Life as we know it has forever changed. Even when fears surrounding COVID-19 have subsided, the impact on our daily lives will still be felt.
Simple things that were taken for granted—like standing shoulder to shoulder with a stranger at a sporting event, eating at a buffet, greeting a friend with a hug—are likely to fuel unease.
Just as society will feel lasting effects, so will the workplace. As hesitant employees head back to work and adjust to the new normal of face masks, temperature checks and social distancing, employers will observe a dramatic shift in company culture.
Organizations that embrace a friendly “clan” culture will have to adapt to the isolation of remote work, while those with a “hierarchy” culture of process and procedure will have to adjust to flexibility in this time of uncertainty.
Here we explore some of the ways the COVID-19 crisis will impact company culture.
The End of Workplace Martyrdom
Gone are the days when employees came to work while sick out of fear of being perceived as replaceable or not dedicated to their jobs. Employers now have greater obligations to protect the health of their employees. Not only will employees be encouraged to stay home if they are ill, they will be required to, in order to prevent transmission to other employees.
According to a survey conducted pre-pandemic, 90% of employees polled admitted they have gone to work while sick. Heath assessments and temperature checks will, for the short term, deter employees from coming to work sick.
So will the fear of being shunned by co-workers for exhibiting signs of illness and being sent home by management.
To encourage responsible behavior by employees, employers should consider re-examining their sick leave policies, beyond what is required by law. Leading by example and cross-training employees so that they can step in for one another when needed can also help.
Greater Trust Placed in Employees
Among toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap, some distrustful bosses were panic-buying spy software in order to track their remote workers at the start of the pandemic.
Monitoring employees’ keystrokes and logging the websites they visit doesn’t boost their productivity. Intrusive and indicative of mistrust, these big brother practices have the opposite effect.
Virtual micromanagement is real and is as destructive to workplace culture as it is in the office. Managers will have no choice but to be more trusting of their workers.
By focusing on output, rather than tracking input, employees are empowered to manage their time more efficiently. In a culture of trust, employees are held accountable for the work they do, and not evaluated by the time spent in their seats.
More Communication and Transparency
During this time of uncertainty, communication is critical. A recent study revealed that organizations were doing a good job communicating with their employees.
83% of respondents agreed their organization’s leaders have been delivering on-topic communications, 82% agreed they were using the right channels, and 79% agreed it was with an appropriate frequency.
More importantly, the study revealed what employees are seeking from their managers—to understand clear plans for the organization’s future, the impact of the disruption on their role, and work and job security.
As workers cope with future worry and stress, employers need to provide clear and consistent messaging to put them at ease. By creating a culture of transparency, employees feel they have a safe outlet in which to ask questions and voice concerns.