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Maintaining company culture in a virtual world

Alexandra Moorhouse
Alexandra Moorhouse
Marketing Director, UK&I
5 min read
6 November 2020

Having been in our home offices since March, as we head into Lockdown 2.0 working-from-home feels like the norm. Second time round, it all feels much smoother; productivity remains buoyant and morale is strong. For many, the work/life balance has improved, and employees are enjoying the autonomy of their  flexible working life. We’re all starting to wonder why we ever needed to physically meet with our peers on a daily basis.  As time goes on, we’ve realised that sitting around a table together isn’t necessary to share ideas, data or strategies. Despite this, we should remember that meeting face-to-face was key for other, equally important, reasons.

The real value of face-to-face was unlocked outside of the meeting room. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork when laughs were shared, challenges were tackled together, and innovation was sparked.  Creating a vibrant team culture is grounded in everything outside of those meetings; it’s the exact reason why companies host away days, Pizza Fridays and internal events. Businesses that accept the current climate and seek innovative ways to connect with their employees will keep a shared sense of purpose intact, whereas those that stand still risk seeing motivation diminish.

Our new virtual world

A culture fueled by employee engagement creates a unique community of people working together towards a common goal. It’s about getting people excited to be part of the journey and emotionally committed to the company vision. It’s not about high salaries, benefits or being thanked after a long day; those are now expected alongside a great culture. With so much economic uncertainty, both employers and employees are asking for loyalty and understanding.

Businesses that facilitate ways to socialise in a personal and professional development capacity, enable staff to feel more involved and less isolated in their remote setting. It’s a telltale sign of a positive dynamic when coworkers choose to spend time together outside of work. Fun activities enable departments to intermix, when otherwise they wouldn’t have a reason to. This can help to break silos, which all too easily evolve when teams are working apart. 

How can we virtually unlock the power of bringing people together? Without casual micro-interactions at the coffee machine or beer fridge, people aren’t checking in with each other. Newsletters and intranets keep everyone in the loop, while messaging software keep staff on task –  but how can companies utilise technology to intermix and promote a shared sense of positivity?

DEPT®’s virtual weekender

DEPT® had to rethink its annual flagship event, which usually brings together its 1,500-strong team from 13 countries. The DEPT® Festival takes place in Amsterdam every year and is a full weekend of inspirational talks, team mingling and epic parties. Instead of postponing the event in 2020, DEPT® gave it a digital reinvention.

DEPT® connected existing technologies such as Zoom, Slack and Vimeo, with the build of a custom made, interactive, 3D festival map protected by single sign-on. The design and layout digitally recreated the festival site from the previous four years, squeezing in 15 stages and 35+ short and snappy presentations from staff and industry heroes like world-famous designer Stefan Sagmeister.

For DEPT®, it was important to find the right balance between experience, fun and thought-provoking content. Presentation topics ranged from diversity and inclusion to data intelligence, the future of voice, and coding for a 3D world. The fun was provided by virtual meditation, magicians, karaoke and DJ sets. ‘Easter eggs’ were hidden around the virtual map, leading people to things like the 10 most famous internet cat movies, and a crazy Zoom background contest. The virtual Photo Booth generated a live photo wall, and in all 13 countries, Depsters could have food delivered to their doorsteps after a visit to the digital food truck.

“We have shown that an online event can certainly be as effective as an in-person experience. As long as you can generate connection, interaction and think of the event as a 360-degree experience,” says DEPT®’s Creative Director, Max Pinas. 

Culture can’t be paused

Companies are continuing to reinvent ways of working to offer flexible solutions for staff to achieve a positive work-life balance. Undoubtedly, a modern workplace will look much more dispersed, but that doesn’t mean people have to feel disconnected. However, it does place a new onus on employers to accelerate their employee engagement strategies.

Culture can’t be ignored or put on pause. It will continuously develop regardless if it gets shaped by the company.  When employees feel uninspired or disconnected from their colleagues, they look elsewhere. When done right, virtual events are safe, engaging and a future-proof solution that will help businesses connect. Just like offline editions, they can be completely personalised for team building, product launches or knowledge seminars.

Technology has already changed our lives for the better in so many ways, so why not utilise it in new ways to create memorable experiences with the people you interact with every day?

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