Workplaces around the globe are confronting new challenges in a post-pandemic world, and how they adapt will shape their workplace culture for years to come.
The past two years have seen some tectonic shifts in the way people work and relate to one another. Some companies have taken the opportunity to improve their workplace environment and rise to the challenge of our times. What has resulted, in many cases, is that these organizations were forced to listen to their employees and adjust to their needs, just to stay in business at all.
The "business as usual" model was no longer tenable and it was a situation of "adapt or die"—which in many ways is making for a better workplace than prior to 2020.
Lockdown and quarantine were words that never passed the mouths of professionals in the workaday world prior to last year. But once faced with the crazy and almost unbelievable truth of the world grinding to a halt and the need to accommodate employees almost overnight, it became necessary to improvise.
By now, most companies have settled into a groove of remote working, at least part of the time, and have managed to solve the many challenging factors involved with remote work.
How does a business maintain support for its employees, maintain a sense of camaraderie, and a sense of belonging when teams are physically separated. Surely chatting with one another over a Zoom call doesn't quite measure up.
Turns out it doesn't. Although research has historically highlighted the benefits of remote working—including higher employee morale, better health and well-being, and improved productivity—that was before the pandemic. The research made the assumption that working from home was a choice rather than a necessity and that companies offered alternatives between telecommuting or coming to the office.
Only time will tell if there are any long-term effects of not working face-to-face with one's colleagues, and whether or not the digital representations of your fellow professionals on a laptop screen are a sufficient substitute.
Humans are remarkably resilient and adaptable and let's keep in mind that the most difficult challenge—to make the initial change—has already been accomplished. The hope now is that we bounce back stronger and better after the crisis has abated.
The future workplace will almost certainly be a hybrid, concentrating on the job that needs to be done instead of where it’s done.
Recent events have stimulated a rapid conversation and better understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion bring value and benefit to a business, and to society.
Unless each member of an organization can contribute to their fullest, that organization will not achieve its full potential. Inclusion is the bedrock of team-building. That's not to say that every decision in a workplace will be a decision by committee. Of course, that's not a workable idea. But the encouragement of contribution, and the placing of value and recognition of individual's ideas, and being part of a team has far-reaching and obvious benefits.
Diverse and inclusive cultures in a workplace should be celebrated, encouraged, and sustained. So too should smart and strategic ideas from executive levels, but the moral of the story is that a balance can be struck between "I know better and just do what I say" and "I value your ideas and recognize and appreciate your contributions."
Communication is key here, as with just about every aspect of a group consisting of more than one. The core idea is that in order to move with the times and evolve into a new, modern workplace, we need to be able to talk with one another, and share ideas, and place value in the contributions of our team members.
In a new hybrid model of amazing workplaces, we're likely to see a greater shift of attention to accountability. As mentioned above, it isn't so much where you do the work, it's that the work gets done. Working from home can open all kinds of flexibility in terms of hours and tilts the traditional workplace model on its head to some degree.
Sitting in an office, taking phone calls, and pretending to be busy just to look busy in a nine-to-five workplace is no longer a thing. Did you get that report written? Did you get that article edited? Did you make that sales call, or send that email, or design that flyer?
If you got the task done, does it really matter if you sat at your office desk during "work hours" or if you did it in your pajamas when you had a moment after dinner time? The answer is almost always "no".
Integrity plays a huge part here, particularly as people move to remote and hybrid environments where accountability can be an issue. Technology is advancing so rapidly today that punching the clock is being replaced as a valuable contribution to any company by a reliable and solid work ethic from the home office.
An employee who can get the job done is fast becoming more of an asset over someone who says they worked X number of hours from home but never turned in the expected result of their "productivity".
The best way to improve a company's culture and set an organization on a course of inclusive and diverse culture is to take a bottom-up approach, which requires listening to the needs and wants of your employees.
Let them talk, whether it be in a focus group or individual interviews, working cross-sections of the professionals in your ranks to illuminate key behaviors and company policies to adopt.
One of the key takeaways from the pandemic was how critical a unified culture can be during a crisis. When your people are directed by a clear purpose, vision, and values, they are aligned and will stand together as a team, feeling empowered to make things work.
When a company's culture is mindful of others and committed to creating an amazing workplace where the staff is working together, morale is raised, productivity increases and everyone involved has their lives improved as a result.