Why this start-up tries to foster the culture of the office without an office


Last summer, Air, a creative operations system for marketers, launched what it calls “warehouse days” so employees can work together in person. On these days, the start-up rents a space where vaccinated employees meet in person for collaboration and team connection.

“Warehouse days,” which take place two to four times a month, are part of the startup’s plan to encourage employees to connect and foster culture. At the same time, Air has made an effort to get employees to come together for in-person or online activities outside of work – i.e. having coffee, going to a concert, exploring a country. distant via an online tour – with a stipend of $ 30 for employees to have time to establish a connection with their colleagues outside of professional chat.

This is a way for the company to foster the office culture despite a remote workforce – the company abandoned its New York office in May 2020 – and potentially alleviate the burnout of its 40 employees. , according to Shane Hegde, CEO and co-founder. air. The startup is one of a number of companies looking to find ways to recreate corporate culture in a distant world, especially since the return to power has been delayed due to the delta variant.

“The office is dead but the culture is not,” Hegde said. “Culture needs to change, to change and to become more human. It must be synchronized and personalized. I can no longer plan monolithic team activities. If we all work in a distributed remote environment [we have employees whose] the hours are radically different. We can’t have an aperitif when it’s 7 a.m. for one person and 9 p.m. for another [so our plans have to evolve.]”

Hegde believes that adapting to the needs of a remote team rather than trying to emulate the culture of the in-person office is the way to go for businesses, especially those that are struggling with team members. exhausted. “If you really want to avoid burnout, you have to create a new culture that matches the world we live in, which means it has to be asynchronous, digital, and personalized,” Hegde said.

So far, about 90% of New York-based Air employees have participated in a “warehouse day” and nearly 70% of employees have participated in a hangout, according to Hegde. Carmi Medoff, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Air, helped shape the cultural strategy in his previous role as Operations Manager for Air. Medoff joined the company in September 2020 and has only met his colleagues in person twice.

“It’s great spending time together and enjoying the benefits of legendary office life, whatever it is,” said Medoff. “However, we don’t want to push people out of their comfort zone when it’s not necessary. Companies must remain flexible and open, adapt [culture] to what the actual team wants.

This approach makes sense for human resources experts who say finding ways to bring teams together safely while remaining flexible can help avoid employee burnout.

“Empowering teams to solve problems in person for short periods of time, without losing the flexibility of working from home on a consistent basis, could have a positive impact on employee productivity and mental health (provided it is done). sure), “said Amanda Speer, director of talent at Mekanism.

Speer continued, “More than managing burnout, it helps build personal relationships that increase empathy and understanding for co-workers. We all do our best, but it’s easy to lose track of what others are going through when you’re alone in a room talking in front of a computer screen and just about work. These encounters remind people that they are dealing with real humans, with real emotions on the other end.

So far, the approach contributes to employee retention by Hegde. “We have quadrupled our team size since before the pandemic (February 2020) and our six-month employee retention rate is 91%,” he said, without providing specific numbers. “We believe our retention rate is also high because we have successfully adapted to the new cultural demands of a distant organization. “

‘The office is dead but culture is not’: Why this start-up is trying to foster office culture without an office

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