Remembering the importance of human connection

100% Human at Work_Jean Oelwang
100% Human at Work_Jean Oelwang
Jean Oelwang
by Jean Oelwang
24 February 2021
One thing that has been universally missed in its absence during the COVID-19 crisis is human connection.

While digital solutions have played a crucial role in keeping people connected, we must remember when thinking about technology to always start with the human being.

We launched the 100% Human at Work network to help companies put human beings at the centre of all they do.

With special thanks to Arianna Huffington, Ajaz Ahmed, Richard Branson, Virgin Unite, The B Team, Unilever and EY, the network has grown into a movement of over 500 companies. Together this network has achieved many incredible things, including shaping the five foundations for what makes a company human: respect, equality, growth, belonging and purpose.

Goals House
Goals House

As businesses around the globe navigate their way through the uncertainty of COVID-19 the 100% Human team have been paying close attention to how technology is being used to support the five foundations.

Here are some of our favourite examples...

Respect – We love EY’s new digital platform, which is democratising the future of work conversation using crowdsourcing technology. The platform allows open and authentic dialogue between workforces and leadership, acknowledging that the most powerful working environments are those that are enriched by as many perspectives as possible.

Equality – Unilever have introduced a virtual childcare platform to allow their team members to offer their time to assist other team members in the company who are juggling working from home and caring for their children (who are also at home). Parents who access the platform are offered 1-2 hours of virtual childcare support from their co-workers, via Skype, at a time that suits.

Growth – At Virgin, we’ve also tried to leverage virtual connection to help people grow. Virgin Management launched a series of Wellbeing Sessions, comprising of monthly one-hour digital events with articles, podcasts and videos providing insights and practical tips from world leading experts and thought leaders.

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic launched a ‘flight school’ hosted by the airline’s very own aviation experts. Lessons covered topics from the life of cabin crew, to the design of aircraft interior – each taking place to help entertain and educate children unable to attend their regular schooling. Ulusaba, Virgin Limited Edition’s game reserve in South Africa, even launched a “safari from your sofa” to help bring the wonders of Mother Nature into people’s homes.

Belonging – A few of the best ways to ensure a sense of workplace belonging include offering your employees access to frequent calls, fireside chats, company updates and leadership sessions. At Virgin Unite we have regular ‘team huddles’, which are small group chats with team members (usually two or three people maximum).

Huddles create a safe space to check how colleagues are doing and allow everyone an opportunity to raise what’s on their mind. Sometimes fun updates are shared, sometimes we talk about people’s state of mind and mental health, sometimes people use it as a forum to raise things they are finding challenging.

The constant is that these are a safe, comfortable space, so team members don’t feel alone and so they know support is available if needed. These huddles always remind me of Dan Buetnner in his Blue Zones work that found that some of the longest living people had what the Japanese call Moai – small social support groups that are lifelong friends.

Purpose – The pandemic’s challenges have driven many companies to reflect on and supercharge their purpose. For companies such as Menlo Innovations, whose purpose is underpinned by the single goal of ‘joy’, with a core value of transparency, living their purpose enabled them to thrive.

Menlo’s purpose is so deeply embedded in their culture that teams instinctively knew how to adapt to the change in their working world and understood that never losing sight of their purpose would allow them to problem solve in the new world collectively. They were empowered to experiment with new ways of doing things and quickly recreated their unique culture remotely, continuing to create joy for their colleagues and clients.

Getty Images | Alistair Berg
Getty Images | Alistair Berg

The pandemic ushered many of us into new ways of working. In some instances, these ways were accompanied by increased levels of vulnerability and new profound connections. In others, communicating solely through screens has been an overwhelming burden and concerns about online surveillance and online safety have skyrocketed.

Amidst this rapid change, the foundations for what makes a company ‘human’ remain the same and we must ensure that technology and the communication tools we use are always created from a human lens.