Company culture has taken a bit of a hit for many organisations during the Covid pandemic. Dispersed and remote teams, staff on furlough, Zoom fatigue and social distancing can all have an impact on communication, trust and engagement.
Yet as we emerge from the other side and start heading back into the workplace, now is the time to start nurturing and rebuilding your company culture, to ensure it is ready to adapt to whatever our ‘new normal’ at work will be.
We asked industry experts to suggest five ways we can reimagine company culture post-Covid.
1. Manage employee expectations
Employee expectations have shifted considerably during the pandemic, which in turn can impact company culture. For example, many people will expect to work from home more, plus they will be looking to their employer for support with mental wellbeing, as well as guidance on health and safety.
Ian Barrow, head of culture and engagement at creative consultancy Corporate Culture, says that leaders are crowdsourcing opinion and becoming more inclusive in finding ways to bring employees together and seek their input, as this is what staff are demanding.
“Employees have a number of heightened expectations as a result of the pandemic, beyond what they would normally expect from the company and their own role. There is an expectation for organisations to become more human, taking into account how employees want to work in the future.”
2. Facilitate a culture of flexibility
One of the key lessons learnt during lockdown is that, going forward, remote or hybrid working is likely to be the rule rather than the exception. According to a recent BBC survey of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers, covering over 1 million workers, 43 said they had no plans to bring workers back to the office full-time once restrictions are eased.
Company culture must therefore become more accepting, open and flexible, with strategies adapted to take this into account, says Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of people development consultancy Hunter Roberts.
“Employers need to develop a remote working handbook and framework, so everyone knows what is expected of them, including hybrid working guidelines. The new way of working, which is inevitable, has to be part of company strategy and drive the culture.”
3. Strive for transparency and open communication
Put simply, transparent communication must be at the heart of your culture. Now more than ever, employees are craving connection and communication, so leaders must be completely transparent, promote honest communication, and encourage a mutual dialogue.
“We need to facilitate clear, two-way, open conversations with all employees, top down and bottom up, about what's important to employees and what their values are,” comments Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co founder of HR consultancy 10Eighty.
4. Support mental health and wellbeing
HR leaders must focus on the mental wellbeing of employees and look at how current policies and procedures can be adapted. It’s also important to encourage line managers to take the time to truly understand how each person is feeling emotionally.
“People will be coming back to work with varying levels of loss and trauma,” remarks Susy Roberts. “Employers have to take a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their workforce and not just pay lip service to new requirements.”
5. Take this opportunity to do things differently
Some organisations have used the pandemic to press the reset button and make huge changes to working practices, so now is the time to look at how you can continue to adapt and improve on what you’ve already started.
“It’s an opportunity to look at working patterns, real estate and support services, and build flexibility into processes and systems,” says Susy Roberts. “What’s important to people? How do we embed it into our cultural values, from recruitment to talent retention to day-to-day operations? Things won’t go back to how they were, so we need to grab this opportunity and use it to everyone’s advantage.”