Company Culture: Life After Lockdown
From remote working in a crisis, to furlough, our company cultures have seen major disruption and upheaval during the COVID-19 crisis, which has ultimately impacted our business and our people.
Are you wondering how things will be after lockdown?
Are there changes you’re worried to make in your company culture?
Do you want to take back control of your company culture?
I’ve helped UK SME’s pivot their company cultures and face changes, which means I have the experience and knowledge to help you adapt and move your company culture forward after the COVID-19 crisis.
In this feature I’ll cover;
- The experiences you may have faced during the crisis
- The changes that may have occurred in your company culture
- The changes that may happen after the crisis is over
- How you can manage change effectively
- How you can begin to build a stronger company culture
I also spoke about these changes in our webinar which you can also watch here.
What’s Happened to Our Company Cultures’ Since CV-19?
It’s safe to say, that during the coronavirus pandemic everything has shifted, and people are coping with this in very different ways.
People have been displaced from their workplaces, isolated from their loved ones, now juggling childcare and work, struggling more with mental ill-health, financial worry, and experiencing the passing of loved ones due to this horrific virus.
Without a doubt, every company culture in the world will have been moved in some way due to the economic and personal impact this pandemic is having.
During the crisis businesses around the world have been thrust into a remote work operation without any knowledge or prior experience, let alone any operational readiness to remote work.
This has meant a huge disruption in productivity, employee engagement and roles being furloughed or even made redundant due to the crisis.
Key Issues Around Remote Work Include;
- Businesses are not operationally prepared to remote work
- Businesses have zero experience of a remote work operation
- Some roles cannot be fulfilled remotely
- People are juggling work + life in a crisis
- Some people simply cannot remote work effectively
In-Office vs. Remote Working
Remote working can be a highly effective way of working for many businesses, but it doesn’t suit every company or every person.
There has been much talk of remote working becoming ‘the new normal’, but the simple fact is, it’s about finding what’s right for your business and for your people – it takes a holistic approach.
Office space is designed specifically for work and for collaboration. In an office, you are more likely to have even impromptu interactions with other teams members who you do not directly work with. This means the ‘culture’ of the business is much more likely to increase in strength as people are living and breathing all in one space which is dedicated to the business and its purpose.
Of course, in an office, you also have greater access to technology. Often our workplaces have better internet connectivity, and other technologies that we may not have access to in a home working or remote environment.
On the other hand, remote working has been adopted by large organisations around the world in order to expand globally and gain the very best people.
Remote work has provided thousands of people with the opportunity to get a better work-life balance, be more productive and have focussed time without those office interruptions, and provide them with the opportunity to manage their own work-load without being micro-managed.
There are pros and cons for both office spaces and remote working – which means I doubt very much that remote working will become a complete norm. Yes, it may certainly increase, but many people still thrive in the creative and collaborative environment that a workspace offers.
Furlough has supported businesses in keeping employees enabling a sense of job security in such an uncertain time, but this has brought many issues with companies concerned about the level of disengagement from teams who are disconnected from the day-to-day business.
As people are no longer in the business, and acting under their role, there is a worry that people will start to lose interest in the company and their jobs.
During a time like this, when people are quite literally sat at home bored, people will have time to reflect on their roles and the company they work. Some people may decide during furlough that they simply no longer want to work for the company, or perhaps they may decide to set-up a business of their own.
Maintaining lines of communication with your team during furlough is essential. Especially as it will help when the transition comes to going back into the workplace.
Key Issues Around Furlough;
- People feel disconnected from the business
- People have time to reflect on their roles and the company they work for
- Maintaining communication between people and business
- Fear of job safety
We must remember that during covid-19, our world has been put into a crisis state, we have never experienced anything as disruptive and life-changing since WW2.
It’s an unusual situation. Which means businesses have struggled to adapt, operations have been slow to keep up, and people’s fears have naturally been triggered.
This combination of issues means it’s no surprise that business productivity has been negatively affected. After all, our current working from home space is not ideal. Many people are working from the kitchen table while also trying to home-school their children.
People who struggle with mental ill-health have been isolated from their loved ones and their support network, which means their productivity will be severely affected.
Many businesses have also been slow to adopt effective remote-working communication streams, which means things are easily missed, and projects start to slow.
Key Issues Around Productivity;
- We are / have been in a ‘crisis’ state
- Business operations have been slow to adapt
- Workspace is not ideal for remote working / home working
- Communication between teams is not as streamlined
Morale impacts our productivity and our engagement. Even those who don’t usually struggle with any mental ill-health conditions will have been affected on some level. Being disconnected from loved ones, not being able to enjoy simple pleasures, and being in the same environment for long periods of time. It’s a real mental challenge.
Unfortunately, in our current society, getting support and help for mental ill-health can be difficult, and many businesses have still not taken the step to look at how they can support team members struggling with these experiences, let alone providing support to all team members who may now be finding this experience a severe challenge on their health and wellbeing.
Plus, we must not forget that it’s not just the mental impact this situation is having on us, but the financial difficulties people are going through. Many people are wondering how long they’ll be able to pay their mortgage for, or if they’ve been made redundant, how will they be able to find a job during these times?
Key Issues Around Morale;
- Little support already for those with existing conditions
- People are isolated, lonely, separated
- Financial worry is a contributing fact
How will things change post covid-19?
Remote & Flexible Working Will Increase
- People don’t want to go back to the old way of work
- Flexible working proposals will increase
- Flexi office spaces will rise
- All sectors and industries will need to adapt
- Keeping culture alive for those who are remote
You hear the buzzword ‘new normal’ everywhere at the moment.
