Board with words to illustrate communication challenges

When you open Rydoo’s Slack, there are a few things that stand out right away. First, the number of channels we use for the different teams and projects under development, second, the way people update their status to let others know what they’re doing or where they are. It’s not about control — given that Rydoo abides by a flexible and open-minded culture —, but about transparency and creating strategies to improve communication between all employees.

Right now, I see that some people are in a meeting, a few are out on vacation, someone is sick and someone else is on the way to our office in Lisbon. The pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the challenges the job market has had to face over the last few years have changed the way we work and using the right tools can make communication easier for all employees, whilst also creating the best experiences in the workplace.

A December 2022 survey by TravelPerk found that companies are shifting to a hybrid working model and, in some cases, there are no restrictions on coming and going to the office. And even though some of the respondents stated that they miss the face-to-face interaction with their peers, most felt that they can now have a better work-life balance and that they are more productive.

Regardless, some have stated that a hybrid model of work can decrease the quality of communication between teammates, which can create barriers on productivity and affect overall happiness. But how can technology and choosing the right tools help with overcoming these challenges that companies — and business leaders — are still facing in a post-pandemic world? These are a few of the topics I had a chance to discuss with Kelly Jewison, Head of Product Partnerships and Business Development for TravelPerk, and Toby Hough, People & Culture Director, EMEA at HiBob, during The Great Reconnection live panel in London.

Collaborating through the right platforms

The pandemic changed the way we connect and collaborate, and if there’s one thing we all noticed at our companies is that, more and more, teams have become more dispersed throughout the world. Inevitably, this changes the way people work together and can even create barriers in communication, especially when you have a lot of teams.

“I had an amazing team in Europe, but that team grew a lot during Covid”, Toby said during our conversation. “They knew their teammates well, but they didn’t know the rest of the business, the other teams were impersonal, general collective nouns.”

When mentioning this and the communication problems that can arise, Kelly, from TravelPerk, added that “collaboration between different internal stakeholders, between different business organisations is crucial to the success of a business. Opening up, being transparent and figuring out how to work together, talking about your different objectives and how they can align and overlap and how they can grow, that’s the key to a good business and a great work experience.”

Toby also mentioned during the conversation that, even though most companies do a great job at growing their teams and providing them with a great culture and sense of belonging, the fact remains that distance can create a few obstacles. One of them is staying compliant.

This is one of the ways integrating the right tools can help overcome obstacles and create better work experiences. When you need to stay compliant and abide by not only your company’s policies but local legislations as well, using tools that connect and work together to solve these problems will help you structure your team and allow you to stay compliant, whilst ensuring happiness at work, another major topic of our discussion.

Collaboration between different internal stakeholders, between different business organisations is crucial to the success of a business. Opening up, being transparent and figuring out how to work together, talking about your different objectives and how they can align and overlap and how they can grow, that’s the key to a good business and a great work experience.

Kelly Jewison

Head of Product Partnerships and Business Development at TravelPerk

Happiness at work

At Rydoo, practicality is one of our core personality traits that guides us on an everyday basis. But we don’t take these traits and values lightly, we practise what we preach, because we believe this is how we gain our employees’ trust. And that’s where interconnected tools come into play.

Empowering employees with the right technology — such as expense management software, a project management tool, or an HR platform —, can help solve the problem of eliminating all the white noise and allowing people to focus on what really matters to them, what provides value to the company but also to themselves. With that, you show them how seriously you take your company’s values, making them feel like they matter to you.

“If people are happy, they are more likely to be staying with you”, Toby says. “And you might think ‘well, how does a well set up technology stack impact a sense of belonging?’, and I think it does. If, for instance, you have a small number of your team members in Germany and you set up an expense system that allows them to expense their mileage correctly and they have all the details there, well, that’s important for them, isn’t it?”

Creating great work experiences can also happen even in the smallest of details, and Toby provided a great example of this. A non-binary colleague joined their team recently, so IT made a change in one of the forms so that it now features a “they/them” option. “Less than 1% of our business identifies as non-binary, but the impact that it had on that individual gave them a sense of belonging and happiness before they even joined. And it was just a minor change in the software.”

When using the right tools means happiness

After implementing Rydoo, one of our biggest clients was able to stream down their shared services from 15 to 5 people. Before, they were going through expenses manually, but using a SaaS solution such as ours allowed them to trim down processes and make them more efficient.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they had to fire those employees. In that case, people got a chance to focus on other things that, in the end, add more value to the company and their business. In situations such as this, the result is that employees end up feeling like their work matters. They feel like they’re valuable to the organisation.

“You send a very deliberate message to your team that they belong, and they have a place”, Toby said. “When you’ve thought about your entire workforce and how you choose and implement these systems, that is recognized and noticed. If the systems are helping them work together, then you’re going to win the efficiencies there as well.”

Using integrated systems also allows for better coordination in global businesses. One of the most common issues with international teams is dealing with time zones. Often, employees feel like they need to adjust themselves to the time zone of the main office so they can maintain a flow of communication with the rest of the team. This can lead to people working longer hours — or, sometimes, at early hours — just so they can stay in touch with the rest of the business.

Employees live in a very digitally connected world. And we can’t really afford to not have well-connected integrated systems to make people’s jobs easier.

Toby Hough

People & Culture Director, EMEA at HiBob

These sorts of situations are easily avoided with the help of technology and using the right tools because, as Toby said during our discussion, “it often just comes from people not realising it, from lack of awareness.” And technology can help bring that awareness. In Slack, for instance, whenever you send a message to someone in a different timezone, it alerts you to the fact that you might be trying to reach someone outside of their working hours. “In Israel, the team works on Sundays, that’s where 50% of our business is, so we’re constantly saying to the team in Israel ‘don’t send out messages on a Sunday, cause it’s going to encourage us to read it’”, Toby added.

Take another example from a large company that has offices all over the globe and that I had a chance to sit down with. They developed a system of their own which integrates with all their services to create an automatic flow. So, whenever someone asks for personal time off and it gets approved by the manager, the system automatically sends the request to payroll, the email creates an out-of-office message, and it even blocks Slack notifications and shows that the person is out of the office. It’s just one simple manipulation in the system that makes everyone’s jobs easier, from the employee to the manager and even finance and HR.

Not all companies have the necessary amount of resources to have such a system in place. Regardless, there are different types of software solutions that, when combined, can help achieve similar results. Working on integrating the best-in-class softwares available can, in the end, allow you to turn workflows into smoother and easier experiences for everyone involved, from employees to manager and even C-Level executives.

“We don’t want to over-complicate things, we want to simplify things”, said Kelly. “Reducing the things like human error and all those headaches that come along with these processes, can drive a massive impact within your company or your organisation. You’ve got to keep streamlining these processes and procedures. Because the easier you make it, the more people are going to use it.”

“Employees live in a very digitally connected world”, Toby concluded. “And we can’t really afford to not have well-connected integrated systems to make people’s jobs easier.”

By choosing to implement systems that not only recognise these flaws but try to overcome them, we stop relying on people who often, even if unintentionally, are not always privy to the information needed for a decision to be made like scheduling a meeting with a coworker whose time zone is different or is simply out of office on that day. Great software can point us in the right direction and employees, I believe, tend to appreciate that.