Company culture is that intangible element that defines the nature of an organization, that “something” that makes employees feel as though they fit within a workplace, affecting their happiness, motivation and productivity. It encompasses the shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize an organization. COVID-19 is testing the company culture of most corporations. The coronavirus has forced changes in the way we communicate, collaborate, perceive coworkers and accomplish our work. Directors, administrators and CEOs are being challenged to demonstrate new company culture through their leadership and how they implement changes in the face of the current crisis.
COVID-19 has changed:
Where we work: For many companies, COVID-19 has created a combination of remote and onsite workers forcing them to leverage digital communication tools to continue to engage employees in team activities and goals. Skype, Teams and Zoom have become everyday tools with only occasional face-to-face collaboration taking place. Virtual awards gatherings, remote company town halls, online events and social responsibility initiatives have become commonplace.
How we perceive our coworkers: Online meetings have given people a glimpse into their coworker’s personal lives helping them see their colleagues as human beings and providing a new sense of community. This has created more flexible, tolerant and understanding workmates as work and personal lives overlap.
Our environment: Work environments are being redesigned around wellness. Improving air quality, circulation and filtration have become a top priority in offices around the country. Circuitous routes through office space are being eliminated. Improved cleaning and sanitation have been implemented. Porous surfaces like wood are being replaced with materials that can withstand heavy cleaning with caustic products. Satellite offices are more common.
Our use of space: Workstations with clusters of employees who share common resources (lamps, telephones, etc) are being reworked. Sneeze guards have been installed. Efforts are being made to create a physical separation between colleagues. Small, private offices are more common.
Meetings: Gatherings have limited participation numbers and are held in more open spaces. Outdoor walking meetings are more common. Conference rooms are outfitted with plexiglass barriers and undergo disinfecting after each gathering.
Policies: Workplace policies and practices regarding visitors, coffee breaks, use of meeting rooms, travel and sick leave are being rapidly updated to meet the current situation.
Our approach to mental health: There’s an increased focus on individual and group mental health and an expansion of mental health provisions. Companies are finding it important to address emotional challenges in order to maintain morale and achieve psychological safety for their workforce. There’s an emphasis on interconnectedness as well as our responsibility to each other.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on company culture; the way we work and how our workplaces function. There’s an increased focus on health, wellbeing and hygiene. Travelling, office space, training, onboarding, communications, leadership development, adoption of technology and corporate social responsibility agendas have all been impacted. Resilience has become as important to corporations as cost and efficiency. Company leaders must navigate the new reality and use the strengths of their company culture to develop new ways to be successful in the marketplace.
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