Saving the soul of a work community – the pandemic story of Taiste
With colleagues meeting each other in the physical world way less than before, people at technology agency Taiste felt it was urgent to document the essence of their working culture. Their Communications Manager Tuomas Jalamo explains why this undertaking was so vital.
Like many other tech agencies this year, we too have already written about our work culture in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Contributing to that discussion by sharing what has worked for us seemed like the right thing to do.
Having operated from two cities since we first entered the picture in 2009, the possibility to work remotely instead of physically showing up at the office every morning is embedded in our DNA. This has largely made it possible for our work to continue uninterrupted even during the global crisis. We feel grateful to be able to say that Taiste has continued its steady growth, regardless of our jeans turning into sweatpants.
Perhaps more than ever, the world needs better digital tools to help us overcome the challenges of the rapidly changing environment. And yes, it’s weird how in 2020, a sentence like that suddenly does not sound like clichéd and empty marketing jargon at all.
But what about preserving work culture amidst it all? If isolation starts damaging the things that make the workplace unique, everything is at risk. For us, part of the answer was writing it all down.
“The world needs better digital tools to help us overcome the challenges of the rapidly changing environment.” In 2020, a sentence like that suddenly does not sound like clichéd and empty marketing jargon at all.
The importance of the invisible
While Taiste has done really well and we are technically equipped to handle all kinds of “new normals”, our worry soon became centred around the factors of our success that are much more challenging to put into numbers.
There’s an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect, inclusiveness and support that makes the experience of walking into our Turku and Helsinki offices feel really nice. It’s the sum of many things I suppose, including but not limited to: how we treat each other, how well our internal processes work and how our human-centric values are visible in real life. It might be described as, if I may be a bit theatrical, the collective soul of the 34 people now working here.
It is obvious that culture fuels motivation and well-being like nothing else. To grow in a situation where everyone is working from home poses new challenges. How do you introduce social culture to new team members who have perhaps never set foot in the office? And how do you ensure that the old team members don’t feel like the sense of community is disappearing?
How do you introduce social culture to new team members who have perhaps never set foot in the office?
Documenting the culture (and avoiding lame corporate speak)
Throughout the year, we have come up with ways to create alternative versions of our non-work related activities, too: everything from video hangouts to board game nights via streaming services.
A major biggest collective effort however, came in the form of creating a defining document of what it means to work at Taiste right now. What began as a small HR project became a way to capture our values and ways of working – the importance of which felt even greater as the coronavirus situation showed no sign of slowing down.
We were well aware that many documents like this end up being a big chunk of corporate BS, with little connection to reality. Our motivation then, was to capture what was already there, rather than envision some grand values and present them as words of some higher being.
Firstly, the result needed to be a collective effort. Because we are not yet a huge company, we actually had the luxury to make sure the document reflects our collective voice. Secondly, instead of writing some Holy Book, we wanted to create something that could be easily revised as time goes on. It was also important for it to be actually a pleasure to read; smooth sentence structure and a pleasing visual style instead of a sleep-inducing Word document that everyone forgets about in a week.
What began as a small HR project became a way to capture our values and ways of working.
Lastly, we decided to release the result of our efforts publicly. “Working With Taiste – Employee Experience Handbook” is already available on our site as a downloadable PDF. There will also be a physical book edition in early 2021.
For us, this makes the statements have more weight; the result will be read not only by every new employee, but also anyone who finds themselves interested in our philosophy of doing things.
Work cultures such as ours are born organically through the combination of people, processes and experience. But it is foolish to think that the spirit of a workplace will continue developing into an even better version of itself, by itself.
If this year has taught us anything, it is that every now and then, that soul needs a little saving.
Communications Manager at the digital agency Taiste.
A music and pop culture geek who likes carrot cake and dressing in black.
Interested in reading the results of Taiste’s quest to summarise their working culture? Download Working With Taiste – Employee Experience Handbook here.