By James Johnston, Regional VP at Cloudera
In order for a business to succeed, a positive company culture has to be a priority. Recent research by Breathe revealed that toxic cultures cost the UK economy £15.7 billion per year, and poor culture is the reason that one in five UK workers quit. 2020 has, however, been a year of challenges. Many companies have found themselves battling to stay afloat, with culture slipping down the corporate agenda. This has left a third of employees feeling unsupported, according to a survey by Techscheme. As the year draws to a close, businesses should take stock and implement the necessary measures, in order to increase motivation and set the team up for success in the new year.
With the future still in flux and some businesses looking to make working from home a more permanent thing, what should enterprises be focusing on to boost culture? The answer is that there is no single thing, but rather a combination of elements — starting with work/life balance. At Cloudera, this is something we have always prioritised. However, in recent months, we have taken an active approach to invest in company policies that reinforce it.
Taking action: introducing a company-wide policy
Despite everything that this year has thrown at us, at Cloudera, we were able to react quickly and implement strategies that ensured the wellbeing of our employees. The first step in building this strategy was to have our proactive leadership team on board. Company-wide initiatives can only work if they are driven from the top down, and for our leadership team, introducing a new work-from-home policy was a critical step. Having a poor balance between work and leisure can lead to burnout and a drop in productivity. A survey by Monster found that over two-thirds, or 69%, of employees, are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home. That is why we are committed to encouraging and enforcing a healthy balance for all our employees.
This led to the creation of the Cloudera WFH (work from home) Code, which encourages employees to follow a common set of guidelines, that help establish the tone for working remotely. For example, individuals can pledge to support flexibility for personal needs or commit to checking in with their peers regularly. All team members can also pledge to put family first, knowing that this will be supported by the entire organisation. We recognise that working from home isn’t the ideal set up for everyone, but with this code, employees are able to mould their way of working to fit their lifestyle. One of the main reasons this has been a success, was the participation of the leadership team. They led by example, sharing what their pledges were and making sure they highlighted when they were taking time away from their desks, in order to encourage others to do the same. With everyone following the same code, the entire team felt supported and unified, even whilst physically distanced from one another.
Going beyond creating policies
Alongside the WFH code, Cloudera also introduced specific initiatives that are implemented across the business. These include ‘Unplugged’ and ‘meeting free’ days, in order to strike a more healthy balance. We realised that culture needs continual evaluation and investment to ensure it is appropriate, especially as the current situation means the lives of our teams are in constant flux. This is not just in our company, but likely yours too. As such, we’d like to share some of the other initiatives we’ve implemented and have found to work well for our employees:
- Putting boundaries in place
- For many people right now, their kitchen table has become their new work desk. Meetings take place to the soundtrack of children in the background and video calls feature private homes rather than conference rooms. Without the commute home and the time to switch off, employees are working an average of 5 minutes longer every day and struggling more than ever to unwind. Alongside the new company code, we have also created ‘Unplugged’ days. During these days, employees are given the same day, or multiple consecutive days, off — outside of their normal holiday allowance. As this is a company wide initiative, there are no non urgent emails or calls, to distract employees from this break. These ‘Unplugged days’ give employees the chance to truly step away from work and put their time and effort into personal interests. While allocating set days off may not be something every business can offer, it is worth considering other ways to enable employees to actively step away, guilt-free, from their desk.
- Encouraging creativity
- Cloudera has ensured that staff prioritise time away from work, so they can better balance their professional and personal lives. Whether it’s through the free online yoga memberships we’re providing, or our new virtual cooking class program. Giving employees breathing space has been an important step in revamping our WFH culture. In fact, two in five people,(39 percent) surveyed by the Mental Health Foundation report that maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps them cope with the stress of the pandemic, so it’s vital staff are given the time to focus on themselves and their health. It doesn’t have to be costly: even a meeting-free day can help motivate teams. In doing so, enterprises will give employees the time they need to get creative and nurture a genuinely caring culture in which staff know their employer is invested in their wellbeing.
- Don’t be alone: speak up!
- While we know meeting free days are a great way to give people the time they need to focus on their own tasks, we also greatly encourage communications amongst teams and across the business. Interactions between meetings or over coffee that would naturally occur in the office are no longer a part of our daily routine. Therefore, encouraging employees to be open, have regular check-ins and offer feedback can help reduce loneliness whilst we are away from the workspace.
Act now, but think long-term
Initiatives such as free online memberships, and extra holidays, may seem small but indicate to employees that their employer genuinely cares for their wellbeing. As agile working will likely continue long into the new year, maintaining a healthy work-life balance should be a top priority for businesses. After all, a positive work culture can ultimately mean the difference between making money and keeping talent, or losing both. That said, there is no doubt that constant cultural change is hard. However, for the leaders that are investing in creating a sense of community and belonging now, the pay-off will be big long-term.