COVID-19 and Company Culture: Long-Term Changes On the Horizon

COVID-19 and Company Culture: Long-Term Changes On the Horizon

A strong company culture is key to any organization’s success. However, as this blog has pointed out in the past, sometimes a company culture needs to develop and change over time.

Sometimes a new leader makes the choice to usher in a cultural shift. In other instances, factors outside their control force the culture to change. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the culture of many companies, thanks to the various shelter-in-place and isolation measures enacted around the country. Even for those “essential” businesses whose employees still go to a physical workplace, there’s no business-as-usual. Almost every organization is feeling the effects.

While the pandemic is devastating to both human health and the economy, the way some organizations are responding may yield positive developments in the long run. Here’s a look at some of these potential long-term benefits.

More Remote Work

Plenty of companies across a range of industries have had to shift to a remote model in recent months. Many of those companies’ leaders have also been pleasantly surprised to find that the remote work model doesn’t necessarily lead to a decrease in productivity. On the contrary, research from before the pandemic already confirmed that allowing employees to work remotely can actually boost productivity and engagement.

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A strong company culture should involve some degree of connection among employees. Leaders need to find a way to ensure everyone feels like a member of the same team, even when they’re all working separately. However, leaders should also know that helping employees maintain that ideal work/life balance can bring about a more positive culture. 

The pandemic will end eventually, but there’s reason to believe many companies that recently adopted remote work will continue to allow it in some form after the crisis is over. This will naturally change their cultures, but again, those changes can be beneficial.

Greater Flexibility

Many organizations aren’t merely letting employees work from home now. There are many cases of companies loosening the requirements for when employees complete their work. 

This is partially out of necessity. When you can’t require all employees to report to the office and clock out at the same time, it’s difficult to require them to start working from home at the same time.

That said, this is another development that may have a positive impact on company culture for many organizations. Research shows that employees tend to be more engaged when they have the option to set their own schedules to a degree. This allows them to feel more empowered and less micro-managed, and can increase job satisfaction—after all, no one wants to work for an organization that treats its employees like they aren’t capable of making good decisions.

Keep in mind that some leaders will likely try to continue enforcing pre-pandemic requirements once the situation resolves. This may be a tough sell. Employees will be aware that not all organizations have remained as strict, and have instead embraced greater flexibility. They may be tempted to leave if they feel like their company doesn’t understand this “new normal.”

More Support for Employees

It’s always been important for employers to support their workforces by providing healthcare insurance and other benefits. That said, COVID-19 has made these benefits more important than ever. Many people are struggling greatly, even those who still have their job. They may have costly medical bills, sick family members to care for, or a spouse who has lost their job. They may be grieving for a loved one, or they may be struggling to handle childcare and homeschooling. Some of their employers have stepped up to the plate to help.

For example, the New York Times reported on how some of the country’s biggest employers are helping their employees. Wal-Mart is offering $300 bonuses for full-time hourly workers, and PepsiCo is increasing 90,000 of its employees’ pay for the next month. Amgen gave some of its employees stipends to purchase equipment and pay for home internet and phone service for remote work.

This is another positive change that may become a permanent aspect of the culture at many organizations once the pandemic ends. Good leaders will realize that even in the best of times, supporting their employees results in a level of engagement that yields major benefits for a company culture. It’s also just the right thing to do.

The Best Leaders Will Rise to the Top

This situation has been difficult for everyone. Even if you’re a leader at your organization, it’s important to remember that you’re also a human going through a pandemic—the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century—and you need to consider your own physical and mental health.

However, leaders still have responsibilities. They need to do their best to remain calm, honest, and responsive right now. Not all leaders have been able to do so, and their companies have suffered. On the other hand, the pandemic has shined a spotlight on the leaders who have managed to stay strong, regardless of the current situation. In other words, the pandemic is separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to leadership.

Once more, these points aren’t meant to imply that the pandemic is beneficial in any way. However, the way some organizations have responded to the crisis can lead to positive long-term changes. These are just a few examples.

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