

“Work should contribute to the greater good, draw on personal strengths, and give meaning and purpose. You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find its meaning, you won’t enjoy it. – The happiness Advantage.

How do you build a culture in a remote team?

I wanted to see if any organisations have successfully built a strong corporate culture remotely and came across Zapier. Zapier is a company that helps brands integrate the web applications that they use. They have a team of over 250 people that live and work remotely in over 24 countries. In March, they shared seven online team building principles that work for them, which is well worth a read. It is great to see that with some care and consideration, you can build a strong culture in a remote team.

“Slack is our virtual office. It’s the online version of the water cooler—where random work discussions happen, but also where we banter back and forth about the news, jokes, and pop culture. The best part of Slack is that our water cooler discussions are always accessible. Nothing gets lost. And there’s no “behind-your-back politics” that happens in many co-located offices. – Zapier”

What values should your brand embody?

One of my favourite business books, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, looks at the findings from a 5-year research project that determines what sets great brands apart from simply good ones. ​One of their most interesting findings related to the role of values. They found that while core values are essential for building enduring greatness, it doesn’t matter what those core values are:

“A company need not have passion for its customers (Sony didn’t), or respect for the individual (Disney didn’t), or quality (Wall-Mart didn’t), or social responsibility (Ford didn’t) in order to become enduring and great.”

Collins went onto explain that what was important is that brands build their values explicitly into the organisation and preserve them over time.

How the British Heart Foundation use their values to help beat heartbreak forever

The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) values are to be brave, informed, compassionate, and driven. Here are some examples of how they’ve been embodying those values over the last few weeks:

Brave

The BHF has over 750 charity shops across the UK. In March, they made the brave decision to close their shops before the official lockdown was announced on March 19th. They were one of the first charities to do so. Even though the official lockdown was announced just four days later, the BHF has always put the wellbeing and safety of its staff and volunteers first.

Informed

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, people have been turning to the BHF for information that they can trust. Their online coronavirus support pages have been viewed more than 1.5m times.

Compassionate

During the first two weeks of lockdown, the BHF’s helpline saw a 400% increase in demand. To ensure that everyone could access the support that they needed, the BHF’s cardiac nurses worked extended hours on their Heart Helpline during the lockdown.

Driven

To answer urgent questions around Covid-19 and cardiovascular health, The BHF have formed an exciting initiative with research leaders. They are now supporting six national flagship projects, which could produce results in a matter of weeks.

Summary

Millions of people worldwide will be working from home for the foreseeable future. I strongly believe that during this time, brands must help staff know how their values are being used to guide decision making. Transparent and regular communications will form a key role in engaging remote workers. As this is a challenging time for everyone, brands need to listen to their staff, and facilitate plenty of opportunities for them to give regular and anonymous feedback and suggestions. The next step in fostering trust is to act on that feedback, or if that isn’t possible, address the feedback honestly and explain why some things are not feasible.

With most brands looking to see where they can save costs, asking staff for feedback can generate insight that would have otherwise never seen the light of day. When Waitrose asked their staff for cost-saving contributions, they came up with over 4,000 ideas. One of their cashiers highlighted how much paper was wasted when the till printed multiple receipts. They fixed this by allowing people to opt-out of getting a receipt, which saved them £460,000.

Further reading

I highly recommend listening to Bruce Daisley’s podcast ‘eat sleep work repeat’ and signing up for his newsletter.

If you’d like to contribute to The Brand Blog please get in touch.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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