Working remotely comes with benefits: no commute, more flexible schedules, and lower overheads, to name just a few. But as many companies have discovered, remote work can threaten even the strongest corporate culture.
No matter how great your company culture was before the pandemic, it’s time to take a look at how it’s holding together – and what you might do to nurture it back to health. Here are three ways employers can encourage a healthy company culture while also sticking to guidelines that keep employees safe when offices reopen.
Adapt culture to the new norm
The best way to reinforce culture starts with asking employees for feedback. Find out how they think your culture has changed during the pandemic and what improvements they recommend. You’ll likely spot common themes across employee feedback that will show your management team the most obvious ways culture has diminished and reveal steps to fix it.
[ Does remote work leave you exhausted? Read our related story: Remote exhaustion: 13 tips to reduce fatigue. ]
Organizations that quickly adapt and present new cultural initiatives will demonstrate to employees that they’re making an effort. While many organizations will try to resurrect the old ways, it’s naive to think employees want the same work environment they had last year. The pandemic has reprogrammed employees’ working environment preferences and also demands that they change for the health of the company (literally).
A culture redesign is therefore necessary no matter how strong it was before COVID-19. At my own company, I recognized that employee satisfaction was a mixed bag during the mandatory stretch of work from home. When it was safe to return to the office, I charged HR with creating flexible capsules that would allow individual employees to choose how they split their time between the office and home each week.
Encourage two-way communication
Communication is more important than ever. Employees will look to their managers to address their concerns and offer guidance on how to navigate the post-pandemic workplace. Be transparent with employees and work one-on-one to ensure that your team members are satisfied and efficient in the new environment.
Many employees will be worried about the risk of returning to the office and employers should provide them with as much information as possible. This is key to increasing employees’ confidence and comfort and nurturing a culture of empathy. HR can help bridge the gap between executives, who ultimately make cultural decisions, and employees.
One step I’ve found to be effective is setting up several small “roundtable” meetings – sans top brass. The only subject on the table is how to improve the average workday as the pandemic winds down. Without executives present, employees are more comfortable letting their guard down and will likely offer great suggestions you can turn into initiatives.
Celebrate and empower stand-out managers
The pandemic has revealed the profound power of true leaders to make changes in the face of conflict. Smart and flexible leaders have met the challenge with practical solutions and enabled a smooth transition to remote work. Strong managers know that working alongside their people is essential and cannot be replaced with a capsule schedule or even the most sophisticated communications platforms.
As a leader, encourage your employees to follow your cues on ethics, culture, and day-to-day routines. To help our managers gain this perspective and learn to work with it, we’ve recently instituted a series of management training events and activities.
Organizations should celebrate and empower stand-out managers who bring employees together and suggest changes that suit a new hybrid work environment. Make them culture influencers by allowing them to suggest tools, activities, or meetings that promote flexibility and satisfaction, and give them a budget to accomplish these goals.
Reshaping your company culture post-pandemic allows leaders and managers to better connect with their teams. While designing a company culture is challenging, the right leaders and mindset will help enable a smooth transition back to the office.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
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