When it comes to highly performing companies, there is one thing the vast majority have in common: a strong company culture. Culture refers to the shared values, behaviors, and norms that a group shares. Often, this is used to describe specific societies or countries. But companies have unique cultures as well, and these often determine their level of success. This is why business leaders invest heavily in maintaining company culture to facilitate higher levels of performance. But since the pandemic, these same leaders face new challenges. Increasingly, they must figure out how to preserve company culture and remote work at the same time.
According to a recent poll conducted by Bold Business, working-from-home is rapidly becoming institutionalized throughout the world. In fact, 93 percent of workers do not wish to return to the office. Instead, they prefer either remote work or some type of hybrid model. Companies that wish to excel in this new environment will need to make this transition in order to attract the best talent. At the same time, however, they must also develop strategies in maintaining company culture. This that can achieve a strong company culture and remote work environments will appeal to a modern workforce. And they will be the ones best positioned to excel. (Read more about Bold Business’ exclusive survey results and an in-depth analysis by CEO Ed Kopko in this important Bold story!)
“We’re in an era where people have tasted a different way of working, a different way of connecting with the people they cohabitate with, a reduced level of stress from the reduction of commutes, saving more money. And because they’ve tasted this, they’re demanding it, they want it.” – Tsedal Neeley, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Company Culture Is Not Office Culture
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of workers performed a majority of their tasks in an office. In-person meetings, water cooler chats, and a variety of other office activities defined the culture for these businesses. Employees shared beliefs about the dos and don’ts in the office, and corporate values were reinforced through policies, processes, and routines. But something changes when everyone began working from home. There was no longer a shared office environment for maintaining company culture. And for some businesses, changes in company culture and remote work influences occurred simultaneously.
It’s important to note that office culture and company culture are not necessarily the same. Indeed, when all workers went into the office, the two terms might have been interchangeable. But that is no longer the case. Working from home has invited many new influences into the workplace. Zoom meetings often include images of coworkers’ pets or children occasionally interrupting interactions. Office backgrounds tend to highlight more personal aspects of people’s lives as well. These effects as well as remote interactions continue to define culture even though the office may no longer exist. Thus, businesses must be aware of company culture and remote work influences in this new work environment.
“We’ve seen this as an opportunity to make executives more approachable, show our own vulnerability, and transform the culture into one that more explicitly values individuals and individuality.” – Brian Elliott, Executive Lead of the Future Forum, a Slack consortium
Elements of Company Culture
Interestingly, the same elements that comprised office culture continue to determine company culture. Therefore, business leaders must appreciate these elements of company culture and remote work effects on them. Maintaining company culture requires ensuring these elements continue to reflect company priorities and goals. Certainly, new strategies may be needed to achieve this in hybrid and working-from-home models. But by focusing on these core areas, businesses can continue to create positive and productive environments.
Communications and collaborations are among some of the most important elements of company culture. Ensuring open dialogue, respectfulness, and effective interactions continue to take place is essential. This supports other elements of company culture, like innovation, agility and dynamic resilience. Investments in activities that promote inclusion and provide support for productivity and wellness also important. And finally, maintaining company culture by aligning company mission and values with remote work functions is also encouraged. Attention to these aspects of company culture and remote work activities can go a long way toward performance success.
“In order for remote-hybrid to work, people have to change their performance metric, and trust employees, and let go of control, and allow empowered autonomous employees to achieve organizational goals.” – Tsedal Neeley
New Metrics for Company Culture and Remote Work Environments
Given that hybrid and remote work settings invite new influences, it’s clear that office-based strategies will no longer be effective. Maintaining company culture requires a paradigm shift in some instances. For example, instead of clocking office time or sales calls’ numbers, companies may instead monitor closed sales or new clients. Customer satisfaction levels and resource utilization may be other areas to track. These types of metrics are referred to as system metrics, which will replace direct observation of employees. These are more likely to lead to a high-performance company culture and remote work model success.
In addition to the use of new metrics, bold businesses are employing other strategies for maintaining company culture. For instance, Infosys prides itself on an employee-first company culture. Thus, it chartered flights for its employees early in the pandemic who were stranded away from home. Alibaba, which prioritizes a sense of community in the workplace, also made changes after the pandemic. It replaced its in-person annual celebration party with an online quilting event to promote personal bonding. Finally, IBM utilized platforms like Slack to further inclusion and innovation values. Using this platform, IBM employees created signups to aid colleagues with special needs during the pandemic. These are some ways companies can still focus on company culture and remote work benefits.
Aligning Mission, Values, and Remote Work Activities
Naturally, every company will need to consider how best to pursue company culture and remote work processes. The key for each, however, will be to make sure the company mission and values underlie the activities they choose. This will require both creativity and innovation at times. And maintaining company culture as hybrid work environments evolve will likely present some challenges. Regardless, companies recognizing the need to change will be best positioned to thrive. Office or no office, company culture will live on, and business leaders must continue to cultivate one that generates success.
