Workplace Culture - The New Normal

Jul 03, 2020

Workplace Culture - The New Normal

While some companies are waiting for the time when business will go back to ‘normal’, others are using this time to change their business culture. 

The reality is there may never be a ‘back to normal’.

We are living through a sudden life-changing event and our business culture needs to change to reflect this. This comes as research from business solutions consultancy 8×8, showed that prior to lockdown, 41% of UK companies had no working from home policy in place. 

Research from Leesman, the world's leading independent authority on employee workplace experience, surveyed 700,000 workers worldwide, including 139,778 in the UK – of which 55% had little or no experience working from home.

Now, over three months on, companies are looking at ways of making working from home part of their permanent business culture. Matt Mullenweg, CE of WordPress and Tumblr owner Automattic, stated that the lockdown “might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility” and that it could represent a “great reset in terms of how we work”.

There are various factors that have enabled organisations to facilitate this transition and which act as some valuable considerations when projecting what the effect of Covid-19 will be on how organisations behave in the future:

1. We are now aware that the UK's broadband infrastructure can hold up to the strain of the sudden additional demand placed on it

2. Many businesses have now tested IT infrastructures and scaled up to ensure they are able to facilitate home working for all staff.

3. People have adjusted and adapted to communicating in an online format. 

4. There is increased familiarity with online platforms such a Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. to conduct in-house meetings, training seminars and client consultations. 

5. Efficiencies have increased with corporations making use of decreased travel times and costs.

Whilst initially these initiatives appeared, Changeas a smooth strategy to see us through this tough and unprecedented period, as time goes by it is looking more likely that working from home and all the adjustments that come with it will, for a least a proportion of employees, represent a permanent change. 

However to create a successful and smooth transition to remote working there are many cultural shifts that need to be taken into consideration.

Integrating a ‘working from home’ culture is not about replicating the office at home; it involves a completely different approach where the focus moves to output, clear communication and a high level of trust in people taking responsibility and accountability. 

According to McKinsey, employers should "foster an outcome-driven culture that empowers and holds teams accountable for getting things done, while encouraging open, honest, and productive communication". This underlines just how key it is to establish a structure and roadmap for decision-making and effective communication. Working with a common purpose and setting unified goals helps people feel supported, something is essential when working remotely. 

In addition, providing fully equipped ‘home offices’ with high speed internet, ergonometric seating, desks, lighting and headsets, helps people feel a valued part of the organisation. It represents a fundamental and permanent shift in attitude from ‘making do’ to adapting to a new future.

As we move towards the new normal, it is important to acknowledge that some employees may be facing other pressures at home, including caring for their children when schools are closed or looking after elderly parents and vulnerable friends. It is vital that these situations are respected and addressed and that additional support is provided to workers ensuring that they do not feel isolated, overly stressed or alone.

We also have to look at the cultivation of a flexible mindset, where people have to learn, unlearn and re-learn as we navigate our way through the many practical and technological changes and challenges now facing business. This is not easy and represents a far cry from the more traditional attitudes of getting it right the first time and every time. In such a dynamic and turbulent environment, mistakes are bound to happen. It is how we pre-empt, mitigate and learn from errors that will see us leave Covid-19 more resilient and successful.

We are all experiencing both an exciting and scary time, only enhanced by the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic and its’ future. However, the most successful organisations are those that have been able to not only survive but also flourish in difficult and uncertain situations; indeed the old business adage rings true ‘the only constant is change’. The future belongs to companies able to encourage flexibility, openness and creativity in their culture. Those that not only adapt, but also overcome, those that embrace change and thrive upon it.


Author: Fiona Campbell 


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