Jori Hamilton 4m 937 #covid19
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Image Source: Pexels
Company culture is an often understated value-generating tool that can solidify teams and increase productivity. It matters as a tool for bridging experiences, innovating work policies, and creating a cohesive workplace. Work culture is also one of the most highly impacted features of the workplace amidst the changes caused by COVID-19.
But how has the pandemic changed work culture? Is this change for the better or do companies now face greater challenges in securing employee productivity and shared values?
We explore how COVID has changed work culture and whether these changes are likely to continue.
Remote Work and Work-Life Balance
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a widespread shift to remote work in one fell swoop. While many businesses previously dragged their heels with integrating these flexible work options, keeping employees safe from exposure to the coronavirus catalyzed changing work policies.
As a result, the working world changed more in 2020 than it has in previous decades. Workers may be working longer hours, but they are now doing so with enhanced flexibility and tolerance for taking care of personal tasks while on the clock. The result is a more humanized work experience complete with accommodations for working remotely all or some of the time in a hybrid model. And it can mean time and money saved for workers and businesses alike.
Without the need for workers in-house, companies can limit overhead expenditures inherent in running an office. From energy to cleaning bills, increased savings is now possible. For workers, this means no commute, reduced gas bills, and plenty of time returned to their day.
On the other side of this equation, employees are now working more into their nights and weekends. A report from NordVPN showed that workers are now clocking in 2-3 more hours a day on average than they were before the pandemic, with light-night and weekend activity more common than ever. The work-life balance many struggled to achieve before the pandemic has been thrown out the window.
Now, work culture has evolved from the 9-5 schedule we have come to expect to a free-for-all of when we can accomplish tasks while juggling other responsibilities like childcare and personal needs. Maintaining these schedules means a necessary focus on software-based communication and workflow processes.
Technology has become a new essential element of work culture. Software is making it possible for managers to delegate tasks, check in with workers, host meetings, and communicate workplace goals. Platforms like Zoom and Slack, along with cloud networking and databases, are now vital to maintaining any semblance of a cohesive work culture.
But how are companies adapting when it comes to using these tools to create a consistent culture?
How Companies are Adapting
In accommodating the myriad safety guidelines and business recommendations involved in managing COVID-19, businesses are keeping employees safe and socially distanced as much as possible. Because of the difficulties inherent in adapting work culture to remote and hybrid processes, taking lessons from successful companies can be especially helpful.
Here are two examples of companies winning the work culture shift caused by COVID:
Human capital and finance software developer Workday demonstrated a culture of care and empathy that supported its employees and organizational cohesion from the early days of the pandemic. Workday gave employees a one-time bonus in the form of a two-week salary to accommodate pandemic concerns. Additionally, the developer offered enhanced childcare benefits and mental health resources.
This example demonstrates how changes in work culture can be a time to emphasize the humanity of a business and in turn promote employee happiness and success.
Retail giant Target decided to double-down on employee care provisions when the pandemic struck. The corporation extended sick leave for all its employees, even going as far as offering up to 30 days of paid sick leave for high-risk employees that felt unsafe coming into work. All working employees also received a $2 per hour pay increase from March to May 2020 as a form of hazard pay.
Through efforts like these, Target showed a dedication to employee safety and welfare. This element of work culture helped maintain team solidarity while promoting success, even as the pandemic forced heavy restructuring of day-to-day activities.
While the measures taken by both Workday and Target represent temporary assistance programs, these offerings alone demonstrate how work culture has changed. Businesses are showing higher levels of care and flexibility when it comes to managing employees as human beings. But are these changes here to stay?
Securing Work Culture Through Change Management
The COVID changes came about quickly, but it will take a long time for expectations to shift for the workers now used to enhanced flexibility and more empathetic work cultures. Pew Research Center found that 71% of employed Americans whose duties can be done from home are working remotely. Of these, 54% want to continue working from home when the outbreak is over.
With the reduced costs and saved time made possible by remote and hybrid work, these new features of work culture are likely here to stay. A majority of employees find remote work valuable and even more productive than office alternatives. But companies looking to make the change back to the office or maintain a hybrid course need to focus on change management.
Change management is a direct indicator of a business’ survivability. It takes an effective team, thorough assessment, and effective communication to ensure cohesive culture throughout substantial business changes. No matter how events play out or the economy responds to the pandemic, teams that make effective change management a part of their own culture will be better able to adapt and thrive.
~ Jori Hamilton