How do you keep the company culture alive when, all of a sudden, employees that are used to meeting every day can no longer interact in person?
That was one of the questions raised when we decided that because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, all Nubankers and external partners should start working from home.
Nubank was one of the first companies to adopt a home-office model, even before health authorities recommended it.
At that time, we understood that deciding to work remotely was, above all, putting people’s health first.
We also knew, from the very beginning, that keeping our culture alive was a priority. Only by doing so could we also maintain the quality of service we offer our customers.
The good news? We are succeeding. And we’ve been learning lessons along the way that can be applied to other companies too.
The importance of a company culture
A company is made primarily of people. At Nubank, behind every product and every customer contact, there are more than 2,600 professionals. One of our core values is that we build strong and diverse teams – and that collaboration among people is essential for that to happen.
The first challenge of working remotely, therefore, was keeping that collaboration alive.
With that, came the concern about the well-being of our employees at home. We wanted to make sure they would receive all the necessary support from their leadership, that they would have the correct infrastructure to be able to work well. Also, in the middle of the situation we are experiencing as a society, that they would manage to adapt to a healthy and productive routine.
Here I share some of the measures we adopted – an extension of what we have always practiced, and that may inspire other companies going through this situation.
1. Transparent leadership and open communication
This situation is posing challenges to the entire world, and we are experiencing this on a daily basis. In this context of so many uncertainties, it was essential to reassure Nubankers that we are not yet another concern.
Every week, our CEO David Vélez records a video commenting on what happened over the last days and what decisions are being made. We have an open channel with all Nubankers where we share information, and everyone can send comments, suggestions, and questions.
David Vélez, em videoconferência: vídeo semanal com updates do Nubank para todos os funcionários.
This open communication has always existed, but in a time where we cannot meet in person, it has been ensuring everyone is well-informed and feel safe about what’s going on in the company.
In comes the importance of an environment of trust – especially when working remotely. Home office only works when the leadership gives agency to teams so they can work well, with no micromanagement.
2. Keep the rituals
Maintaining our meetings was also a vital step to keep our teams integrated.
Rituals are a potent mechanism to help people – especially when their routines have changed so suddenly, like in the last weeks. In this text, the expert Mike Norton, professor at the Harvard Business School, explains how rituals help us regain a sense of control in situations of loss or anxiety.
Our most important ritual is the Coffee Break, a biweekly event attended by all employees – who were before spread out on our São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Berlin offices, and now are at their homes.
Its purpose is to give visibility to the several areas that form Nubank, as well as to present decisions, achievements, and news. Ever since we entered remote work mode, we’ve already held two entirely virtual Coffee Breaks – where we had two thousand people engaged, asking questions and hearing what’s going on at Nubank in a more structured way.
3. Create new routines – of dialogue and organization
Our teams were also encouraged to establish new independent habits. In some cases, it means daily video calls to share what they are doing, exchange ideas, and advice. In others, it’s something as simple as having a virtual break and chat about other things besides work.
At Nubank, we use communication tools that allow us to create conversation channels – that way, it’s easier to have all messages in the same place. Regardless of the tool, what’s important is to give visibility to information and ensure easy access to it.
You can achieve that in different ways, depending on the company size and people’s routines. Shared document folders and general alignment emails at the beginning and the end of the day, for instance, may work for you.
4. Explain the current situation
In times when pandemic news come from everywhere, we wanted Nubankers to have a safe place to be informed.
One of the measures we took was to create a website for employees containing information on the novel coronavirus, health recommendations from Nubank’s doctor, and tips for a more productive home office.
Creating an internal webpage is a good solution for companies with a large number of employees, but the idea can be adapted by those who have smaller teams. A message or regular email with tips or updates can help to keep the team informed.
5. Have flexibility
Closed schools, family members at home, routine changes. In the current situation, making working hours more flexible is one of our priorities to ensure people can work healthily.
At Nubank, we’ve never had a dress code, nor policies forbidding children or pets in our offices – on the contrary. Dressing according to one’s personality and bringing kids (or pets) has always been part of our culture. But in times of home office, companies, in general, have to be even more flexible with these things.
If your company has a very formal or strict dress code, it’s worth thinking if it’s viable to keep it, especially remotely. It’s important to understand that children may appear in a videocall – and that’s okay that a dog may bark. Or that someone must leave a call to take care of a child, a family member, answer the intercom, etc.
Being flexible today is to practice understanding and sympathy for the unexpected situation we are experiencing.
6. Provide support – structural and emotional
Promoting the well-being of our employees has always been one of our most important steps.
It includes everything from making sure they have the necessary infrastructure to work from home (such as computers, chairs, and monitors) to the emotional support to endure these times.
Nubank employees have access to NuCare, an anonymous over-the-phone psychological, financial, and legal assistance service. And the tech leads (or direct leaders) must more than ever fulfill the task of listening to their team’s difficulties and trying to help them overcome challenges.
One of the pieces created by the Internal Communications team gives tips on how to ensure well-being when doing home office.
There are several online and over-the-phone psychological support services in Brazil. If a company doesn’t have one internally, they can check with an insurer or refer your employees to services like the ones listed by the Brazilian Psychology Association.
7. Try, listen, improve
We are experiencing an unprecedented pandemic, and there are no perfect answers: every company must understand what works for its culture, and leaders must be aware that their role is even more necessary right now.
Over here, we are continually trying to understand what is going well and what we can improve. The most efficient way of doing that, regardless of the type of business, is listening to the people in our teams.
Changing routines so suddenly is a challenge – and facing challenges has always been in Nubank’s DNA.