When office work went virtual, it happened all at once. There wasn’t much time to prepare, and the main concern was figuring out how to stay afloat and keep things running. Culture took a backseat. As Alex Schrecengost, founder and CEO of Virtual With Us put it, “At the beginning, there were people that said, ‘Not everyone can work from home.’” But they quickly realized “well, business has to run, you have to figure it out.”
As we started to adjust to our newfound situation, companies hit some bumps in the road but figured out how to reinvent the ways they operate. A lot of people got used to working remotely and discovered they love it. Others would prefer to be in an office. Still others want a hybrid – a version of the two – to be in the office sometimes. Just when we got used to everything virtual, things started changing again. Now, companies have to figure out how to accommodate these different types of work and make each employee feel included.
Schrecengost has some ideas on how to keep connected without losing the essence of your company’s culture or the cohesion of dispersed teams. “It’s a whole new world of employment,” she told BOSS, and if companies don’t adjust they’ll miss out on great talent.
Keep Mission in Mind
Schrecengost knows a thing or two about adjustment. A wine communications executive by trade and WSET level 3 wine expert, she got the idea for Virtual With Us in April 2020 when her husband, who works in sales, asked, “What can I do to engage my clients and prospects? Do you know any sommeliers who would do a wine tasting?” She did. Now, she’s putting on virtual events for global companies such as Johnson & Johnson.
Her biggest piece of advice for firms wondering how to retain their identities in this changed environment is to go back to their foundations. “Go back to your mission statement,” she said. “Your identity falls within that. If you really, truly are about inclusivity and diversity and bringing in the best talent and you truly are behind your mission, Virtual With Us and Culture With Us can make this work with different programs to ensure that everyone feels included and teams are really collaborating.”
The mission statement is about what you want to accomplish. There’s nothing in there about everyone in the company working in the same place. It’s about working toward the same goal and being part of something larger than themselves. In many ways, with large companies spreading their operations all over the world, the incorporation of virtual work has brought teams closer. Colleagues from Rome, Abu Dhabi, Toronto, and cities on both U.S. coasts got together during a recent Virtual With Us event. As they shared what was going on in their areas with lockdowns and reopenings they got a sense of what life has been like in the rest of the world, something that’s been hard to keep up with international borders closed for so long.
“The virtual concept really supports a lot of global organizations when it comes to connectivity and inclusion,” Schrecengost said. “Global teams were only seeing colleagues once or twice a year. Through these touchpoints that are virtual and interpersonal, not just another meeting, they’re able to connect with their colleagues, really brainstorm with them, and figure out some best practices for their offices and things they could implement.”
The Perfect Blend
The events Virtual With Us puts on are a far cry from just another Zoom meeting. They bring back the camaraderie and relationship-building aspects being physically together in an office provides.