PeopleFirst 2021: Building a workplace that thrives beyond the pandemic

Insights on empowering employees through thoughtful and deliberate leadership from Chief Partner Officer at Dropbox

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Conversation between James Ang, Chief Partner Officer at Dropbox and Leong CheeTung, CEO and co-founder at EngageRocket


James Ang

James Ang

Chief Partner Officer

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Leong CheeTung

CEO and co-founder

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Conversation with leaders - Dropbox


Conversation summary


Eighteen months into the pandemic, it is still unclear whether or not we are returning to office anytime soon. Instead of preparing strategies for the unknown, it is more pivotal to build a sustainable workplace that will thrive beyond the pandemic.


In this conversation with James Ang and Leong CheeTung, we discuss how the work culture has transformed in terms of people and work distribution. As leaders in tech companies, they also share how leadership styles must shift in order to maintain employee engagement and boost productivity along the way.

Key learnings and best practices 


What should organisations prioritise during remote or hybrid work?

  • Put employees, remote work, and flexibility at the center of work. Make work enlightening for everyone, especially in these difficult times, and keep it human-centric.

  • Make remote, distributed work a culture and mindset, not just a concept of location. Remote work is an opportunity to enhance collaboration and communication, no matter who the employees are, what they do, and where they are.
  • Encourage employees to find their own productive hours. This is to ensure each work process is efficient and produces high-quality results.



How has remote working affected HR in pooling talents and candidates?


  • The way of hiring has transformed completely. Job opportunities are no longer limited to a certain location. Candidates could be anywhere in the world and they can apply as long as they have the experience and credentials that fit the job descriptions.

  • Remote working has opened up the pool of talents, resources, and availability. The number of job applications increases, and more candidates are available as there is no geographical limitation.



What can leaders do to maintain engagement and connection with employees?


  • The role of leaders has become very important in setting the right context within the workplace. Leaders need to put their people first and encourage engagement among colleagues who could be anywhere in the world.

  • With a multi-generational workforce – baby boomers, gen X, gen Y, and gen Z all in the same company – leaders must recognize that remote working affects them differently and lead them with empathy.
  • Be very active and more frequent in communication. What used to be monthly one-on-one meetings can turn weekly. Set up a brief 15-minute call to ask how employees are feeling, what support they need, and their expectations.
  • Remote working could potentially leave a lapse in skills and development. Build a culture of continuous learning to make sure employees are equipped with up-to-date skills.
  • Develop the right infrastructure. Hardware, software, platforms, and financial resources must be provided to enable employees to engage in personal development.

Conversation with leaders - Dropbox


How has virtual workplace affected the company budget?


  • Remote working produces intrinsic value where employees can achieve better results. Hence, companies achieve better revenue and are able to improve customer and partner satisfaction.
  • Develop the right culture and lead well. In return, leaders will win employees’ trust, empowerment, flexibility, as well as higher productivity and engagement.
  • Virtual workforce is not necessarily more costly. Leaders and organisations might even achieve positive ROI when the right culture and solution are implemented.


Getting ready for 2022 and beyond:


  • Embrace the changes. Hybrid is here to stay, so it’s super critical to utilize technology to make the workplace more human-centric.

  • Gone are the days when spending so much time in office was considered a dedication. Impact, contribution, and results are the metrics that should be highlighted in the workplace from now on.
  • Leaders need to put more thoughtful and deliberate actions in terms of employee experience. Those who fail to do so will see resignation emails coming in their inbox.

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