How Working From Home Makes Company Culture Blossom

WRITTEN BY Clayton Moulynox

If vulnerability precedes trust — good things happen.

Despite what most people think, the ability to work from home isn’t a perk of a company culture steeped in trust — it’s a driver for it.

New York Times best selling author Daniel Coyle provides a valuable observation as to why.

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust — it precedes it,” he says in his book, The Culture Code.

Since March 2020, many employees have been more vulnerable than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a blurring of the lines between our work personas and private personas — a deliberate divide we put in place to guard the things we’re not willing, or able, to share with colleagues.

Like the fact you still live at home with Mum and Dad — when you’re forty-five. Or that the amazing flatmates you always speak of are actually cats. Or that you’re a Seahawks fan only when chatting to your Seattle based boss, but a New England Patriots tragic at all other moments.

Working at home with video-based collaboration and meeting tools is the first time many of us have allowed colleagues into our homes.”

As much as the blurring of personas has been forced by the pandemic keeping us at home, its also been accelerated by the ubiquitous adoption of video conferencing technology. When combined, we are, quite literally, opening a window into our private lives like never before.

Previously hosted in the work persona territories of conference rooms or neutrality of cafes, meetings have migrated to the places most personal to us — our kitchens, living rooms, studies, bedrooms. Our homes.

Suddenly, that early morning meeting unintentionally acquaints colleagues with your adoring Mum and Dad, asking if your superhero pyjamas can be washed, oblivious you’re on a team call. Or perhaps regrettably introduces workmates to your cursing husband as he wanders through the background in desperate search of car keys.

Working at home with video-based collaboration and meeting tools switched on is the first time many of us have allowed colleagues into our homes. Even if it’s virtual, is there anything more vulnerable than that?

This is a good time to insert further wisdom from Coyle.

“Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialise beneath our feet,” he says.

The pandemic has certainly done many things, including forcing companies and employees to leap side by side into the unknowns of remote working — ready or not.

“Embrace the new vein of vulnerability pulsing through your employees.”

In his book How Will You Measure Your Life, the late Clayton Christensen said, “It’s impossible to have a meaningful conversation about happiness without understanding what makes each of us tick.”

Employee surveys will often reveal that having the option to work from home is associated with increased employee happiness.

Yet that happiness doesn’t come from the things you might expect: eliminated commute, more time with family, and less time with creepy Kevin who usually sits at a desk across from you.

The happiness comes from the chance for our colleagues to understand what makes us tick. It comes from a place of vulnerability which, as Coyle told us, leads to a solid foundation of trust.

So, what happens first? Does a company culture of trust enable employees to work from home effectively? Or does the vulnerability of working from home lead to a deeply trusting company culture?

Following the insights of Coyle and Christensen draws the conclusion for me: Being vulnerable leads to trust. Trust builds connections which convey conversations about what makes us tick as people. Those conversations make us happy. When we’re happy, we blossom. It’s then likely we’ll be more vulnerable and grow deeper trust — and the cycle continues.

Since that fateful March in 2020, employees haven’t spent a great deal of time physically together. This might raise concerns for human resources professionals afraid the momentum of their company culture may stall.

Don’t be afraid. Embrace the new vein of vulnerability pulsing through your employees. It could well be the backbone of a thriving company culture built on a profound sense of trust.

This article was originally posted in The Startup.

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