Cultural Connectedness During Crisis

Written by

Scott Byrne-Fraser


March 19, 2020

A lot can change in a short period of time. Just two weeks ago the Totem team had arrived back from a company ski trip. High on energy and looking forward to the challenges of the new financial year ahead.

Like most of Europe, we hadn’t appreciated the full threat of Coronavirus on a global scale. We hadn’t appreciated that two weeks later the majority of us would be working from home. An alien notion for a company that prides itself on the culture we have built within our office.

When the government’s Cobra meeting announced that the country would be moving to its ‘delay’ phase in containment, a wave of change swept across the working world instantly.

Companies that had never considered having a remote workforce closed their offices. Retail, hospitality and service companies saw a huge decline in customers overnight. Event spaces and sporting venues decided to close.

As the Chief Product Officer for Totem, I had the unique position of being able to watch this seismic shift play out across our client base. Though, not necessarily in the way we expected.

In just one day we saw a 35% increase in Daily Active Users and 171% increase in app sessions.

This resulted in our highest weekly active user count since launch.

What does this mean? It shows that in this period of rapid and uncertain change, people are turning not just to technology that makes them productive remotely, but that help them stay connected to the communities they trust to give them help, support and friendship.

Relationships matter more when people become physically isolated. Loneliness is one of the leading causes of mental illness. There is an inherent human need to feel part of a community or tribe, and to have a shared purpose. One that risks being unfulfilled when the work interactions we have are reduced to online meetings around work-related subjects – the ad hoc water cooler and tea break conversations disappear.

When companies moved overnight to a remote working model there was a shift in the way that people used Totem. We heard from our clients that people started sharing stories about their home working from home set-up, tips for getting supplies and advice for health and safety information. Employees and leadership posed and answered questions about their new way of working, and about morale. People simply want to ensure they could stay connected with their tribe and maintain their culture.

For leadership, Totem has allowed them to keep in constant communication and conversation with their teams and given them insight on how their company culture is evolving and reacting to the crisis. Leaders are responding to change in real-time and can act when they see challenges. They’ve shared critical company updates, guidelines and procedures on Totem instead of email, knowing they wouldn’t get lost in people’s inbox.

It’s also allowed leaders to show their human side. After all, we are all affected no matter the role. That authenticity is helping to solidify trust.

People and companies are creating new working cultures, and leveraging existing strengths to adapt to the situation. If, like so many others, you are now working in an alien environment, and want to maintain your sense of community and culture, speak to us.

We are offering a limited number of free trials for companies that now have the challenge of working remotely.

If you are interested contact us: