Managing company culture during the next wave of uncertainty

By Aisling Hinchy

As we prepare our children to return to school and the summer draws to a close, the reality of the longevity of Covid19 has begun to wear heavy on many of us. At the height of the pandemic in mid-May, few of us envisaged the pandemic holding us within its grasp for many months or potentially years to come. Perhaps we had been fooled by our hopefulness, with our belief that this could in no way last past the end of the summer, creating a sort of virtual finish line by which this would be over just in time for children to make their way back to the classroom.

However, this week’s stark increase in Covid19 cases along with the introduction of local lockdowns, has shown us that when we take our foot off the pedal, this virus is waiting to round on us once again with the ferocity we witnessed in Spring of this year.

So instead, a new reality has been drawn, one which some of us accepted a long time ago and for others, are adapting to as the days move on. This virus is going nowhere, and as we look ahead to the winter months, we now know, that we must do what we can to maintain a sense of normality while also learning to live alongside Covid19.

When working remotely, overcommunication is vital to ensure each member of staff feels connected and that they are a valuable member of the business. When employees are working from different locations, the interaction which was commonplace in the office environment and is now missing from their daily routine, can lead to feelings of isolation and insecurity. Maintaining good levels of communication over and above what may have occurred in the office can help bridge feelings of isolation for some and foster a positive working culture for all while working remotely. It is particularly important for management to maintain individual, as well as group contact with all levels of staff, to ensure that the organisation is aware of each employees' individual needs while they are not in the office. By supporting employees and ensuring they are listened to, organisations can foster an inclusive and engaged work culture.

As we look ahead, many leading organisations have made the decision to remain working from home until January 2021, and others until mid-Summer of 2021. In normal circumstances, there would have been many an occasion for after-work get togethers, from casual Friday evening drinks to Summer BBQs and Christmas nights out. But all of that has been wiped clean from the calendar, running the risk that now the only interaction with work colleagues, is now just work. While gathering in person is not currently advised, it doesn’t mean that businesses can’t think outside the box and try new ways to spend time with colleagues and wider stakeholders. Well thought out and considered gestures and activities can help boost employee morale and lift spirits and is a creative way to maintain company culture while looking after everyone’s health.

As you navigate your own way into the next phase of uncertainty, we would like to encourage you to ask yourself again how you are equipped to curate your organisational culture?

  • Are we listening effectively? Re-assess how you listen and understand your employee sentiment towards culture capturing, materiality, mindset, motivation and mutual benefit.
  • Are we leading effectively? Recognising the new skills and competencies required of your leaders and frontline managers, investing in upskilling to drive culture shifts and changes as we navigate a challenging and changing world.
  • Are we engaging effectively? Bring the employee voice to the centre of culture communications to make it as authentic as possible and explore new and diverse ways of communicating inside and outside your company and organisation.

A positive work culture has been proven to increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism and can help attract and retain talent. Culture has a direct impact on your company’s reputation, whether that be positive or negative. It’s also important to remember that culture is something that is intangible, something that cannot be designed, created, or easily changed. Each organisation has a culture of its own, one that has been cultivated over time through both shared and personal experiences of its employees. While each employee will identify individual experiences, a positive business culture starts with good communication. This entails listening to employees, supporting them to work to the best of their abilities and ensuring that the environment is inclusive to all employees.

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