For 12 weeks, you’ve become accustomed to living and working in the comfort of your own home. For most, it’s probably helped you establish that work-life balance everyone’s always talking about. Without a busy commute to and from the workplace, you’ve gained back hours in the day to devote to yourself and your family. This is going to be very hard to give up when you’re permitted to return to the office as lockdown eases and business resumes.
In your time working remotely, a lot of businesses have stepped up virtual social interaction to make sure everyone remains engaged with one another. Group workouts, happy hours, quizzes, escape rooms, scavenger hunts and baking contests keep team members excited about spending time together. Even if your business hasn’t had the opportunity to do these extra-curricular activities, your video conference calls have probably been entertaining enough. You might have seen colleagues be interrupted by children, barking dogs, speak over one another, forget their cameras turned on and muting themselves before giving a presentation.
Without this company culture, your time working remotely would have felt very different. As you might return to work over the next few months, it’s important that your business makes an effort to continue this level of social interaction and employee engagement in the workplace. However, the added obstructions of social distancing, protective screens, restricted physical contact and face-to-face interactions will really take its toll on your ability to maintain a positive company culture.
What is company culture?
Company culture is the most important aspect of business. It’s the personality, values, purpose and behaviours that your employees share. Business owners tend to hire talent that shares the same values as the organisation to really strengthen the company culture. Working for a company with a strong culture helps you feel like you belong. It makes you enthusiastic about your time in the workplace and the engagements you have with your colleagues. As new people come and go within your business and the opportunities for growth arise, your company culture will change too. It’s not a static concept and it’s something every employee contributes to.
Company culture isn’t actually something a lot of businesses plan for. It can be viewed as a nice-to-have rather than an integral part of business strategy. In fact, company culture could not be more pivotal to success. If you feel comfortable, inspired and motivated by the organisation you belong to, your quality of work improves hugely.
What will company culture look like post-COVID-19?
After being impacted by the pandemic, a lot of businesses have had to furlough employees, let some employees go, maybe downsize the workplace and adopt flexible working policies. With so many changes in a relatively short period of time, employees will be feeling the strain. Here are some procedures you could put in place to improve your company culture post-COVID-19.
Review and realign your company values
To ensure your workforce feels confident in the company and its culture, it would be beneficial to review your company culture and plan how you want to improve it moving forward. This probably sounds more difficult than it is. You just have to look around, observe behaviours and conversations, ask questions and listen to the answers. This is the valuable information that will help you build a culture with longevity.
It’s likely that the way your employees are now interacting with each other has changed and they will want to implement some new practices with the workplace. It’s important that you reflect on everyone’s experiences, what you’ve all learnt and what you can change for the better. You may find overarching themes and points made by individuals so you can implement these easily. With individual opinions, it’s worth seeing what you can do for them personally to feel connected to the business. This investment will help you all align yourself with each other and establish a culture everyone is excited to be a part of.
Continue flexible working for those who want it
The flexibility that the pandemic has granted us will be music to a lot of employee’s ears. Especially for those with young families, long commutes and the ability to fully operate remotely, working from home is a welcome solution. As employees have experienced first-hand the work-life balance that can exist in the working day, there’s likely to be demand for this when returning to the workplace. Granting this flexibility where requested will solidify the trust you have in your employees and give them the confidence that you value their health and wellbeing.
Flexibility won’t be for everyone. Some employees will be eager to take the opportunity and others won’t. Some will want to get back into the office and remain there for their full weekly hours. The employees that aren’t taking the opportunity of flexibility may give some push back to those who are. Reaffirming that flexibility is for everyone, not just for those with personal circumstances that require so, will ensure employees understand it’s a level playing field for all.
Keep communication at the centre of everything
Communication has been amped up over the last few months to make sure employees and customers remain connected remotely. This has been great for a lot of people. You’re probably speaking to team members and customers more than ever over messenger, phone or video conferencing tools. Businesses that have failed to increase communication will have felt the effects of a disconnected workforce. When returning to the workplace, this level of engagement and conversation has to remain or be established if it hasn’t already been.
Communication has to be both ways: employee-to-employer and employer-to-employee. A solid culture can’t be established or maintained if there isn’t a two-way conversation. Employers have to tell employees what they expect from them and employees have to listen and act. Likewise, employees have to tell the employer the things they need to do their jobs productively, efficiently and most importantly enjoyably.
Transitioning back to the workplace when everyone has become so used to working on their own terms in their own homes will be challenging, there’s no doubt about that. To return effectively, it will require effort from the employer and employees to reach an aligned company culture that everyone shares. Reviewing the past and planning for the future will establish a clear vision for the culture of the company moving forward.
The new behaviours and values employees have adopted will need to be accommodated back in the workplace. Flexibility will need to be maintained to make sure team members have the freedom to attend to personal responsibilities when they need to. This is why communication is the core. By maintaining open conversations between employers and employees, businesses can achieve a balanced work and home environment that ensures everyone is comfortable, productive and enthusiastic about the company culture.