The growth of the cannabis industry has been profound over the last decade. The legalization of cannabis and cannabinoids for recreational and medicinal purposes in many countries have fueled this growth. This has been welcomed news for many in medical research fields. In the past, legal restrictions prevented clinical investigations because substances would not be approved. But today, it is much easier to receive funding for a cannabis-based trial. And some researchers are taking full advantage of these opportunities. (Read more about the explosive growth of the cannabis industry in this Bold story.)
Over the past few years, cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in a variety of illnesses. Some are used to manage pain and inflammation, replacing more toxic compounds like opioids and harsh anti-inflammatory drugs. Other cannabis-based trial investigations have shown that these can be helpful in alleviating spasticity in disorders like MS. Thus, it’s not surprising that researchers are now looking at potential benefits of these drugs in other disorders. And the most recent one looks to explore the potential advantages cannabis and cannabinoids may have in brain cancer patients.
“We think that Sativex may kill glioblastoma tumor cells and that it may be particularly effective when given with temozolomide chemotherapy, so it may enhance the effects of chemotherapy treatment in stopping these tumors growing, allowing patients to live longer.” – Susan Short, Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-oncology, Leeds University, UK
Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Glioblastoma
When it comes to brain cancers, not only are glioblastomas the most common type but likewise the most difficult to treat. Advanced glioblastomas carry a poor prognosis, with estimated longevity usually 1-2 years from the time of diagnosis. Despite surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, doctors have had little luck in improving management. But potentially, cannabis and cannabinoids may offer some hope. While not believed to be curative in nature, these compounds could extend life and improve its quality. Thus, UK researchers at Leeds University are launching a cannabis-based trial to explore potential benefits among glioblastoma patients.
The drug that will be evaluated is Sativex, whose generic name is Nabiximols. Sativex is a combination drug containing both cannabis (THC) and cannabinoids (CBD). In prior trials, Sativex has been found to have a good safety profile in brain cancer patients. Likewise, despite a small sample, those taking Sativex tended to live longer (83% alive at one year with Sativex; 44% without it). Based on this data, researchers are now going to explore a larger study over a total of 3 years. In total, over 200 patients with glioblastoma will be recruited from 15 hospitals for the cannabis-based trial. The purpose is to determine if Sativex when combined with chemotherapy gives patients better overall outcomes.
“We know there is significant interest in our community about the potential activity of cannabinoids in treating glioblastomas, and we’re really excited that this world-first trial here in the UK could help to accelerate these answers.” – David Jenkinson, MD, Interim CEO, The Brain Tumour Charity
Potential Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids
Medications that contain cannabis and cannabinoids have a variety of potential mechanisms of action. The THC component can provide anti-nausea effects as well as pain relief and a sense of euphoria. The CBD aspect tends to be more beneficial as a pain reliver and anti-inflammatory. Thus, combined, these medications offer advantages in some specific conditions. Individuals with chronic pain, muscle spasms, and chronic inflammation could benefit from such drugs. But increasingly, scientists suspect there may be other positive effects. As a result, several cannabis-based trial investigations are being considered.
In the cannabis-based trial for glioblastoma, researchers believe that Sativex may actually target and eliminate brain cancer cells. This has yet to be demonstrated, but the current trial hopes to explore this possibility further. In addition, cannabis and cannabinoids may also have positive mood effects. A recent cannabis-based trial that began in 2019 is exploring whether these compounds reduce aggression and agitation in advanced dementia. Given that research involving cannabis and cannabinoids is so new, a number of positive clinical effects from these medications could exist. (Dive deeper into the positive clinical applications of cannabis in this Bold story.)
“It is vital that trials like this, investigating the role cannabis or the chemicals in it can play to treat cancer, are carried out.” – Pam Kearns, Director of Cancer Research Unit, Birmingham University
Expanding Uses for Sativex
The drug Sativex is a combination medication that has both cannabis and cannabinoids. Specifically, it contains 2.7mg of THC and 2.5 mg of CBD, and it is administrated via oral spray. The medication stimulates salivation, which transports the chemicals to the stomach for absorption. Since 2010, Sativex oral spray has been approved for use in several conditions included spasticity, overactive bladder, and pain. In fact, it has been approved in 25 different companies worldwide for these types of conditions. But this may be just the tip of the iceberg if additional cannabis-based trial results are favorable.
Sativex is manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, and the company provider Bayer exclusive rights to market the drug in the UK. In other regions, Novartis is able to promote the drug’s use. Notably, all involved would like to broaden the potential use of Sativex. This is why new cannabis-based trial research in brain cancer and dementia is being watched with great anticipation. The number of patients with advanced dementia and glioblastomas are substantial. And if Sativex provides benefit with insignificant side effects, this further advance the demand for cannabis-based medications.
Investing in Cannabis Potential
The current study in the UK has been named the Aristocrat Study, and it is being funded by the Brain Tumour Charity. The charity is actively seeking grant funding for the cannabis-based trial after having notable setbacks during the pandemic. In total, they hope to raise roughly $500,000 in an effort to complete the 3-year research trial. This is a substantial sum. But given the potential that Sativex offers, it’s an investment that carries significant hope. This is especially true for those suffering from glioblastoma.
