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Ibi Eso speaks at CGIUKI event: Changing the narrative – Sustaining a corporate culture

Ibi Eso, senior governance consultant, Bridgehouse Company Secretaries, took part in the Chartered Governance Institute webinar Changing the narrative – Sustaining a corporate culture on 28 April.

Among a wide range of topics, the panel discussed how remote working and increasing economic uncertainty continue to challenge # sustaining corporate culture. The effort involved in keeping staff aligned with a business mission can highlight good corporate practices, as well as governance flaws and inadequacies.

The webinar was hosted by Peter Swabey, policy & research director at The Chartered Governance Institute, and the panel included Ibi Eso, senior governance consultant, Bridgehouse Company Secretaries; Alison Gill, Bvalco; Alison Horrocks, Inmarsat; and Fahrin Ribeiro, Willis Towers Watson.

Ibi highlighted the leadership approaches she had seen from clients and also the approach taken by Bridgehouse Company Secretaries, which has an established history of working flexibly and of assisting clients with remote boardroom meetings.

“At the start of the pandemic, things changed so drastically. We all had to think on our feet. Organisations took some time to consider how they moved forward,” said Ibi. “Amongst out client base we definitely saw the leadership teams communicating more with staff teams.”

On work from home, she stressed that she had always been a proponent of flexible working both in terms of hours and location. “It’s about choice,” she said. “The office environment will need to change if some people are working remotely. But we may need larger offices – not smaller ones – because if people are having Zoom calls then we may need pods or an area where people can go to make those calls.”

She also noted the importance of ensuring that the same checks and balances in terms of work, life balance remain in place for home-based workers.

“It’s important that we ensure there are boundaries, because it’s so easy for work [from home] to encompass the whole day. It’s also very important for companies to help with those boundaries,” she said, reiterating that if companies are going to move to a hybrid office model then it is important that the people who regularly attend the office don’t become “the favoured ones”.

“That will continue to be a challenge,” said Ibi. “Also, we have to make sure that health and safety is taken as seriously at home as it is in the office. We also have to be aware of people having the space to work – employers need to be mindful that not all people have the space to have a home office. Boundaries are very important – staff need space to breathe.”

The panel broadly agreed that a number of cultural and practical issues needed to be addressed within businesses, as Fahrin Ribeiro of Willis Towers Watson questioned how senior leaders replace “walking the office”?

Alison Gill of Bvalco stressed the important role the board has to play in thinking about how people in the organisation are progressing, citing the potential role of technology to help track staff engagement and mood.

“Organisations aren’t boxes and lines, they are networks of people,” she said. “There needs to be a strong commitment from leadership of moving forwards, not going back. Perhaps combining deep work at home, more collaborative work in the office.”

Alison Horrocks of Inmarsat asked how businesses organise flexibility and the best ways to group people so that they have the opportunity to both work from home and meet with relevant colleagues, though she noted companies will need “patience and time to get it right”.

It was a point taken up by Ibi, who pondered that the new normal would need careful consideration in order to help businesses and the people working within them, adding: “Possibly there might be [designated] ‘office days’, so people will know there are other people in the office when they go in, because otherwise when do you meet up?”

Alison Gill stressed: “The language of how this is done is important, because we don’t want to go back to how things were before Covid. So it is important that businesses try to make sure that they are encouraging people to understand it’s not about going back, it’s about moving forwards.”

 

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