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4 pillars for nurturing connectedness in a flexible work environment

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For many organizations, the past few years have been an unexpected experiment in the future of work. From rapidly adopting remote work at the height of the pandemic to transitioning into hybrid models, the resulting learnings and insights impact the way we work today.

At 84.51°, we recognize that providing associates with the flexibility to choose where they work is essential. As our CEO Milen Mahadevan put it, “The future of work has to be more open, more inclusive and more flexible.” At the same time, helping associates build and maintain connections to the company and each other becomes more complex in a flexible work environment.    

“The future of work has to be more open, more inclusive and more flexible.”  

Tackling complex problems with innovative solutions is at the heart of what 84.51° does. And while associate engagement is a never-ending journey, here are the core pillars behind our approach to driving maximum engagement, productivity and connections in a flexible work environment: 

1. Personal connections: Foster collaboration, learning, and trust  In an environment where associates may or may not be working together in person, forging connections is crucial to driving collaboration, knowledge transfer and trust. We are committed to creating strategies that encourage these connections. Whether it's through company-wide events (in-person and virtual), team-building activities, mentorship programs, or coffee chats, we aim to facilitate meaningful interactions that enhance collaboration and camaraderie.    Example: In 2022, we launched Icebreaker—a Microsoft Teams app that randomly pairs associates with other associates once a month. The app also assists in setting up meetings for the associates to chat. The purpose is to drive connections that may not otherwise happen in a hybrid environment.    2. Cultural experiences: Driving immersion and intentional inclusion  As our work environment becomes more fluid, embracing and embedding inclusive practices and technology is key to helping every associate feel valued and heard. From customizing the onboarding experience for a hybrid environment to helping colleagues stay connected through regular touchpoints, supporting our employee resource groups and more, we’re committed to fostering associate pride in the company and a sense of inclusion—wherever associates are.     Example: In celebration of International Women’s Day, we launched a month-long series of virtual and in-person events. Activities included Q&As with inspirational guest speakers and a speed networking event between leaders and associates; both activities included an in-person and virtual option.     Other examples of how we foster connections online and in person include: 

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3. Digital and physical spaces: Creating a frictionless environment  To maximize engagement and remove barriers to person-to-person interaction, we recognize the importance of seamlessly integrating our digital and physical spaces. By leveraging technology, we created platforms and tools that facilitate effortless communication, collaboration, and information sharing for moments that matter most. Additionally, our physical office spaces are designed to promote casual meetings and creativity, providing an inspiring backdrop for in-person connections and team gatherings.    Example: Our offices in Cincinnati and Chicago are designed with a variety of rooms to meet different needs: quiet rooms, huddle rooms, large conference rooms for company-wide meetings and “watch parties”, as well as a game area.  

4. Clear communications: Maintaining open and transparent communication  In a flexible work environment, effective communication between associates, teammates and managers takes on a heightened significance. Open and transparent communications ensures that expectations are understood, feedback is delivered promptly and concerns are addressed in a timely manner. It fosters a sense of trust, collaboration and accountability among team members. Moreover, consistent communication helps bridge the gap between remote and in-office employees, ensuring that everyone feels connected, informed and engaged in our company’s goals and initiatives.     Example:  

  • We deployed two-way, asynchronous communication channels such as monthly blogs from our senior leaders, a weekly info email for associates and celebrate successes on Teams via #WinningWednesday posts to keep our teams informed, connected and inspired. 

  • Members of ITOPiA, our employee resource group which supports introverts, created a best practices one-pager on how to ensure all voices are heard in hybrid meetings.   

The future of work is now  In this new age of employment flexibility, 84.51° is committed to nurturing connectedness among our associates. We firmly believe that by prioritizing personal connections, evolving our cultural experiences, and optimizing our digital and physical spaces, we can drive engagement, productivity, and cultural cohesion.     Embracing flexibility is not just about adapting to change; it is about leveraging it to unlock the full potential of our limitless minds, fearless hearts, and relentless commitment to delivering exceptional results. Together, we will forge a future where work is not bound by location but defined by the strength of our connections.   

Ready to join us? Check out Careers at 84.51° to learn more.    

We’re leading a data revolution in the retail business, and we’re looking for partners who are ready for a deeper, more personal approach to customer engagement.

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