Keeping the office culture alive without the office
Company culture represents a set of unique values which were put to a test during the pandemic, as many leaders and employees were faced with questioning what their organisation stands for when making difficult decisions.
Culture is especially relevant when employees are away from the office, from their teams and from their managers, and understandably represents a primary concern for leaders. Of course, company culture doesn’t naturally disappear in a remote working context as cultural norms are still in place, but they are not being guided by the same routines that were previously established in the office.
The intangible asset
Culture is not static and it’s not a product of a mission statement or set values. It is also not something you can quickly gain or lose, and it cannot be measured. It evolves continuously based on the unique organisation and its people. It’s a dynamic sense of purpose that is shaped by several factors from social and economic to technological. As one of the most powerful sources of competitive advantage, as no other organisation can fully replicate it, company culture sends a very strong message about what the organisation stands for, both internally and externally. The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth and adapt to meet customer needs, and the pandemic has provided the chance for employees to see if a company’s stated values truly manifest in its actions.
Prior to the pandemic, the office setting, and the overall vibe have been the key signals of culture, reflected in the way people interacted and dressed in combination with the physical reinforcement, such as open space with brainstorming areas or a more traditional office set up. In the current setting, none of this exists, and as the first step in moving forward, leaders need to acknowledge that culture can no longer be cultivated in the same office-centric model. Leaders need to engage employees on a personal level to establish a connection and instil a successful company culture. The top-down approach is best demonstrated by the leader role modelling the desired behaviours, and bottom-up via allowing employees to have their voices heard.
Purpose as a driving force
Bringing a sense of purpose can help employees navigate high levels of uncertainty and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the highest-value activities. According to a recent McKinsey study, Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation by seven years. The results have shown that businesses have spent more on digital investments than on any other business continuity measures during the pandemic.
However, one of the biggest barriers to achieving successful digital transformation is a company culture that doesn’t easily adapt to changing business conditions. Change, by its nature, leaves people and organisations feeling confused and vulnerable at a time when resilience and collaboration are necessary to perform at the highest levels. By being clear about the challenges ahead, leaders can increase commitment and energise the team to adapt to change – because leadership is not just about the actual person in charge, but about unlocking the forces that bring people together as a team. This in return creates a culture of mutual purpose and accountability where each employee is valued and essential for the organisation’s long-term success.
Because of its unique nature, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping the culture alive, which is resulting in leaders bringing in creative ways to keep their remote workforce engaged - from lunch and learn events through virtual recognition programmes to company socials. Small acts of kindness, such as personalised birthday or thank you messages from managers or spreading positivity across the team can also boost spirits and bring people together. In addition, physical exercise can improve mental well-being and while gyms remain shut, companies can organise online exercise or yoga classes, as well as meditation classes to help employees look after their mind.
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