Taking the Friction out of Work

As organisations seek to re-establish long-term working models, it’s becoming increasingly clear that business cultures must fundamentally change.

To create a productive and motivated hybrid-working model, companies need to actively increase empathy, according to a recent CIO virtual roundtable entitled “Taking the Friction Out of Work”.

At the forefront of this move towards a more people-centred company culture is Slack, which names empathy as a core corporate value.

The firm’s software is used by leading companies including Allianz, Moonpig, PwC, Sainsbury’s and Wise to drive alignment and engagement.

Workplace empathy involves creating an environment where staff feel confident to share their feelings as well as acknowledging that hybrid work blurs traditional work/life boundaries.

The mass adoption of hybrid working has introduced compelling benefits for both employees and employers. Productive, friction-free working, however, isn’t as easy as issuing staff with laptops.

Company culture, and specifically empathy, is key in the new work-from-anywhere era. The CIO roundtable heard from decision-makers in the pharmaceuticals, medical, financial services and logistics sectors, who explained their hybrid working challenges.

These leaders identified a range of issues including on-boarding new employees, unifying employee experience after mergers and acquisitions (M&A), ensuring team members can collaborate wherever they are based on any particular day and ensuring a seamless transition between on-site and remote working for employees who split their time between the two.

“We find team members are less likely to ask questions about a project if they’re working from home, because they don’t want to look like they’re out of the loop,” said one roundtable participant from the financial services sector. “Questioning and interrogating a brief, however, is really important if you want a project to develop and evolve.”

Louise Holmes, Regional Sales Director at Slack, explained that her company’s solutions enable organisations to “build their digital HQ” – a single, virtual space connecting people, tools, customers and partners for faster and more flexible work.

“This approach breaks down organisational silos, making work faster and easier by introducing common processes, uniting people from across the organisation and increasing the accessibility of the tools you need to be productive by placing them in one central location,” Holmes explained.

“The digital HQ is not a replacement for a physical HQ, but it is the one place every employee visits each day and enables the whole organisation to focus on what matters most: delivering quality products and services,” she added.

For example, platforms such as Slack make it possible to set up specific “newbie” channels for new-starters and create workflows that streamline the process of onboarding new starters. “Ask me anything” channels can also be set up for the wider workforce to ensure mission-critical information is always to hand.

For Slack and its parent company Salesforce, however, success isn’t just about technology and where people work; it’s also about how people work.

A study by Future Forum found flexibility ranks second only to compensation in determining job satisfaction. Workers who have full schedule flexibility show 29% higher productivity than workers with no ability to shift their schedule.

Ben Kennedy, Senior Manager for Solution Engineering at Slack, explained that hybrid working blurs the boundaries between work and employees’ private life.

Adopting an empathetic, people-first approach helps both employees and employers navigate these new boundaries more successfully.

Kennedy maintained that an empathetic approach enables a top-down culture of openness, transparency and inclusion among employees – for example, team members feeling comfortable enough to share their real-time status, so colleagues get a sense of where they are geographically, intellectually and emotionally.

“Whether you’ve set time aside to work on an important project, you’re busy on a call, you’re caring for a sick relative, walking the dog or you just don’t feel great that day, an empathetic culture enables employees to be open about where they are at. When you are at your best it is easier to give your best and be more productive,” added Kennedy.

The roundtable also discussed how the nature of work has changed dramatically post-pandemic, with tried-and-tested linear workflows increasingly rejected in favour of a more fluid iterative approach, which is heavily reliant on collaboration for success.

“It’s no longer a case of giving a team member a task and expecting them to do it. Modern working should be about innovation – working together to find new ways to unlock value,” said one roundtable participant from the pharmaceuticals industry.

“In this complex and often ambiguous environment, an empathetic approach, where employees feel safe and their input valued, can increase engagement and help ensure success,” Kennedy said.

Both Holmes and Kennedy said Slack had discovered that empathy is about more than just boosting hybrid teams’ throughput, it’s about taking positive steps to make work-life simpler, more pleasant and ultimately more productive and friction-free for everyone.

Find out more about Slack’s digital HQ solution.

Artificial Intelligence, Remote Work