As we learn to live in a world with a pandemic on both a personal and business level, it has affected us all in different ways. We recently got the chance to speak with the immensely talented Senior Director for Global People & Workplace of Nitro Software Inc; Katie Banks about how the pandemic has affected her, the business, and her workforce. Nitro is a global document productivity software company driving digital transformation in organisations around the world across multiple industries.
“Employees with young families struggled with a work from home environment and work for home balance when schools and childcare closed. Millennials who lived alone struggled with isolation and loneliness particularly where they were renting away from home and family. Some renters struggled with space for a work from home environment where they were in shared accommodation. I think all employees felt some sort of mental health impact or have become more aware of how important it is.”
When we asked Katie about the challenges she foresees for employers of her industry in retaining talent into the future as disruption in the workplace seems set to continue for some time, she gave us an interesting piece of insight on the importance of flexibility;
“With a shift to remote work, competition will increase. Flexibility will also be a big differentiator for existing employees – how flexible will your company will be in terms of longer-term working solution and a balance of working remotely and in the office.”
As more changes are forced upon the workforce, there will likely be a notable culture shift that will impact the business universe on a more macro level. Businesses will need to adapt while also remaining true to their core values.
“A lot of tech companies have a culture that’s built on organic learning and in-person engagement so that can be hard to navigate remotely. I think you need to have a strong culture code that can translate in some essence virtually or a group of employees and leaders dedicated to maintaining and supporting the culture that has been built.”
Given that most employers have gone from having to manage one workplace or a portfolio of central offices to a situation where everyone’s home is now a workplace, we asked Katie about her biggest learnings from the transition;
“How do you support a person’s workplace that is now their personal space? It’s the biggest take away. What allowances can you apply? You need to understand what was the biggest advantage of someone’s ability to come to an office – was its engagement with others, productivity, lack of appropriate workspace at home etc. You can’t make a remote work environment a success if you don’t understand the key factors that impact such a change.”
There is a large focus on helping employees, but it has been a steep learning curve for business directors too, which can often be neglected by mainstream business media. With such a keen devotion to looking after the valued members of her workforce, we wanted to know how things had affected Katie on a personal level as she shifted from a 1-hour commute to work to the now-standard work from home setup.
Katie had a similar answer to a lot of us as she discussed how she loves “catching up on box sets when the kids go to bed”. It’s comforting to know that a lot of us are in the same boat here regardless of individual circumstances. Like many of us, Katie told us how she enjoys reading the Sunday Independent on her weekends and eating at her local Rustic Italian. She even kindly offered some advice for anyone looking to staycation in Ireland, mentioning how the Wild Atlantic Way route is a fantastic choice.
Given her responsibility for leading the HR department in Nitro and controlling employee learning and development, it is fantastic to see Katie’s acknowledgement and understanding of the pandemic’s effect on her workers. Knowing that the directors of our business care about us has an incredibly relieving impact, and hopefully a similar approach can be adopted in other businesses around the world.