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Culture and wellbeing in a remote setting: a chat with Laïla von Alvensleben from Mural

Culture and wellbeing in a remote setting: a chat with Laïla von Alvensleben from Mural

Laïla von Alvensleben is the Head of Culture and Collaboration at MURAL, the leading digital workspace for visual collaboration in the enterprise. She manages a distributed team of 300+ people across multiple continents and time zones and is a champion for the remote-first and hybrid-remote approach to team collaboration, empowering MURAL’s rapidly growing team to successfully work from anywhere.

Laïla von Alvensleben is the Head of Culture and Collaboration at MURAL, the leading digital workspace for visual collaboration in the enterprise. She manages a distributed team of 300+ people across multiple continents and time zones and is a champion for the remote-first and hybrid-remote approach to team collaboration, empowering MURAL’s rapidly growing team to successfully work from anywhere. We're glad to share her insights and actionable tips on how to maintain the wellbeing of your remote team as well as build company culture in a distributed team - no matter the size of a company.

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As a remote mentor and coach, what are the top 3 challenges of freshly remote companies you're seeing/talking to?

Right now, with the current pandemic and political instability, the top challenges I’m observing at companies that are new to remote work are:

  1. Employee wellbeing. 2020 has been psychologically and physically demanding on almost every employee, both on a personal and professional level. Mental health has come to the forefront as a key concern for HR professionals and companies as a whole, who frequently look to their employer for counsel and benefits in this area.
  2. Zoom fatigue. Now that we’ve all discovered that online meetings can actually help to get work done, I’ve seen companies go from never doing online meetings to scheduling back-to-back online meetings all day. Is anyone surprised that being on Zoom for eight hours straight can become tiring? It’s difficult for some managers and colleagues to find the right balance when they’re used to sharing ideas spontaneously in the same physical space.
  3. Remote culture. It’s challenging enough to be mindful about culture when everyone is in-person, but even harder when we don’t regularly meet the people we work with. Coffee chats and office events have now moved online, but after spending so many hours in front of the screen, employees are reluctant to spend even more time on Zoom (see above) to take part in a potentially awkward or poorly organised social hour.


What can we do to prevent or overcome them?

  1. Despite the fact that mental health has become a top priority for companies, the silver lining is that HR, and even executives, are talking more openly about personal issues and sharing resources to take action toward improving employee’s wellbeing. Every individual’s struggle is different so there’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution. The first step is to acknowledge problems exist and take time to listen and understand the challenges employees are facing by setting up focus groups or one-on-one conversations. From there, companies can provide a toolkit with all kinds of activities, services and tips to support their workforce that can be done either individually or as a group. These can include online mindfulness sessions, therapy platforms, homeschool activities, fitness classes, remote work stipends, and more.
  2. To combat Zoom fatigue, teams will eventually learn how to leverage their online tools and workflows to collaborate better asynchronously. For those sitting in back-to-back Zoom calls, ask yourself, “Do we really need this meeting or can we accomplish just as much by jumping into a shared workspace and publishing updates?” Technology can be both a blessing or a curse depending on how it’s used. It helps if companies set aside time to agree on best practices and guidelines on how to use internal communication and collaboration tools, and it’s equally important to reinforce these behaviours around them. If leadership teams and managers adopt these practices to lead by example, everyone else can act accordingly. Any kind of transformation takes time though, but it’s worth putting the effort into it early on.
  3. Many companies are experimenting with facilitating events online to connect with others and they’re starting to discover there’s a lot that can be done to make enjoyable, special moments. The important thing to remember is that remote culture shouldn’t try to replicate what used to exist in a physical environment, and culture goes way beyond virtual happy hours. There are many small rituals that can be put into the employee experience to represent a company’s values and the more consistently everyone does them, the more likely they are to build a culture that aligns with who they want to be.

Read more about Mural's first virtual retreat on their blog


We hear a lot about overcommunication and its importance in regards to remote working - what is one thing or a process a company can set up today to be more intentional when it comes to employee engagement?

It’s hard to pick just one process! However, the more transparent and open you can be with your team, the better. I recommend hosting a company-wide All Hands meeting from the team leaders with a regular cadence to communicate what is happening at the company from the highest level. There are many ways to do this. At MURAL we currently have an All Hands meeting every two weeks for one hour. We’ll often start with a fun online warm up activity and then invite guest speakers (usually customers, but not only) to share a story about how our product has impacted and transformed the way they work. Then we’ll move on to announcements and updates from leadership or various teams and internal initiatives. It’s a great and simple way to see everyone at the company, keep them informed on the most important things happening, and celebrate our accomplishments.

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