THE CULTURE CONUNDRUM

With many businesses now ‘back in the office’, some full time and some with new hybrid arrangements in place, this new world of flexible working patterns, and a mixture of people in and out of the office, brings new challenges for businesses. 

Hybrid working will have implications, in this article I consider what we as businesses must do now to keep staff engaged.

Striking the balance

There’s no denying that there are powerful arguments for both working from home and the office; the former gives employees a better work/life balance and there are considerable financial benefits from downsizing expensive office spaces. The latter gives teams the opportunity to be spontaneous, to bounce ideas off each other outside of a carefully scheduled call and for experienced staff to provide valuable mentoring and guidance to newer employees.  Put simply the office is at the heart of the business, and the place where people generate the culture that keep teams motivated.

Our industry thrives on face-to-face communication, it’s something we’ve been sorely missing over the past eighteen months, and it’s something we must not lose completely as we settle into the ‘new normal’, but there is a balance to be struck between supporting the wellbeing of our employees and operating the business at maximum efficiency.

Wellbeing first

All employees, whether in the office full time, homeworking, or a mixture of both, must feel that they have the support structures in place to help them to settle into their new patterns of working. It’s going to be a huge readjustment for people and will cause much anxiety. 

Arc Legal, like many corporate businesses, provide employees with a free counselling helpline that they can use to talk openly with a qualified counsellor about any issues they are facing, either work-related or personal; it’s a service that we’ve found to be very important over the past year. Courtesy of our parent company AmTrust, we also have a health and wellbeing app called AmWell, which provides a wide range of resources and guidance on everything from mental to physical health.  We appreciate that we’re lucky to have these, as they can be expensive for smaller companies, but it’s important to signpost support services wherever possible.

Bringing culture back

People don’t join a company; they join a culture, and over the past eighteen months it’s become harder and harder to maintain the dynamic culture that office life fosters.  Think about how quickly those weekly Teams quizzes and drinks died out once the novelty had thoroughly worn off and people started coming down with so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’.  Despite companies’ best efforts, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all become that little more isolated and out of touch with our colleagues as time has worn on. This is a huge problem for retaining our people, especially new joiners who have missed the chance to feel the buzz of a creative and lively team, or the knowledge they can soak up from working alongside experienced colleagues.  Throughout lockdown we’ve found it easy to source vibrant new talent, especially as geography is no longer a restriction, but retaining those people has been more difficult, in part because they start from a position of isolation, having minimal contact with their peers.

As we consider the practicalities of hybrid or homeworking, we must prioritise the return of culture and find creative ways to ensure that no matter where a person is based, they have the chance to experience that buzz, whether it’s coming in for a monthly pizza party in the office, team building (or should I say, re-building) sessions or in-person team or client meetings.  For new joiners, we must also look carefully at rotas so that they can be in the office at the same time as their mentors to give them the support and guidance sorely needed as they begin their company journey.

I for one am looking forward to having my team back together again, Arc Legal has always had a strong, vibrant culture and I think the whole business is looking forward to returning to that.

Frank O'Malley, CEO

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