Covid-19 did not only present a challenge regarding Aritco’s business, but also its employees. Within the walls of the Stockholm headquarters, both production and traditional office spaces are housed. The tightly knit team was split up when one half of the staff was required to work from home in accordance with guidelines from the Swedish authorities. CEO Martin Idbrant talks about the importance of live meetings to build a company culture and describes how Aritco has solved the community when colleagues are not allowed to meet.
Home Offices and Fairness in the Wake of the Pandemic
Aritco CEO Martin Idbrant on nurturing a corporate culture
Corporate Culture is Built Face to Face
Balancing Fairness of Home Office vs Office Building
The beating heart of Aritco is the 12.000 square meter manufacturing area where about 4.000 elevators are produced per year. The same building holds a smaller section of open, activity-based office spaces for the remaining employees. Shared spaces, such as the dining area, gym, and hangout rooms encourage the Aritco family to come together. For more than a year, however, the team has been split up as half the staff works from home while the other half has to physically be on site.
CEO Martin Idbrant talks about the effects of the pandemic. He mentions the importance of community despite physical distance, fairness, and essential measures for the business.
“We have a production site that must keep moving if Aritco is to even have a product to sell. Early on, we communicated to the entire organization which roles are critical to remain in place and why. It is important to foster an understanding of why some have to be on site while others must work from home – it has to do with the role, not the person.”
Communication and Transparency are Key
With coworkers in multiple countries across continents, it was inevitable that the pandemic would affect some differently and at different times from others. Communication and transparency have always been in high regard at Aritco, and now they were put to the test.
“We have improved a lot in our communication structures” Martin says and continues “not just regarding business aspects, but also various projects and shared interests where we have previously had a more informal spread of information. In the past, those who have been interested in knowing more have been expected to find some of the information they need on their own.”
With many employees also working from home during the pandemic, information needs to be more formalized and structured. Not just sales numbers, goals, and budgets, but also softer aspects about how the pandemic affects coworkers in various offices and more.
“I am immensely proud of the work our managers have done through the pandemic” Martin explains. “A great deal of cross-functional projects have been coordinated that connect employees across departments, along with active work by our managers to ensure that their teams are both motivated and doing well mentally. Additionally, we scheduled meetings for the entire global organization every 14 days where we shared information about successful initiatives, projects and so on.”
Soft Values and Hard Facts
In a global organization, people are used to communicating digitally with both colleagues and partners according to Martin, but nonetheless difficulties arise no matter how accustomed people are. In such situations, nothing beats a good old meeting in person.
“If there was an issue, we would have made an appointment to meet up. You have a meeting, perhaps even a dinner, shake hands. That usually resolves things. Now this option is not available. A relationship consists of feelings and soft values, not just hard facts”, he elaborates.
Dealing with multiple languages and cultures also poses some challenges. Not being able to meet in person affects these.
“In my experience, it is harder to be polite in a second or third language in writing than in speech. In an attempt to be clear, you can end up sounding very curt or blunt in a language that you are less familiar with. This can be interpreted as arrogant or rude. Being conscious of these things naturally decreases the risk of intolerance, but I am really looking forward to being able to meet everyone again and recover for lost relationship-building time.”
Respect, Engagement and Teamwork
For more than a year, one half of Aritco employees have been working from home. What will the workplace of the future look like for the company?
“There are two components to consider” Martin says. “One is to offer maximum flexibility to coworkers with jobs that can be done outside of the office. At the same time, we naturally want to maintain our strong company culture, which is a key to success. This makes it complex where we need to find a good balance. I am convinced that some in-person presence is needed to build a culture of respect, engagement and teamwork.”
Martin points out that cross-functional interactions are needed to improve both the culture and customer experience. This conviction was around long before the pandemic when Aritco moved to new, modern office spaces with higher flexibility and a clear vision of maximizing teamwork in general, and cross-functional collaboration and innovation in specific.
“In 2018, we fundamentally shifted our views on the physical office. At Aritco, nobody has a fixed seat, myself included” Martin says.
“This also involved a complete overhaul of our IT infrastructure, hardware and storage. We have also had an advantage as we, in a global organization, have had to work digitally. The pandemic has accelerated this trend, not started it”, Martin concludes.
Next Interview: A Future with the Pandemic in the Rear-View Mirror
Aritco has the workplace certification “A Great Place To Work”. Despite having a geographically divided team, Martin Idbrant is confident that the sense of community and shared purpose will remain. But – there is a but – he says: “I miss the coffee machine conversations.”
In the last part of our interview series with Martin, he talks about a future in the aftermath of the pandemic and the importance of subtle nuances.
Interview series with CEO Martin Idbrant
Read the other two interviews with Martin, click the buttons below: