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Big lessons for corporate culture from lockdown

Companies running under lockdown have learned valuable lessons about culture and staff sentiment which will last long after the initial reaction to Covid-19, says the Asia-Pacific head of Slack Matt Loop​​​​​.​​

Matt Loop reckons both "digital native" companies, which have long used Slack and other collaboration tools to run complex, geographically distributed businesses, as well as more traditional companies which had to adapt fast to the necessity of abandoning offices for homes, are rethinking how they assess staff morale and engage with teams.

"We talk about agility and adaptability of culture... in terms of figuring out what's going to make everyone most productive, successful, and comfortable as we try to normalise what is a crazy time that we're in right now," Loop said in an interview as part of this Newsroom series on how companies are using Slack to run real and virtual offices.

"If you don't communicate effectively, you don't have a great culture."

Loop says a big lesson from the Covid-19 lockdown experience has been the importance of tools that allow companies to understand how staff feel and provide the most effective environment in which they can do their best work, whether in an office or at home - from surveys to tuition to enabling simple outlets for personal expression.

"I think it's critical that you're reaching out and getting direct feedback from those who for the last three-plus months, have been in challenging times having to work from home dealing with personal family obligations and work and juggle all of that," he said.

His comments echo those of others interviewed for this series who have been working hard to create an office culture, often now without an office. They identify a variety of critical elements from the need to ensure remote workers have a voice to the idea that introverts may actually like the new normal of working from home and that their input is now appreciated or heard more.

To support this distributed operation model Slack has integrated huge numbers of applications onto its platform. Loop mentioned a couple Slack itself uses (and for which there are many competitors of course) that sound worth a look: Lattice, for performance reviews, Culture Amp for employee sentiment and Gong for sales tuition.

*Slack's Matt Loop talks to Peter Bale about how to create office culture without the office*


Q&A with Matt Loop

Here are some key questions and answers from the video interview which might help you work out if Slack is right for your business or how to use it more effectively. If you have specific questions about Slack, email slack@newsroom.co.nz and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

Q: Tell us about the non-digital native companies that have come to you for help during lockdown, those that have maybe traditionally been more conservative about adopting tools like Slack but have had to reshape their ways of working?

A: "Those are ones that we're leaning in with heavily. You could call it a COVID pivot where lots of traditional organisations who hadn't made these investments or who were earlier in their digital transformation, were coming to organisations like Slack and Zoom. It's why you saw steep spikes in demand...they needed to quickly invest in technologies because they hadn't done it.

"No CEO of any size of organisation told their staff when they sent them to work at home, to just hop on the email and that we would just communicate by email and that everything would be fine. They came to organisations like us, and like Zoom to provide the digital native tools that they needed to be productive to be able to collaborate and communicate effectively."

Q: You emphasise culture or what I take to be cultural aspects of management?

A: "I think one of the things on culture is if you don't communicate effectively, you don't have a great culture. If you're not giving feedback and keeping the troops abreast of what's going on, you won't have a great culture."

"Slack's mission is to make work-life simpler, pleasant, and more productive. And I don't think that there's been a louder cry for our help than right now. We need to help everyone make their lives in this chaos simpler and give them the productivity that they need to still do their job effectively."

Q: Slack users I've talked to have also talked about finding more introverted employees thrive. Tell us a little about that?

A: "This goes to the agility component of how companies are adapting and thinking more about the types of people that you have in an organisation. The shrinking violet who might not be comfortable speaking out...when you're in a digital world that shrinking violet has the ability to get their ideas out and shared in written form."

Q: How do you help businesses to use Slack effectively, so that their employees aren't just tethered to work all the time?

A: "An example of that is that within an organisation, you need to look at the status of someone and treat that with respect...If you see someone who's set their status to 'Do not disturb' or their calendar integrations tell you they're in a meeting then don't send someone a note."

Q: It's all about etiquette and having a little discipline in your communications?

A: "Having some sort of framework or policy around how you communicate (is important)..everything from respecting people's time to what you post. Know your business hours."

Q: What are the key lessons you've picked up from clients in this period?

A: "First is surveying your employees. I think it's critical that you're reaching out and getting direct feedback from employees who, for the last three-plus months, have been in challenging times having to work from home and deal with personal family obligations and work, and juggle all of that. And that you're applying that feedback into the policies and frameworks, which you're rolling out to your staff.

"Second is about looking at other employers and peers to understand what they're doing. When it comes to collaboration and the way we set up our businesses, this is going to be a huge competitive differentiator moving forward. Companies who embrace this and provide flexibility and perhaps a more compelling, distributed work approach are going to have a leg up on their peers."

- Quotes from the video interview have been edited for clarity and to focus on pointers you may wish to try in your business. Learn more about how to get the most from Slack.
- Remember, if you have specific questions about Slack, email slack@newsroom.co.nz and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

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