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6 min read

How to Build (and maintain) a Thriving Culture at Work

Shivangi Gautam

Last Updated: 2 February 2023

In this article:

Chloe Sesta Jacobs, the Global Director of Inclusion & Engagement at Deputy gets candid with us about building a sustainable work environment. While cultivating a habit of taking necessary breaks, and aligning her priorities, Chloe is ready to take on the world. Read on to know her master plan.

Us: Tell us a little about your journey, both professionally and personally, to where you are today.

Chloe: I have always been passionate about amplifying the voices of others. This led me to complete a journalism degree in my early 20s. However I soon realised that the culture of stepping on others to get stories in a cutthroat world, doesn’t interest me! Instead, I began working as a receptionist at a visual effects studio, and the more that time I spent there, the more I gravitated towards the world of human resources. Really, it was all about cultivating a culture where people could thrive and realising that this is a non-negotiable for me.

I then studied an HR course on the side to get my theory in place, but a vast majority of my experience has been on-the-job. More recently, I have been at Deputy which is a workforce management software. With a mission of simplifying shift work for workers and businesses globally, I feel so fortunate to be at an organisation that aligns with my personal values.

When I started at Deputy, my role was that of a generalist position for APAC, but since then I have moved to a global People Experience role. It was only this year that I was promoted to become a Global Director, Inclusion & Engagement position - Deputy’s first ever position focused solely on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts. I truly believe that I’ve found my Ikigai. 

Us: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed? Is it something that has changed post COVID?

Chloe: To be completely transparent, a lot of the time I wake up and reach for my phone, which I am working on changing. Other than that, it’s usually going into my kitchen and making tea, or sitting on my couch and reading with my baby girl, Elliott. Rex isn’t an early riser, so he usually opts to stay in bed with my boyfriend - but more on those two later! 

Us: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount of work to do?

Chloe: This is something that is constantly in the works, and I have to say that it’s a skill I will forever be building on. Project planning doesn’t come easily to me, which means that I have tried several project planning tools like Asana, Trello and Todoist. After all that, more often than not, a notebook and pen and paper work best for me. 

In terms of the actual method of prioritising, I like to use the Eisenhower matrix (urgent vs important) and make sure that the task I’m working on directly relates to my goals. Of course, there will always be a small percentage of reactive work that may not be, but I try to balance the ratio to stay in favour of important projects. 

I also try to be kind to myself and look at things with a realistic lens. I can safely assume that there are going to be no life threatening ramifications if I don’t get everything on my to-do list done before the end of the day. This approach has helped me focus on that one thing I absolutely will get done before I close my laptop and switch off. 

Us: Non-stop Zoom meetings! Is there a cure for it?

Chloe: Absolutely. It’s a bunch of things, but one of them is ensuring your organisation is on the same page as you about back-to-back meetings. At Deputy, we recently put together our first meeting playbook, which contains a meeting checklist - Does the meeting need to happen? Have you provided a clear agenda? What are the expectations and are there any pre-reading documents? Is it necessary for all the attendees? How are you ensuring everyone is included? The playbook also has tips for facilitating effective meetings, and resources for further reading as well.

Another big cure for non-stop Zoom meetings is setting boundaries. A lot of the time people are scared of boundaries, but we need to understand that they exist to preserve your time and energy. You’re in no way being rude by enforcing them. Perhaps, you set yourself an upper limit of 3 hours of meetings a day? Perhaps you won’t accept same day meeting invites unless it is absolutely urgent? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach but you need to work out what’s best for you. It’s also important to look at your calendar and decide which of the meetings could be done while walking. It might not be appropriate for every call, but it’s a great excuse to get out of your house, get some fresh air and get your body moving! 

Us: How do you ensure that at Deputy, the company’s mission starts from within the company?

Chloe: Our CEO Ashik Ahmed is of the view that people don’t come to work for working, they come to work to be part of a community - a community with purpose and a community with a mission. 

We have a brilliant group of people at Deputy who truly believe in our product, and what we do for shift workers and business owners globally. We go by the motto ‘stronger together’ and we see it play out countless times every day at Deputy.

This is truly a testament to the incredible work that our Talent Acquisition team and hiring managers put in every day. I’m consistently floored by the people that come on board. 

Us: What’s all this hullabaloo about ‘The Great Resignation’? Is it real? What’s causing it and should HR leaders be concerned?

Chloe: To be honest, I’m not a fan of dramatic language, but I think there has been an interesting power shift in favour of the people as opposed to the organisations. The pandemic has taught us a lot, but we especially need to look at people’s holistic needs, now more than ever. We cannot expect people to leave their personal lives aside when they log in each morning, it’s just not possible. 

If leaders do everything in their power to foster an environment where people thrive, then they don’t need to be worried. Attrition will always happen and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s also important to note that it’s a two way street. While organisations have a responsibility to provide safe and thriving environments for their people, individuals must also show up, act like responsible adults and make meaningful contributions. 

Us: What can companies do to support and retain their top talent at this time?

Chloe: Companies can start with recognising that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to working or living! In a hybrid workspace, the aspects of work and life are merging, and more and more people are unapologetic about it. As I mentioned earlier, we all have different needs and ways of working and this is what makes us stronger. As long as we’re united in our mission, vision and values, we can produce some incredible work. 

Us: Tell us about some of your biggest learnings so far? 

Chloe: This is becoming clearer as I get older, but when it comes to work, there are very few hills I will die on anymore. It’s really important to stand up for what you believe in, and to live a wholesome life of your values. However, it’s equally important to let the things that don’t really matter go. 

As Jinx Monsoon - winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season five - always says, “water off a duck’s back”. 

Us: Not a typical interview question, but we want all the latest news on Elliott and Rex! 

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For those of you who don’t know, Elliott and Rex are my two gorgeous miniature dachshunds! They both turned seven in the last two months and it’s really hard to believe that my babies are at this age, and fighting fit. We had a bit of a scare with Rexy earlier this year when he contracted IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease), but we luckily caught it early and he was able to have emergency spinal surgery within just 4 hours of a diagnosis. It sounds awfully dramatic (and it was at the time), but he has recovered well and is back to taking care of his Mama. I honestly don’t know how I would have got through the pandemic without them, they really are my angels.  

Us: Lastly, how can one be an inspiring leader in uncertain times such as these?

Chloe: People want their leaders to be more human and vulnerable from time to time. We may have different circumstances, but we’re all in the same storm, so talking about your struggles can always help someone out.

It’s also really important to pause and ask people how they really are, as opposed to the regular “How are you?”. You can’t guarantee their responses or if they will open up to you, but you can always lead with openness and vulnerability. By creating this safe space of psychological safety, you are building an environment conducive to sustainable working. 

One should never underestimate the power of community to bring us together and help feelings of isolation. 

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