Now that everyone has had a taste of what life is like without the ‘rat race’ we’re questioning why that way of working was ever effective in the first place.
Many people will no longer want to work long hours and miss quality time with their family.
People will no longer want to work long hours to jeopardise their health and wellbeing.
Without a doubt, there will be a rise in those requesting remote working and flexible working, and businesses will ultimately have to adapt.
There is no common sense to working long hours any more. We now have the technology and the ability to be able to make our workplaces more effective and efficient no matter the hours we put in.
Virtual Leadership Will Become a New Challenge
- Physically managing and leading people virtually will be a required skill
- Leaders must now grapple with being ‘seen’, engaging, supporting and trusting through virtual means, but not micro-managing
If more businesses do adopt remote working, virtual leadership will inevitably become a new challenge that organisations must face.
In our physical workspaces, it’s easy to ‘check-in’ on people and be seen. But when you take leadership to a virtual level, it actually becomes quite hard-work. You have to get the balance right between, being supportive and available, to not seen as micro-managing or distrusting.
This new level of leadership will require many traditional managers to be re-trained.
More People Will Exit
- There will be an increase in new businesses (start-ups / freelancers)
- People will look to change careers / or switch companies entirely
- Keeping people engaged and motivated will be a top challenge
With job security coming into question, people may decide to leave organisations.
People’s drive will come from a need to take more control over their work-life balance and feel more in control of their financial outcome.
In the 2008-2009 recession, there was a huge surge in start-ups, and those are going self-employed, as people decided to take the opportunity to do something for themselves.
During the coronavirus pandemic, we will no doubt see a rise in small businesses emerge.
More Meaning Will Enter the Workplace
- More organisations will support creating work/life balance
- Deeper connections and more meaningful relationships will be built
- We will crave human-human to contact
During this time in lockdown, many of us have experienced the other side of our colleague’s lives. The children in the background, the partner, making them a tea, the cats trying to take over the keyboard and the dogs lovingly looking up at their owner. We’ve seen a glimpse into what matters to each other, something we often don’t see in the workplace.
From this new perspective, we will gain from those we work with; our company cultures will become ever more about human-to-human connection and being seen as individuals with lives outside of work.
More organisations will support their teams in getting that work-life balance and ensuring that human contact is also seen for the benefits it brings to our communication and our wellbeing.
Culture Drive Will Increase
- People will remember how you reacted / how you supported
- Culture will become a further identifier in a ‘good employer’
As we all know by now, company culture is driven by purpose and values – an organisation’s culture is its behaviours at scale, what is says and what it does. These will have been tested during the covid-19 crisis, and if you’ve not acted under your values and what you believe in, there will be some major ripple effects on your business.
People will remember how you reacted in a crisis. This includes your team as well as your employees.
After the covid-19 crisis is over, more people will be analysing the way their company has acted, and wondering if it’s truly a place they want to work. Don’t underestimate how much our ethics are beginning to play a part in who people decide to work with.
Wellbeing & Safety Will Be A Priority
- Giving people confidence to return to the workplace will need a strategy
- Not everyone may want to come back to work straight-away
- Support will need to be provided for those who have been severely affected by the virus
When the lockdown is lifted, people may not want to come back to work straight away.
The fear and the devastation that this covid-19 has caused will have heightened peoples worry and anxieties.
Those who have lost loved ones due to the virus will need extra care and support to transition back, as grief is an entire complicated situation of its own.
Beyond this, you will need to look at the wellbeing and safety you enact in your company culture.
People will want to see that you’re being pro-active and keeping them safe.
How can we manage these culture changes?
With so much change ignited in our company cultures due to coronavirus, it is business-critical that you begin to take action and manage how you will adapt.
As I’ve had experience in helping companies overcome a variety of culture change situations; I’ve listed my top steps to help you navigate the covid-19 changes.
Step 1) Starting auditing your working operations
Flexible and remote working is going to be the new reality, but only if you can understand where your operations may need work first.
Look at short-term as well a long-term – this isn’t going to be just a quick fix.
Ensure your culture is strong , those with the stronger cultures will see the highest rate of success.
- Create a remote-working handbook. This should be the ‘how-to’ guide for everything your team may need when they are remote working. It should also outline different lines of communication and their purpose.
- Outline clear goals and objectives, and request for your team to provide you with regular updates.
- Conduct regular employee surveys around remote working.
Step 2) Engage with your team, understand what their biggest worries and frustrations are.
Few companies have the courage to actually engage with their team about company culture, but by getting their feedback and suggestions you can increase the success of your culture changes and help to create a place that guides them towards the businesses goals. Don’t be afraid to put it out there – they may also hold the solution you need!
Step 3) Small culture changes first
Make small culture changes first – discover your ‘quick wins’ – What change or improvement could you make today that would have a good impact?
Don’t get bogged down in too much long-term planning to begin with. Just move fast and get things going.
Step 4) Strategise with your team
Begin to build a strategy for the ‘new reality’ we will experience in the world. Get together with your team and start making predictions / suggestions on how this may impact they way things operate in your business. Only by knowing what ‘might’ happen means you can then adapt and change without anything being a surprise.
Step 5) Be transparent with your team
Be transparent with your team – people value honesty!
Don’t get caught in the trap of pretending everything is fine. The whispers will start to get spread and this will only further disrupt your culture and create a toxic atmosphere of distrust.
Even if things are not going well – be honest, answer their questions and get their feedback.
Step 5) Don't copycat
Don’t copycat…. now is the time to behave and act under YOUR Mission and YOUR VALUES. If your mission and values are no longer relevant perhaps it’s time to change these?