How Workplace Culture Has Changed Due to COVID-19 (And How to Adapt)

workplace
Danielle Doolen
2 months ago

The world is a different place than it was six months ago as a result of the ongoing pandemic. We’re spending less time at the office and more time at home, which presents challenges for everyone involved. Employees have to find balance between their work lives and personal lives now that are both happening in the same four walls. Leaders are scrambling to keep their businesses afloat while doing their best to effectively lead a team. It’s a lot to manage for everyone.

With these major shifts in how we work, there’s no denying workplace culture has been impacted. For some companies, it’s been a positive shift, leading to higher productivity and employee satisfaction. While in others, existing issues have been exacerbated by the drastic and difficult decisions employers have had to make in the past few months. Where culture was already weak and stressed, companies and their employees are feeling the added stress of navigating in this new reality. Company leaders are asking themselves how they can keep the culture and incentives alive that attracted employees to their company in the first place while still turning a profit.

Culture is the environment we create. It’s composed of shared values, beliefs, and attitudes, and it surrounds us all the time. While leadership sets the tone of workplace culture and is its leading driver, every employee holds the responsibility to foster the culture the company creates. So, as employees and leaders, what can we do when the effects of negative workplace culture directly impact us? 

We’re here to share five ways workplace culture has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and how you can adapt.

Existing poor company culture has worsened.

Where company culture was already suffering, the global pandemic has made it worse. With less facetime from executives and less social interaction among coworkers, employees are struggling to find the positive side of a newly remote workplace. Employees are straining to see the perks of companies who sell new employees on their state-of-the-art campuses, company gyms, and great paid time off policies in a virtual workplace where return to office plans continue to get delayed. For many employees, chatting and connecting with coworkers is the highlight of their workday. But there is only so much connection that can be fostered online, and the lack of camaraderie is leading employees to second guess their work situations.

How to adapt: In a perfect world, leadership establishes and maintains an ideal company culture. But these are anything but ideal times, and right now, the only thing you can control is yourself. If you find your culture is suffering due to poor decisions made by leadership or lack of employee morale, do what you can to foster the culture that you need and want in the workplace. As an employee, you may think there’s not much you can do alone, but actions speak louder than words. If you’re a manager, make time for conversations with your team to show them you genuinely care about them in and outside of the workplace. The moment you give in to the negativity, culture takes a hit for the worse. Do what you can to shed a positive light on the people in your direct influence.

Employees are tired of video calls. 

Do you feel like every meeting has turned into a Zoom call? Meetings that used to be phone calls now require face to face interaction and the need to be “on” more than before. Employees are experiencing Zoom fatigue and are left feeling drained at the end of the day.

How to adapt: If you’re in charge of scheduling a meeting, be intentional about whether video adds value to the conversation. Don’t make it a video call unless it has to be or set the tone that video is optional. If it’s out of your control, do your best to reduce on-screen distractions. Multitasking while on a video call can leave you feeling even more drained. While you’re at it, hide your own video from the screen. It’s easier to focus when you’re not staring at yourself, and we all know we’re guilty of this.

Water cooler conversation is a thing of the past.

Casual conversations while passing in the hall died the day companies transitioned to remote work. The small talk about your colleagues’ kids or a quick status update on a project are nonexistent. This lack of employee interaction is leading to lower morale because employees no longer have the camaraderie they would typically have in the office. 

How to adapt: Make it a point to catch up about things outside of work. This can seem awkward and forced at first, but I guarantee it’ll boost everyone’s mood because it shows you care. Spend the first five minutes of a meeting chatting about your latest Netflix binge or the new recipe you made for dinner last night. Being thoughtful about interactions ensures that the small, but important, conversations that used to happen in the office still happen.

Belts are tightening even when business is thriving.

With a recession looming, companies are being forced to make strategic moves to keep their businesses alive. Companies are cutting costs, and oftentimes that means cutting heads even in industries that are having record years.

How to adapt: Make yourself invaluable. Go above and beyond to show your boss that you’re a key player. In these times, where many things are out of your hands, you can control the quality of your work. But at the same time, we need to be mindful and accept that these are strange times and you may get let go for reasons outside of your control.

Leadership is out of touch.

Executives and managers may excel at leading their business through a global pandemic number-wise, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have happy people on the other side. When leaders are out of tune with the human side of the business, workplace culture will suffer. Ask your people how they’re really doing. How are they managing working from home? How are they making time for themselves when balancing work and homeschooling kids? This pandemic has affected all of us somehow. Be it financially, mentally, or emotionally, we’ve all been dealing with something, and it’s essential that leaders take the time to care for their people.

How to adapt: If you’re a leader or a manager, take a pulse check of your people. Make time for one-on-one conversations. Send out a company-wide survey and seek anonymous input, and then act accordingly. For employees without a team, make an effort to speak up. Voice your concerns and provide your feedback. Help your leaders help you.

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