From its early stages, the Covid-19 pandemic has had impactful and swift effects on workplace culture for businesses across the globe. The traditional ‘day at the office’ has changed. 

On one hand, it created an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and loss.
On the other hand, organisations have discovered that they can adopt flexible and hybrid work models, with employees working remotely, while enjoying the work-life balance. 
 

As companies prepare to recover and put the pandemic behind them, business leaders and HR managers need to carefully consider, after the seismic changes in organisational workplace culture, which elements they wish to retain and the ones they must eliminate. From this perspective, as we mentioned in our previous blog, ‘What is workplace culture and why it is important’, the pandemic may present an opportunity for businesses to rebuild a positive workplace culture. 

 

What happened to workplace culture?  

Humans are demographically and behaviourally social animals, always craving face-to-face social interaction and constantly looking for new connections and relationships.  

Before the pandemic, most of us were used to commuting daily from our homes to our offices, to enjoy a Monday morning coffee with our colleagues, cross-cubible chats and brainstorming sessions. 

Suddenly, all of this came to a halt: offices closed, and people started working remotely, without the possibility of meeting in person. Business leaders were worried about the threat of these changes as they now had the potential to drastically weaken their organisation’s workplace culture. 

These changes may have been very challenging at first, but has your organisation’s culture really taken a hit because people can no longer meet in person?  

The emerging scenario is very different. Newly remote employees are burned out from months of isolation and long Zoom meetings.
Some workers may be 
coming back to the office with trepidation as they rediscover a new workplace that looks very different than the one they left. Others may be looking for a career change. Moreover, businesses are still uncertain on how to handle social distancing practices in the office or even a new hybrid workplace that allows for more remote working opportunities.  

Whether you are bringing your employees back into the office or are embracing remote working for the foreseeable future, it is important to keep your organisations workplace culture intact and to understand how your employees are experiencing your company’s current culture in this challenging time.

 

Empathy and sense of belonging  

If we analyse the phenomenon from a different perspective, we realise that working from home has opened up opportunities for different points of connection and sharing. 
By interacting through video conferencing, we now get to see and know each other’s homes, families, pets, and lifestyles.
We are developing new relationships as we are getting a glimpse into the personal lives of our business leaders and colleagues, with a greater sense of empathy and a more sense of humanity. So, by sharing these little but real moments, workplace culture becomes a responsibility of everyone in the organisation, creating a solid team spirit and sense of belonging. This also helps to maintain good levels of communication, trust, and collaboration between employees. 
 

The fact that we can no longer be all in the same office does not mean that workplace culture cannot be preserved. Culture does not come down to physical proximity or dynamic in-person activities, such as travel incentives or team-building experiences; it is more about developing an attitude of care and respect. 

Whilst companies have deemphasised some cultural elements, such as customer orientation and individualism, shifting away from high performance orientation, workplace culture has adopted a more emphatic approach, based on mutual support and understanding.   

Video Conference, Zoom meeting - the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on workplace culture

 

Cultural adaptability  

According to research, workplace culture has improved during the pandemic. 37% of the 2,100 adults globally that took part in the Quartz and Qualtrics study felt that their organisational culture had improved since the Covid-19 crisis. Surprisingly, 52% felt more purposeful in their work – which correlates with work culture and is why companies are investing so much in its importance 

The pandemic has also demonstrated how companies can adapt quickly to specific situations. Generally, workplace culture does not change rapidly. Rather it adjusts slowly, over a long period of time. But today, companies have developed a culture that is both flexible and adaptive in real time, so that they are better prepared for a global event such as a pandemic.  

As reported in a study published in the “Journal of Organisation Behaviour,” companies that were strategically strong, aligned, and had built in the capacity to adapt rapidly to dynamic and flexible environments earned 15% more in annual revenue compared to those in the same industry that were less adaptable.  

Pursuing cultural adaptability means innovating, transforming, and taking advantage of new opportunities, especially in these challenging times.   

So, business leaders should carefully evaluate which cultural adaptations have emerged in their business, in the last couple of years, which are functional and can be a source of innovation for the future. 
Indeed, the pandemic has had a significant impact on workplace culture. However, the upside is that more companies have learned how adaptability should work, while innovation, flexibility, and agility are becoming ever-important components of company culture.  
 

If you want to know more about workplace culture and why it is a crucial component of any successful business, then contact our HR Inspire experts today to find out more!  

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