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Taking risks, telling stories, easing work stress and loving work in a pandemic

We’ve all heard the saying: if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. Or in Steve Clayton’s case, if you love your job, you’re getting getting paid to do your hobby. Here’s how he went about taking risks, telling stories, easing work stress and loving work in a pandemic.

“I have an incredible job that has found me. I’m very happy to be doing that every day.

“What gets me out of bed is the job that my team and I have,” he said.

“We have to go and shine a light on the things that people are doing with our technologies to hopefully change the world and make it a better place.” 

As Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller, Steve gives his staff the chance to “play and take risks”.  

“A big part of my job is giving them the tools, but really more this environment to say, “Let’s go and continue to push the boundaries and take risks to do great storytelling.”

“Some of the best work we’ve done over the last seven or eight years has been where we’ve challenged ourselves.”

As Chief Storyteller and General Manager of Microsoft’s Innovation, Culture & Stories team, Steve tells people that he gets paid to do his hobby.

The pandemic pivot

When COVID hit, Microsoft had to pivot just like the rest of the world, especially when it came to easing work stress.

Steve said they realised very quickly that Microsoft has “a huge role to play”. 

“Whether it was other organizations like ours who were shifting to virtual working, or whether it was working with healthcare providers or local governments, or people who needed technology to be able to try and create vaccines. 

“It’s based on our principles of what we want to do as a company. Fortunately, we’ve got the wherewithal and the capability,” he said.  

“We immediately rallied the team around, saying ‘Let’s go and tell stories about things we are doing that are specifically in support of people trying to cope with the pandemic.’” 

Free lunch for local kids

One of those stories was where the food from Microsoft’s vacant Seattle campus cafeteria was going to go. No-one wanted to waste all that food. So it was distributed to the school districts and delivered to kids around the region.  

“There were lots of stories of heroic efforts by people inside the company, but also heroic efforts of people outside the company,” Steve said.  

“I think it’s incumbent upon all of us as technology leaders. It wasn’t just us, other companies did similar things.”

“We’ve had experiences like this in the past during natural disasters when access to communications becomes a lifesaving capability.” 

With around 80 million people using Microsoft Teams, for many it was their remote work lifeline.  

As well as social connection, we’re also missing the social capital that comes from working in the same physical space. That’s the work that goes on between meetings, like the unplanned connections at the coffee machine. 

“I think that’s the big thing that a lot of us miss, right? Satya (Nadella, Microsoft CEO) talked about how we’re using up all the social capital that we’ve built up between each other over the years,” Steve said.  

How Microsoft took care of their people and eased work stress when the pandemic hit 

Focus on fresh air 

“We were being very intentional about taking breaks and getting outside. We talked about that a lot in my team,” Steve said.  

Professional advice  

“I had a behavioral psychologist come and talk to the team. We talked about resiliency, planning your workday, your week, and thinking about your physical health and mental health.” 

Virtual hangouts  

“We have an optional hangout. There’s no agenda, and people are not obliged to show up. We hang out and chat about whatever we want that’s not work related.” 

So what’s next? 

The pandemic isn’t showing signs of slowing down, and many of us are still working remotely around the world, adding to work stress symptoms.

“We’re doing more work as a company around bringing some of that mental health capability into the technology, and encouraging people to take a break from technology. Because the fatigue is real, right?” Steve said.  

Hear more from Steve Clayton, Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller, about taking risks, telling stories, easing work stress and loving work in a pandemic on LiveTiles’ Intelligent Workplace podcast.

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