2021 - Workplace Culture Stocktake
“In the rush to return to normal, use the time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
Last year not long out of our Level 4 lockdown one of my articles touched on the new working norms that have surfaced post Covid. Certainly businesses have had to adapt, pivot and change within an incredibly short period of time. The way in which we work and do business has changed immensely and we probably won’t see a return to those ‘old working styles’. Why? We have evolved – and we quite like it. From an HR point of view – we now need to align the business strategically to ensure that our people and the culture that’s been built over many years adapts to accommodate these new norms – accommodating new working styles and continuing to building strength in people. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot and researched – how to maintain the company culture, ethos, spirit and innovation when the workforce has potentially become fragmented.
It has become apparent that many people and businesses aren’t in a rush to return to the pre-Covid days of being committed to the traditional 40-hour work week from the office, and for most it’s working well. We have the technology to support it. There are many many businesses and employees out there who simply won’t, now they’ve proven that they can, return to their ‘old’ business working models. Working from home is the new norm, and businesses are taking more consideration to flexible hours and 4 day working weeks. There is an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing which is more evident than ever before and perhaps a recognition that employees that have more control over how and when they work, are more productive team members. For some, allowing flexibility into their businesses was once feared, but Covid-19 forced that change in mind-set upon us, and perhaps the reality of it hasn’t been so bad after all.
However, in embracing this new ‘norm’, there are aspects of our business that also need to pivot to account for this change in work styles. Businesses are having to navigate their way through a new set of challenges, for example, alignment of values and culture. With a fragmented workforce, a very relevant dilemma is how to keep the values and culture aligned so that those working from home don’t get left by the wayside out in the cold so to speak. We all know the benefits of co-location and collaboration, so how can we pivot to ensure that what inspires us does not get lost?
One way includes focusing on a theme that binds all employees together and concentrating on the core aspects of the leadership team and how their actions and behaviours impact others. Examples on the ground level include perhaps by making a day of the week that everyone is in the office - covering off some of the important face to face messages so that the whole team is on the same page, perhaps a team activity, brainstorming, and some time for social interactions. This allows and encourages continuity of social interactions between team members and essential face to face communication. It brings the team together in a way that can’t be done via email or zoom. Ask your employees for ideas around the redevelopment of the company values and culture, try them, analyse the results. What are others doing? What can you do better? What is not working for you anymore? Great leaders look within and ask questions of their team.
The challenge now is re-building to account for our new working landscapes – rebuilding a positive energetic and encouraging culture that fosters connections and teamwork, and empowers people.