How to sustain IT workplace culture — without the workplace

When the COVID-19 crisis bore down in mid-March, the IT team at Enova International diligently fired on all cylinders to convert the company to remote work, including standing up a contact center with nearly 700 employees. Powered by an initial adrenaline rush, employee engagement was high, and everyone banded together to maximize remote work.

Months into the pandemic, enthusiasm began to wane. Employees of the online financial services provider lamented the lack of physical connections to co-workers — not to mention access to an office environment flush with choice perks, from a 24/7 snack kitchen stocked with craft beers and curated wines to subsidized on-site manicures, massages, and haircuts. To sustain Enova’s employee-centered focus, the company had to figure out how to translate its physical perks and corporate culture into the virtual world to keep employees happy, engaged, and productive during what’s turned into a prolonged period of remote work.

Like Enova, all companies with a reputation as a great place to work in IT have had to reinvent their carefully crafted cultures for the new normal. Instead of catered dinners or drinks with colleagues working late nights, there are now virtual happy hours, cook-alongs, and Zoom wine and book clubs. Running, biking, and yoga clubs have morphed online, and that exercise or at-work gaming partner is now a virtual buddy.

Beyond finding ways to mimic watercooler engagement in an online space, organizations have also had to step up their game to ensure their collaborative cultures prevail and that the business of IT isn’t disrupted by new work patterns.

“We’ve had to get more creative with how to keep collaboration and engagement high,” says Joe DeCosmo, chief technology officer and chief analytics officer at Enova, ranked the No. 11 midsize organization on the 2020 Best Places to Work in IT list from Insider Pro and Computerworld. “We don’t have the great perks in the office available to use, but the culture is still the same — team members are super-empowered to manage their time and do their work, and we encourage innovation and creativity.”

Kitchen-table conversation

decosmo joe enova profile picEnova International, Inc.

“We’ve had to get more creative with how to keep collaboration and engagement high.” —Joe DeCosmo, CTO and CAO, Enova

One way Enova has sparked engagement in its ranks is through existing employee resource groups, such as those for women, Black and Latinx workers, which are working hard to create community and conversation. There have been regular meet-ups to talk about the issues of the day, including discussions around Juneteenth and other hot topics, DeCosmo says.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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