As the events of 2020 unfurled, our expectations and perceptions of what constitutes a good workplace culture have changed. Employers and their teams are now navigating an entirely new world of work – some fully remote, some office-based and others on a hybrid model. With this new world of work comes a change in culture. If employees are no longer physically together, how can any culture really remain the same?
No matter what your business (or your client’s business) does or how it operates today, workplace culture remains a huge selling point. Whether you’re trying to attract new talent, keep existing employees or simply improve the service you provide to your customers; your culture can make a world of difference.
Four business leaders and HR professionals tell EventOrganisers.com.au how Covid has transformed their businesses. They also take a look at the impact the pandemic has had and how workplace culture has changed as a result.
Rik Courtney, CEO of Be More Social, shares how quickly employers came to the realisation that some form of remote work – whether hybrid or 100% remote – is hugely beneficial to both employer and employee:
“COVID has made us all realise and understand that working remotely is actually possible. The systems and the processes that we’ve put in place that allow this to happen makes working from home a viable option. This means that our pool of potential employees has grown and the flexibility that our existing staff now have is much greater.
“It’s essentially enriched the team’s weekly working lives, reducing the pressure that comes with working full or part time and balancing other personal commitments such as childcare, looking after pets and caring for elderly relatives. Our employees are no longer worrying as much about dealing with these important personal commitments, as they may have done previously.
“This more flexible work/life balance has encouraged us all at Be More Social to focus more on communication, collaboration, connectivity and creativity more than ever before. Everyone has been supporting each other more than ever throughout the pandemic, and we’ve even hired a mindset coach who works with each employee on a monthly basis to help foster a positive mindset.”
While culture remains a priority for many leaders, remote or hybrid working will clearly have an impact on what your culture now looks like. It doesn’t go away in a remote or hybrid setting, cultural beliefs and norms are still established and reinforced, but they are no longer guided by the routines and processes that were once established in the office.
Moreover, cultural norms will likely now be subject to more flexibility and will be influenced by new, non-work factors in employees’ day-to-day lives.
Aleksandra Krstevska is the HR Manager for Evopure, a natural health company. She shared how the pandemic impacted their culture early on in the pandemic:
“We experienced a lack of motivation and enthusiasm in our team, especially because people react differently in times of crisis and the pandemic was hard for some of our colleagues.”
She introduced virtual on-to-one meetings with colleagues to provide a forum for employees to share how they are feeling, how they are finding remote work and to allow employees to provide feedback and suggest ways HR could help them through this lull in motivation: “I found these one-on-one meetings very helpful even for me as an HR Manager to track each colleague regarding their progress and their performance. However, I’m trying to be not only their HR Manager, but their friend too, because I noticed that empathy is something that is really needed in the workplace.
“We are a pretty small company, everyone knows each other so it’s much easier to act not only as colleagues, but as friends too. Whenever I’m sharing tips and feedback with each team member, I can see that they are starting to feel more motivated. Also, their tasks are successfully completed and their technical and soft skills are improving each week, too.”
As workplace cultures evolve, it is important for HR and wider business leaders to maintain flexibility and agility. Not everyone will be managing remote work in the same way, nor will their attitude towards the pandemic be the same.
Danielle Attard, MD of Comgem shared how the pandemic has meant they have embodied the flexibility that the pandemic has provided, and their culture has evolved in the same way:
“Covid has allowed us to become more flexible as our customers have become more flexible, too. This means some of our team work from home. As a working mum this provided me with greater flexibility with caring for children and juggling working.”
For many, in both HR and other functions, the pandemic has widened the breadth of their roles. From HR having to manage remote work, find new (remote) methods to ensure employee engagement and satisfaction and updating benefits overnight to sales teams having to master the art of online sales meetings, demonstrations and negotiations; many employees’ roles have changed significantly in a very short space of time.