How workplace tools shape your company culture
Workplace tools are designed to help you save time, be more productive, and communicate more easily.
But these tools sometimes do more than you bargain for. With every task management tool or collaboration app you use, your organization is nudged into a particular way of working. And it’s not always for the better.
You can get straitjacketed into particular processes, find yourself using different terms, or be forced to use methods and systems you never intended to adopt.
Why does this matter? Because your company culture, which you spent so long building and makes your company unique, risks being eroded.
In this post, we look at how the tools you use affect your culture, why that should be a concern, and what you can do to fix it.
Four ways tools impact your company culture, often without you noticing
Your company culture is what sets you apart as a business. It’s the way you organize and create things, how your people interact with each other, and how they think about the work they do. And it’s also how your organization presents itself to the world.
Your company culture defines your unique identity and helps you attract and retain the best people.
Many employees, for example, have come to expect a flexible and asynchronous working culture. Some say they would even consider moving to a new job — and take a pay cut to move elsewhere — if they were prevented from working flexibly.
Others are interested in growth opportunities, how companies handle mentorship, or a business’ approach to transparency and open communication.
If these issues are important to you, making them a visible and meaningful part of how you work will help to incorporate them into your company culture.
What may come as a surprise is that the tools you use can influence your company culture, too. Because they determine the processes that guide the way you work, they have a lot of power to shape your business.
Here are four key ways they can impact, and even transform, your culture.
1. Your tools impose ways of communicating
Whether you advise against after-hours emails or encourage time for deep work, the way you communicate is likely a key pillar of your culture.
And rightly so. In our research, we found that company communications have a profound impact on employee productivity and well-being.
Yet no matter how good your intentions, if the tools you use aren’t aligned with your vision, you’ll struggle to put your communication culture into action.
Take Slack or other instant messenger apps, for example. Studies show that the average employee receives as many as 125 Slack messages a day, in an endless stream of notifications. This makes it hard to create a culture that prioritizes deep work. If time for dedicated, creative work is important to you, be prepared to fight against the expectation that replies have to be instant. Tell your employees that they can silence notifications if they wish.
Messaging apps pose a wider challenge for organizations committed to asynchronous work. Our research found that 73% of employees reply to notifications they receive after hours. And they’re spending an average of 67 minutes extra each day online — just to show they’re busy.
All this means that, if you want to build a different way of communicating, be selective about the tools you choose.
2. Tools inevitably emphasize certain values
Alongside your communication style, the values your business holds are at the heart of your culture. But they’re vulnerable to the software you use, too.
Say you pride yourself on your commitment to openness and transparency. Is your collaboration tool actually allowing you to cultivate this in your workplace?
While they can be great for managing workflows, many project management tools limit visibility over tasks or projects to people who are specifically assigned to them. Private Slack channels also limit the visibility of valuable discussions for those who don’t have access. The result is that transparency gets blocked and ideas and projects remain siloed within particular functions.
This has knock-on effects on your wider creativity and idea-sharing. For example, 62% of employees report missing opportunities for collaboration because their tools don’t offer the visibility they would like.
All these siloed resources, projects, and knowledge are a handbrake on your teams’ ability to get work done. Employees are wasting time digging up the information they need, when they could be spending it on productive, rewarding work.
Organizations that want a culture of agility and transparency often have their workplace tools working against them. And that’s not why they adopted them in the first place.
3. They force you to adopt different processes and terminology
Most software, apps, or platforms you adopt will have been built outside your organization and not necessarily for your organization.
That means that, inevitably, you’ll have to adapt to their set of processes, language, and systems.
In some ways, this appears harmless. These days, we take the vocabulary of threads, channels, folders, and boards for granted, all of which have come from our range of tools.
But the sheer variety of contrasting labels and terms can be alienating and confusing for employees if it contrasts with your own company language. Particularly when companies are using as many as 250 different tools.
More insidiously, though, these established processes can clash with the creative ways in which you might organize your resources or ideas.
If you’re using tools like Trello for project management, for example, your teams are forced into a linear stream of comments — without much space for brainstorming, lateral thinking, or cross-functional collaboration.
Is that what you want your company culture to stand for?
Or perhaps you have your own words to describe positive feedback or particular types of projects. If you’re using a tool that uses different terminology, it will be an uphill battle to ensure it’s widely adopted.
4. There’s little space for customization
This brings us to the question of customization.
While many tools say they’re flexible and responsive to your needs, that flexibility is often pretty cosmetic. Typically, it’ll be limited to customizable visualizations or designs, rather than the fundamental processes that guide your work.
As a result, the risk is that what makes you unique gets lost. Simply, when you’re using the same standard messaging apps, project management software, and collaboration tools as everyone else, you end up speaking, working, and managing your tasks like them, too.
Of course, for some businesses that might not be a huge problem. But if you’re doing groundbreaking work to disrupt your industry, the standard way of doing things likely won’t be good enough.
Don’t sacrifice your company culture for the sake of your tools
The software you use can undermine your communications, hamper collaboration, and erode your company’s uniqueness. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Instead, choose software that’s designed to suit the culture of your organization. Software that’s truly flexible, customizable to your workflows and processes, and tailored to your needs. Software like Qatalog.
Qatalog is a bespoke system that fits the form of your business and grows with it. Rather than your organization having to adopt a different way of working, Qatalog adapts to you, including your terminology, your communication style, and the values that matter.
It’s not just another tool to add to your software stack, though. Qatalog offers a Work Hub to manage all your operations — the way you like them to be managed — helping you to collaborate, communicate, document your knowledge, and everything else you need to do.
Book a demo to try a tool that keeps your company culture intact.