Culture in Times of Chaos Blog

Company Culture in Times of Chaos

By Rebekah Wong | June 23, 2020

Here at Liftoff, culture is at the forefront of who we are, what we do, and why we do it. When our world shifted to fully working remotely, we had to quickly adapt and guarantee that our company culture did not skip a beat.

We have always prioritized giving team members flexibility with their work arrangements, so the transition to a company-wide work-from-home policy went smoothly for our employees. We were able to continue accommodating technical setups, logistics, and other day-to-day matters. Within the first few weeks of this transition, Liftoff also provided a stipend to address any additional barriers (e.g. home office set up, meals, etc.) to ensure employees were well taken care of.

It goes without saying that Liftoff has continued to make employee engagement a priority, and we have been able to adapt our strategies from one that is focused heavily on in-person interactions to physically distant yet fully engaging virtual interactions. So, here are our four key takeaways from these past few months.

1. Adapting quickly is key, and it’s never too late to start

When we initially started transitioning to work-from-home in response to the pandemic, we had one question at the top of our minds: How can we support the team even if we are not physically together? So many of our events and opportunities to engage with the team had relied on interacting with one another in person: we shared tasty meals and delicious treats together, we participated in in-office events, and spent time with each other at offsites. 

In response to that question, we created a dedicated page on our company intranet where we consolidated multiple online resources for employees within the first week of working remotely, ranging from support for mental health and wellness, to home office setup tips, lists of virtual events, professional development opportunities, and even fun things to do outside of work hours. We also enabled our team managers and ‘Culturenauts’ (culture ambassadors across our different functions) to continue planning virtual team initiatives including game nights, workout sessions, happy hours, care packages, and virtual lunches.

We soon faced a new challenge where adaptation was essential as we further onboarded multiple new hires virtually. We overcame this problem by innovating on existing processes and practices to ensure that they felt as welcomed and supported as they would have in-person. Even now that we are over three months in, we have continued to think ahead and innovate on new ideas. As the situation pans out differently in the various regions of the world, we look forward towards returning to the office with what a new reality might look like post-pandemic.

2. Flexibility is important in a global team

There are many different cultural considerations to be made when managing a team across the globe. This plays out not only in personal work styles, but also the efficacy of our efforts to meet each regional team’s needs.

For example, we launched a global effort to provide the team with monthly care packages across all 7 countries that we have offices in worldwide. This required a great deal of coordination and research on local vendors, but also consideration of each local context. Thankfully, our leadership team was understanding and responsive to the different nuances of each country and enabled us to continue to support our different teams in this way.

Prior to the shift to fully remote work during this period, our global teams had existing various touchpoints with each other, even across our different functions. Our London, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, and South Korea offices would meet virtually once a month to catch up on latest updates and share knowledge. Meetings with key stakeholders and senior leadership that normally take place in our HQ offices would also be held at EMEA or APAC-friendly times so that the respective global teams could join in and contribute. Thanks to these initial foundations, these practices have continued smoothly even as we have shifted their formats to virtual meetings.

“We will emerge from this period stronger, wiser and more connected as a global society. Resilience will be at the forefront of every strategy, yet it is agility that will ensure competitiveness, and an ability to respond to the unexpected. To achieve this, businesses will have to re-evaluate where they must be strong and where they must be flexible.”
– Mohit Joshi (source)

3. Leadership buy-in is essential

We know that these are difficult times and each business is facing their own unique set of challenges. As different leadership teams tackle both new and existing priorities and problems, one core consideration our People Operations team has had to make is how we can understand which priorities are at the forefront of our business, and how we can adapt and support them accordingly. This included providing leadership-specific resources on managing teams remotely, as well as encouraging our company value of ‘Courage to Change’ by incorporating virtual stand ups, check ins, and 1:1’s to maintain a sense of continued connection within teams.

When it comes to company-wide engagement efforts, we have been actively tailoring these initiatives to the current sentiments of our teams by creating spaces to get a pulse of where individuals are at through surveys, polls, and direct feedback from managers. This helps to ensure that our people programs and culture-related efforts are in line with what leaders and managers at Liftoff are seeking out for their teams and direct reports.

4. Small gestures can go a long way

During this time, we made the effort to send our team gifts such as snacks, gift cards, and even DIY plant pods to remind them that we are always committed to encouraging employee wellness and engagement; through this, we also intentionally supported local businesses and non-profit organizations that some of these businesses are donating a portion of their profits to. The team was extremely grateful and it served as a timely morale booster for many of them, which brought us great joy and satisfaction to see as well. Another recent initiative that Mark, our CEO, shared was a company-wide day off to ensure that team members were taking time to disconnect and recharge. Gestures like these spark a sense of gratitude amongst team members, which is an important trait to focus on cultivating to ensure the success of distributed workers.

Another way that we have encouraged and modeled gratitude is by giving back to the communities around us, through our Liftoff Gives program worldwide. From direct company donations to our employee gift matching initiative, we continue to pursue opportunities that support the communities and front-liners who need the most help during this uncertain time. Since March, 25% of our employees have donated to various charitable organizations, supporting relief efforts around Covid-19 and more recently to fight racial injustice. 

As the conversation shifts from “how are we going to tackle the challenges of remote work?” to “what does the future of our office culture look like, given current circumstances?”, it is important for us to reflect on some of the learnings from this season in order to further adapt and gradually acclimate back to the office environment when we eventually return. This global ‘work from home experiment’ has revealed many strengths and shortcomings of a fully remote workforce, and we have the potential to emerge with strong takeaways and lessons that can allow us to sustainably scale our Liftoff culture globally across our 7 different offices.