We Need to Talk: Company Culture in a Remote World

Woman working at laptop while on phone

As an asset management consultant who typically travels to a client site every week, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost been 2 months since I’ve boarded a plane. In a normal world, my family has a daily routine of school, sports, and other activities for which I only engage on the weekends when I am home. Because of their busy schedules, my kids do very little at home besides basic chores. It makes me crazy but I choose my battles. Chores aside, our system has evolved over several years and it works pretty seamlessly, except when I’m not on the road for an extended period of time. Like now. In short, I am the disrupter in the household.

The chaos of the first couple of weeks with my husband and I both working from home, and the shift to distance learning for my two teenagers, would test even the most functional households (we’re not even close). Keeping my kids focused on school and not jumping on Xbox or FaceTime for even a five minute break between classes became a daily argument. Combine that with my husband and I both trying to actually work a full day, my children constantly telling me there is nothing to eat (there is plenty to eat), and the fact that finding a grocery delivery window is like trying to buy concert tickets for days on end, things had to change if we were to coexist for an undetermined period of time. Time for a family meeting.

We are in an unprecedented time for which there is no playbook. It’s severely affecting home, school, and work life but we need to do our best to adjust, adapt and be the best versions of ourselves. I am fortunate that my kids are old enough to understand but getting them to actually change their behavior is a different story.

The impacts of being remote vs. being onsite with the client depends on both the client and the consultant. Prior to COVID-19, I worked with asset managers, big and small, with varying degrees of a remote culture and capabilities. Even those with the most robust remote capabilities oftentimes preferred to operate face to face due to concerns about loss in productivity.

With the onset of COVID-19, asset managers not only had to get remote capabilities online immediately but also had to learn, adopt, and embrace them as well. Although born out of necessity, this was the push most firms likely needed to move into the frontier of working remotely. While there were surely some initial bumps, it has proven to be viable, and even a beneficial transition for most. Meetings, whiteboarding, strategy exercises, and client presentations can continue with minimal disruption, allowing work to progress as planned.

As consultants, working remotely is second nature, however now more than ever, fostering trust is paramount to maintaining strong relationships with clients and colleagues and reinforcing our commitment to meeting our goals. Over the past several weeks I’ve continued to look for additional opportunities to assist and contribute wherever possible while keeping lines of communication open. Initiating an open dialogue with stakeholders throughout your company, team, or project is the only way to adjust and plan if your goals and objectives shift over the next several months. Frequent and transparent communication, combined with our collective dedication to work together to overcome the current situation, will be critical to have the flexibility to adapt to what is yet to come.

Back to the family meeting. Much to my children’s dismay, I often apply similar principles from work in my home life. My mandate for them was to increase their contributions and find ways to add value in exchange for time on the things they care the most about i.e. Xbox and cell phones. It’s not a perfect system but at the very least they have started asking what they can do each day and our dog is now walked about five times a day. For now, I’m happy to say I have an almost functional household. The key will be keeping it that way.