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Building relationships remotely, and not technology, has been the key to handling the pandemic, Dell and Slack executives say

Summary List PlacementWhile technology has been integral to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, building relationships among employees has been even more important to a successful work-from-home model, human resources executives from Dell and Slack said during an Insider event.
At Wednesday’s “Workplace Evolution,” hosted by Insider, Najuma Atkinson, the senior vice president of human resources at Dell, and Dawn Sharifan, the vice president of people at Slack, shared how they’ve continued to work with and onboard employees during the pandemic. 
In the session, titled “The Big Shift of 2020,” Atkinson and Sharifan said when their companies went fully remote last year, they had to weigh how to keep employees feeling supported, how to help managers lead a remote workforce, and how to build culture and community.
“Yes we use Slack; yes we use Zoom.” Sharifan said. “But I think really continuing to build that community is the most important thing regardless of what technology you use.”
Atkinson added that, “While technology is our enabler, the other key factor is about the culture.”
Working remotely has opened up opportunities for companies to hire new employees wherever they are, instead of location being a major factor, they said. Work is no longer tied to where we are physically, Atkinson said. “Everyone has a seat at this virtual table now. Because we are remote, you have more access versus less access to senior leaders and to opportunities that you may not have had,” Atkinson added.
People no longer have to leave their communities and homes to come work for a new company, she said. As for Dell, the company is using the remote opportunity to hire under-represented populations, such as women and minorities. The company has even launched a new effort to hire people on the autism spectrum to add to the talent pool. 
The playing field has been leveled for everyone, Sharifan said. One of Slack’s first moves amid the pandemic was to make all current and open positions remote. The company hired several hundred people during the pandemic who have never been into the office. 
With most people working from home, companies have been forced to think about the actual deliverables and skills needed for a job, as opposed to the amount of time spent in the office, Sharifan said.
“It’s less about butt and feet time,” she said. “You’re allowing more space for the moms and dads of the world that also need to be with their kids and don’t need to be seen in the office until 6 or 7 pm at night.”
Making sure employees have the ability to take care of themselves while working has also been key to success during the pandemic, the panelists said.
“Put on your own oxygen mask and take care of yourself,” Sharifan said. “It’s more important than ever for us to be thinking of the entire employee.”Join the conversation about this story »

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