As college resumes this year, many campuses are once again finding a familiar buzz that was notably absent during the pandemic. Though COVID safety precautions may remain in place, university students will return to dorms and college cafeterias. But unlike before, many students have become accustomed to home delivery services and e-commerce. Affected by the Come-to-Me Economy, they will welcome services that bring items to them. And a few astute autonomous robot startups are prepared to take full advantage of these changes. (Read more about both the Come-to-Me Economy and Come-to-Me Employment in these Bold stories.)
Over the last few years, food delivery robots have appeared in a number of cities and college campuses. As autonomous robot technologies have advanced, startups have launched new programs to pilot their inventions. Based on their success thus far, many plan to expand their outreach, offering services to a higher number of campuses. Other autonomous robot companies are doing the same thing in select cities. Given the many advantages that these services provider, it seems clear that this is indeed the way of the future.
“University campuses provide an advantage as they tend to be a more controlled environment than public streets in regards to things such as public infrastructure complexity and car traffic and congestion.” – Diego Varela Prada, COO at Kiwibot
Testing Food Delivery Robots on College Campuses
When testing an autonomous robot, there are many things to consider. Safety is naturally a priority, but at the same time, so is quality of service. Food delivery robots need to navigate complex settings without doing any harm. Likewise, they must do so while meeting a customer’s expectations. In this regard, college campuses are often ideal environments for pilot testing. They tend to offer a more controlled physical layout, and universities tend to be more open to experimentation. They also provide a high concentration of consumers that have strong economic potential. Each of these features have attracted startups offering food delivery robots.
Leading the field in this area have been Starship Technologies, founded in 2014. While the company employed roughly 200 food delivery robots in 2020, this figure quadrupled during the pandemic. The company now has over 1.5 million campus deliveries under its belt. At the same time, Kiwibot hopes to compete with Starship Technologies with its own autonomous robot services. It recently partnered with Sodexo food services, which manages hundreds of college cafeterias and dining halls across the nation. Kiwibot has already shown success at University of California Berkely, University of Denver, and Stanford. It is now expanding to New Mexico State, Loyola Marymount, and Gonzaga this fall.
“No one wants their deliveries to be done after a week or two weeks. Everyone is expecting them to be done on the same day, as well as curbside pickup options. There was already a rise in the expectations of e-commerce and on-demand deliveries even before the pandemic hit.” – Apeksha Kumavat, Co-founder and Chief Engineer, Gatik
The Advantages of Autonomous Robots Are Driving Demand
Without question, the pandemic helped drive demand for food delivery robots. The ability to have a warm, hot meal delivered right to your doorstep without human contact was ideal. But pre-pandemic trends were already moving in this direction. Not only were consumers increasingly choosing to make purchases via e-commerce. They also became accustomed to receiving their purchases quickly, often the same day. They quickly learned how convenient and time-efficient these types of services could be. And food delivery robots can help fulfill these needs.
An autonomous robot offers a number of advantages that delivery personnel cannot. For one, they can operate for extensive lengths of time without fatigue. They also become progressively cost-effective as their delivery trips increase in number. While maintenance and oversight are still required, they are much more easily managed. And as these robots advance from Level 3 to Level 4 autonomous functioning, they will become essentially independent. Especially with the difficulties businesses are having today finding employees, an autonomous robot provides a great solution. It’s therefore not surprising that autonomous robot companies are looking to grow in the midst of rising delivery service demand.
“Autonomous delivery is changing logistics as we know it, impacting billions of people around the world. The team at Starship has been developing and perfecting the technology and its operations for years, since creating the robot delivery category in 2014.” – Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Starship Technologies
From College Campuses to City Streets
While Kiwibot and Starship Technologies target colleges for their food delivery robots, others are exploring these services on city streets. One of the most well-known autonomous robot companies in this area is Nuro. Not only has the company partnered with CVS pharmacies, Domino’s, and Kroger. But it recently signed a deal to work with FedEx for pilot testing in the greater Houston area. Nuro therefore is not only providing food delivery robots but package-related services as well. The potential to grow in this area is tremendous compared to food delivery alone.
Other companies have already made such an impact in retail and distribution warehouses. Gatik provides autonomous robot solutions ranging from Level 1 to Level 6 functionalities. Their robots can be found in retail centers, distribution warehouses as well as offices providing microfulfillment services. In fact, one of Gatik’s largest partners is Walmart, where it provides short-haul logistics. If the success of these autonomous robot solutions can be duplicated for food delivery, food delivery robots will certainly increase. Several cities in the U.S. are already testing such services currently with positive results thus far.
Using the Pandemic as a Catalyst
While momentum already favored adoption of food delivery robots, the pandemic certainly helped. Contactless delivery has become preferred, and human-machine interactions have become second nature. In addition, companies like Kiwibot have disinfection procedures that take place for an autonomous robot after each delivery. These additional features have further increased the appeal for these types of services. Technological improvements are still in the works, and more testing needs to be done. But by all accounts, food delivery robots look to be the future not only for colleges but for everyone.
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