Crafting the Future of Work: Tony Jamous, Oyster

Tony Jamous, co-Founder and CEO of Oyster, is a serial entrepreneur and a Future of Work leader. We recently sat down with Tony and Tom to further explore the methods, mindsets, and obstacles that create Oyster's unique approach to leadership and remote workplace culture. In this interview, Tony Jamous provides critical thoughts about sustainable leadership, workplace engagement, remote work, workplace culture, and the future of work. He challenges traditional workplace norms, pushes fostering more global relationships, champions inclusivity beyond conventional metrics, and embraces a visionary leadership approach for sustained impact.

Revolutionizing Workplace Engagement with Oyster

Oyster's approach to workplace engagement and social cohesion is rooted in a deep understanding of the challenges remote work can pose to workplace culture and collaboration. According to Oyster's insights, the key lies in addressing behavioral aspects, setting clear expectations, and intentionally shaping the way teams work together. Tony Jamous claims the conventional way to work is ineffective, citing record levels of employee disengagement. Jamous states, "Well, the first thing I think about is that it's not working. So, employees are disengaged at record levels these days." He feels that involvement is about establishing a healthy workplace culture where people care about one another's well-being. In his opinion, leaders are critical in fostering openness and trust, aligning with a clear vision that extends beyond a job and providing possibilities for fulfillment and advancement. 

Tony Jamous calls for a more balanced approach that fosters connectivity within local communities.

"When I hear about workplace engagement, it's caring about how people feel working together. And my message to leaders is to care about how people feel working with them. And to do so, they need to create a high level of trust and transparency. They need to have a clear mission”

states Jamous. When embraced wisely, the transition to remote work becomes a driver for good change, allowing workers to be more engaged in their home lives while adding meaning to their professional activities. 

Oysters Strategies for Employee Engagement & Cohesion

  1. Leadership Behavior:

Tony highlights the importance of leadership conduct that is linked with creating trust. Leaders are expected to exemplify that everything they say and do is to build trust, similar to investing money in a bank account to earn interest.

  1. Clarity in Goals:

Oyster employs the Objective Key Result (OKRs) method to combat ambiguity, connecting company, team, and individual goals. This ensures that regardless of geographical location, every team member wakes up with a clear understanding of expectations and what needs to be achieved.

  1. Intentional Collaboration:

The company advocates being intentional about collaboration, using designated tools and rules to guide interactions. Oyster emphasizes remote communication for productivity and well-being, with leaders modeling these principles to bridge any disconnect between leadership and the rest of the organization.

  1. Measuring Engagement:

Oyster employs a system to gauge remote workplace engagement and well-being. Quarterly engagement surveys and daily sentiment checks through platforms like Kona on Slack provide real-time insights. The company monitors slack chatter to prevent overworking, integrating these metrics into its overall strategy.

  1. Balancing Growth and Well-being:

Oyster follows the "golden triangle" approach, balancing growth, customer satisfaction, and employee well-being. The organization agrees that growth is sometimes non-linear and actively learns from challenges to build resilience.

  1. Designing Social Connections:

Annual virtual events, such as "Follow the Sun," unite global employees, allowing them to connect, share insights, and participate in fun activities that bring them together. 

  1. Encouraging Local Meetups:

While Oyster operates as a remote, it encourages local meetups in cities and regions with a high concentration of employees to foster local engagement. 

Rethinking Remote Work

Jamous perceives the pandemic as an essential wake-up call. He describes how people revisited the meaning of employment, recognizing the demand for a better balance between work and personal life. The trial with remote work demonstrated the possibility of autonomy and adaptability without losing efficiency. Tony Jamous discusses his time in Cyprus, emphasizing the need to balance remote work and personal life. He disputes that remote work reduces social connections, stating,

"I totally understand companies need to improve cohesion, the workplace culture, the collaboration. I don't agree with the tool that they are using because when they're forcing people to come to the office, they're actually creating the opposite effect. They're creating more disengagement, less trust."

He pushes for a future where people are more linked to their local communities while staying productive and fulfilled at work.

Additionally, Jamous underlines Oyster's dedication to fostering a strong sense of belonging inside the business. "Companies have to look inside their culture, understand the issues driving slower workplace engagement and lower cohesion, and they're going to realize it's mostly about the behavior of the leaders. It's mostly about the lack of intentionality in how they work together. It's about the ambiguity of what success looks like,” emphasizes Jamous. He recognizes the challenges of global employment but highlights the potential it affords to create social links within local communities. 

Cultivating Global Relationships

Oyster launched "Follow the Sun," an annual virtual event to foster internal social relationships. Oyster uses this virtual event to generate a sense of solidarity among its staff, who are spread across 70 countries. Tony Jamous proudly emphasizes the company's recognition:

"People at Oyster tell me that they've never felt so much belonging to an organization before in their career."

Inclusivity Beyond Diversity Metrics

Local meet-ups are encouraged in places with many Oyster employees, outlining the magical aspect of in-person encounters. He offers personal experiences about meeting Oyster colleagues worldwide and building a community with shared values and goals. He says,

"What makes an organization truly inclusive is that people, no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what their role in the organization is, feel heard and seen."

This concept goes beyond typical diversity measurements by emphasizing the need to establish an atmosphere where individuals may be their true selves. 

Long-Term Leadership Vision

Furthermore, as a proponent of long-term leadership, he offers his vision for cultivating a highly connected and satisfied work culture. He underlines the significance of measuring workplace engagement, saying, "There's nothing you can improve that you're not measuring." He suggests Simon Sinek's book "The Infinite Game," which supports developing high-trust teams and value-driven enterprises. Jamous expands on the notion of long-term leadership. "It's a transformational journey," he says. It's a path of development and healing." This viewpoint challenges traditional leadership views by emphasizing building a work culture where individuals feel seen and heard. The emphasis on personal well-being as a fundamental part of leadership paves the way for a more in-depth examination of Oyster's distinct workplace culture.

The discussion closes with insights into how Oyster examines the performance of its remote work model, emphasizing the significance of workplace engagement indicators and the use of technological platforms to sense the activity of employees who do remote work. Oyster uses Objective Key Results (OKRs) to connect individual, team, and organizational goals. Tony Jamous proposes the "golden triangle," highlighting the need to balance development, customer happiness, and staff well-being for long-term growth. Jamous reveals a model of long-term leadership and workplace culture. Oyster's path is an illustrative example of enterprises negotiating the challenges of remote employment and shaping the future of remote work.

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Ligiya Mamikonyan

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