How To Keep The Culture Alive During Lockdown
With the onset of COVID-19, there have been significant lifestyle and working changes including social distancing and other pandemic measures. Given humans are naturally social creatures, the sudden changes caused by the pandemic have caused a severe cultural shock. For employees specifically, the widespread shift to working from home (WFH) and loss of face-to-face contact can threaten to dissolve company cultures, and leaders must now develop an action plan to keep culture alive!
From Work to Home
Now, employees, for the first time, have to adapt to their individual schedules to their work due to the shift towards working from home. So, could WFH be a good thing? Interestingly, in a 2015 study by Stanford Institute, the research found that over 9 months, working from home led to a 13% increase in performance and cut turnover in half. But this was before COVID-19 existed, so how about now? Today's WFH arrangement isn't ideal with no privacy or options, parents are now working whilst home-schooling their children and establishing inconvenient workspaces in spare bedrooms or on kitchen tables. Worsening this is the added anxiety, boredom, tech issues, and loneliness making remote working all the more challenging. The loss of the 9-5 rise and grind mentality has left many workers unmotivated and changed work culture as a whole. Now, in fear of losing company culture to covid, businesses are re-evaluating a variety of workplace concepts, introducing new ideas, and emphasising forgotten ones, all of which are explored below.
Flexibility for Workers
With the added complexity of communicating online and striking a work-life balance when WFH, companies must ensure their workers feel as though they have a flexible work environment. This means that meetings, due dates, and project timelines may need to be adjusted to meet the scenarios of all employees, whether it be a difference in time zones or family life. Executives must make sure each individual employee feels valued, understood, and appreciated. To achieve this, company cultures must provide a sense of belonging, thereby giving employees their much-needed freedom and motivation in this new environment, and also helping reinforce the company’s long-term culture.
The main challenge faced by companies when in lockdown is seamlessly transferring their original working culture online. The changing priorities that accompany a shift online mean that some aspects of the pre-existing company culture may no longer prove relevant, and in some cases damaging. Therefore, if companies seek to sustain any type of culture during COVID-19, they must first re-establish the central values from which a new culture may form.
Emphasis on Employee-Wellbeing
With the added stresses that surround the pandemic and lockdown periods, companies must place an even greater emphasis on employee well-being and mental health. By focusing on improving well-being, companies may avoid WFH dissatisfaction and the potential for turnover, whilst simultaneously developing a supportive and trusting culture. Ways in which companies are achieving this cultural change is through well-being-oriented events throughout the workday such as daily check in’s, gratitude journaling or anonymous concern submissions. Additionally, many HR managers are looking to collectively motivate employees with ideas such as book clubs, cook-offs and exercise competitions. The changing focus and culture towards positive well-being can be supported by a recent Mercer poll of HR executives which found 94% of managers are stepping up mental health needs for employees amid the pandemic. Ultimately, these changes show that keeping culture alive amidst the pandemic stems from first establishing supportive networks and strong work satisfaction.
Communication Keeps Culture
Firstly, when considering communication, transparency should be the main focus for business leaders as, during this unstable economy, there is a greater need for honest communication about employees’ futures. Further to this, a trusting culture must be firmly established, as a lack of employee trust or confidence may lead to a competitive and individualist culture. Secondly, the risk of communication breakdown along a variety of online communication channels, including the loss of working friendships given the lack of face-to-face contact can damage company culture. This means the executives must choose one main line of communication, preferably with video chat functions, and also invest more time in employee-to-employee communication, such as coffee break zoom chats.
Keep Up the Morale
In times of crisis, businesses can band together or separate. Keeping a company's culture alive and employees involved is crucial. As a result, businesses are trying to re-create culture in the new scenario with creative video chats, zoom lunches, virtual events, bingo, office tipping competitions, and much more. In fact, one Ohio security firm is leading the way with live virtual meditation classes as an office event. By investing time in maintaining a sense of normalcy between workers, and by offering a fun alternative to the WFH boredom, a positive culture will emerge.
Overall, the significant changes to business operations and workplace protocol due to COVID-19 have shifted the way company culture thrives. Business leaders now need to focus on maintaining a strong virtual culture by rethinking previous aspects. This includes providing greater well-being support to employees, changing expectations, having clear communication and creating new fun ways for workers to connect. Now more than ever, company directors cannot ignore the impact of COVID-19 on culture and measures must be put in place to ensure survival.