[Webinar] Cultivating Culture in Distributed Teams

[Webinar] Cultivating Culture in Distributed Teams

We are back with our Webinar Series – Experts on Employee Experience! 🎉 It is a monthly webinar series where Jade Choy, Epoch's CEO, has conversations with leaders and innovators in the Employee Experience and engagement space.

In case you missed it, here are some key learnings and takeaways from our webinar featuring Charlotte Johnson and JJ Reeder from Upwork, the world’s work marketplace. View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇

The workplace experience has become a strategic effort with the consideration of so many factors. In our recent webinar, Charlotte, who leads Workplace at Upwork, and JJ, an expert in remote work strategies at Upwork, shed light on how to approach this challenge. 

Balancing office and remote work

Charlotte emphasizes that workplace experience is holistic and impacts every aspect of an employee's day. She explains that at Upwork, which is a remote-first organization, the office is viewed as just one resource within the larger workplace ecosystem. Different days may need different settings, and providing resources for employees to work from home, the office, or a third space is crucial.

JJ shares that Upwork's approach involves considering employees' preferences and how the office is designed. They strive to create an environment that encourages collaboration and acknowledge that while remote work can be more productive, in-person interactions are magical. 

What part of the organization do JJ and Charlotte’s roles fall under?

Charlotte shares that her role falls under the CFO. This placement enables her to be strategic and budget for sophisticated workplace programs, especially for distributed teams. Sitting under finance allows her to consider the financial implications of workplace initiatives.

JJ's role at Upwork involves setting up systems, processes, and tools needed for effective remote work. While she works in HR, she collaborates extensively with various parts of the organization like internal communications and Charlotte’s team. She stresses the importance of defining responsibilities and boundaries to ensure clarity in the workplace.

Key points for launching a new culture 

When it comes to launching a new workplace culture, both Charlotte and JJ highlight the significance of transparent communication. Charlotte emphasizes the importance of grounding changes in company values and goals with clear purpose and data-driven insights. Collaboration also plays a vital role in this process, with multiple rounds of feedback and reviews to gather diverse perspectives.

Upwork takes a collaborative and iterative approach which is something JJ considers to be extremely beneficial. Behaviour management is something that needs to be considered as well. For example, how to create small changes that will encourage the right work habits. What’s more, continually checking whether they are effective.

Exciting recent events and programs 

Charlotte mentions their new approach to mapping out in-person gatherings as a particularly exciting initiative. Part of this included taking learnings from the past year and looking at the gaps and opportunities they could address. She also finds that there is a need to guide leaders in planning ahead for those gatherings, integrating them into the budget. 

JJ’s team recently revamped Upwork’s values and working principles that better reflect their cultural norms today.

Gaining leadership and organizational buy-in 

To gain buy-in for initiatives, Charlotte recommends taking the time to articulate your thoughts and using written memos as a sounding board for colleagues. JJ stresses the value of multiple rounds of feedback and review, making it clear when an idea is ready to be implemented, and identifying the right advocates for each initiative.

Measuring success and gathering feedback 

JJ emphasizes the importance of employee listening through rigorous bi-annual surveys that provide valuable data on communication, empowerment, and management. Charlotte uses tailored event posters and focus groups to gain insights into participants' experiences. 

Identifying relevant data for initiatives 

JJ recommends seeking advice from colleagues who have faced similar challenges or seeking approval from leadership when unsure about data collection. 

Utilizing physical spaces and remote work

Charlotte discusses Upwork's approach to utilizing physical office spaces based on the organization's needs. Spotlighting in-person gatherings through communication channels like Slack was something they have seen to be an effective strategy at Upwork. 

JJ mentions the importance of balancing in-person and virtual celebrations, ensuring that remote events receive equal recognition. She suggests using Slack channels and a meet-up program to facilitate connections among employees.

Hybrid etiquette 

There are a few tactics that Upwork uses to establish hybrid meeting etiquette. For example, one simple change they have made includes giving those attendees in person separate spaces to call in from to ensure sound quality during the meeting. However, this is something they will continue to be working on developing guidelines for, as well as developing the best ways to use technology for this.

Overcoming resistance to hybrid work

JJ makes it clear that the rules and methods of work matter less than building a strong meeting culture. A focus on making the best use of everyone's time, regardless of the method, fosters a productive environment and a positive employee experience.

Connect with us!

Connect with JJ and Charlotte on LinkedIn if you want to chat with them directly. Sign up for Epoch’s newsletter to be in the know for our next Experts in Employee Experience webinar and other Employee Experience events!

Related content