Suddenly Separate: Keeping Your Team Connected and Mission-Driven While Apart

April 8, 2020

Tried and True Ideas for Topics from Professional Conversations to Resilience and Safety

Tried and True Ideas for Topics from Professional Conversations to Resilience and Safety

The coronavirus produced a sudden workplace shift for many of us. As stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines have most people working from home, in-person gatherings are replaced by online meetings, emails and text chats.

While remote work has been around for a while, it is the new normal for some of these workers, who also are adjusting to different family routines and other challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Certified B Corporations, keeping workers informed amid constant change and engaged with their purpose-driven mission is another challenge. We reached out to B Corps via the B Hive, an online communications space, to learn the tools and practices they are using to keep workers and clients connected and mission-driven while they are apart. Below are a few examples.

Professional Conversations

Career connections are the base of business for e180, a Montreal-based B Corp that created its Braindate platform to help workers meet and learn from each other. Initially offered at in-person events and in communities around the world, Braindate is now offering a virtual meeting tool for event planners and organizers—and others looking to connect for topic-specific conversations.

When Christine Renaud launched the initial Braindate platform in 2011, it helped people meet for conversations in coffee shops. She saw its potential for Braindate and the event industry—where people are eager to learn from others—and shifted toward that emphasis a couple years later.

B Corp e180 is shifting to Virtual Braindate events to help people connect for meaningful conversations, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Now, Renaud says, Braindate is evolving again to serve the market’s shifting needs. She adds that the move to use Braindate as a virtual tool actually was in her company’s plans for this year so it could provide services throughout the year rather than at occasional events.

“The theme for us for the year internally was how to bring collaborative learning yearlong to our clients’ communities. So we had been thinking about virtual braindates for a long time,” she says. “As soon as we think about yearlong engagement, you have to go virtual. Even when people gather for an event, they go home. This year the big quest is how can we help people support each other in their learning quests—cheering each other, keeping each other accountable.”

But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the Virtual Braindate timeline, and on April 2 e180 offered its first Virtual Braindate for event professionals—to introduce the tool and demonstrate its value as people seek connections while apart.

“We position Braindate as a tool for people to have meaningful conversations,” Renaud says. “Our ‘secret sauce’ is we encourage people to set an intention for their conversation and help so they really contribute to the conversation and get a lot of value in meeting a stranger for 30 minutes.”

That meaningful connection is what separates Braindate from other virtual meeting tools, she says, especially when colleagues and people who work in similar fields are separated physically but still need to collaborate.

“In this new work reality, we still have things we want to accomplish, and we still want to have those meaningful conversations that are valuable and relevant,” she says. “Now that we’re probably in this for the long haul, Braindate can bring that intentionality, that relevancy, so people can have great conversations that can push them further.”

When e180 certified as a B Corp two years ago, the B Impact Assessment served as a natural motivator for Renaud, who has long identified as a social entrepreneur.

“As soon as I started doing the assessment, I was struck by the inspiration—seeing how I could build my business. All of those questions just make you want to be better,” she says. “At e180, our values are very anchored in contributing to the world and staying true to who we are. As soon as you put a product out there, people see what they need in it and may push you to become something that you don’t want to be. As CEO and one of the entrepreneurs behind it, my role is to always keep us very focused on the value we want to add in people’s lives. For us, the value is for people to learn from each other.”

As employers, entrepreneurs and workers around the world adapt to shifting situations, Renaud sees how e180 and other B Corps can step up and shape the future economy.

“Right now, we all have to be some sort of innovators,” she says. “Being a B Corp is a testament of that culture we have of always keeping our eyes on our vision of what the world can be if we do our job right.”

The “Chattanooga is” site created by B Corp Whiteboard provides liks to community resources.

Community Connections

The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on business and people prompted Eric Brown and his colleagues at B Corp Whiteboard to action. Brown and others at the creative agency used their professional skills to launch a community website for the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area that answers the question many people have right now: How can I help my neighbors?

“It’s a response to many of us feeling the same things,” Brown says. “We’re overwhelmed with news headlines, and it’s hard to find encouragement. Friends are worried about their businesses. Many families need the essentials.”

Building on the B Corp value of supporting the community, the website offers resources for those seeking help and those offering help with relevant links to local organizations that provide mental health services, food assistance, business and job support, and more.

“We did our best to create a resource that is easy-to-navigate, curates voices of encouragement from our own community, and points people in the right direction,” Brown says.

Around the globe in Milano, Italy, Alice Siracusano and her colleagues at B Corp LUZ are providing a platform so its community of artists can share stories on the pandemic from their perspectives—and connecting people who are following stay-at-home orders.

This image, taken in Chile, is by one of the photographers featured in the interview on SPNS, an online social magazine created by B Corp LUZ.
Copyright: © Tomas Quiroga / LUZ

As a communications agency with a large network of photographers, LUZ asked six of its collaborators around the world how the pandemic is affecting their work as freelance creatives. Their stories are shared on SPNS, the B Corp’s online social magazine.

“We also invited several artists to create artwork expressing their feelings toward the quarantine, to encourage positivity and highlight the importance of art,” Siracusano says. “Once a day we post the work of a new artist on our Instagram magazine K of Kulture, targeted to Generation Z.”

LUZ also highlights the work of photographers and other artists in its weekly sustainability e-newsletter, an ongoing resource that now can serve an additional purpose.

Resilience and Safety

While the pandemic reshapes everyday routines, it also presents opportunities to create new processes and strategies. That’s where B Corp AE Works also sees an opportunity to share its knowledge of workplace safety, security and business continuity with organizations and businesses in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.

It recently offered a free virtual roundtable discussion—with strategies and resources for nonprofits and community organizations—about emergency management and preparedness in collaboration with local partners Curio 412 and Alliance for Response Pittsburgh.

Another on-demand webinar created with partner Citrin Consulting focuses on managing and leading during times of crisis, plus tools to manage and support virtual work environments, communication strategies, business resiliency and workplace safety.

“Applying our workplace safety expertise, we collaborated with organizational psychology and resiliency industry leaders on webinars and resources to share actionable steps to help businesses maintain resiliency and safety in the workplace,” says AE Works President and CEO Michael Cherock, PE.
“Over the years, we’ve invested in the resources and technology to provide the firm with a strong foundation. Embracing technology has enabled our work and provided staff with the tools and knowledge to make a transition to a virtual environment during this crisis as seamless as possible so we can actively work toward our mission.”

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