The water cooler’s empty now; it’s too much of a contamination risk to keep it filled. No one wants to linger over birthday cake in the office kitchen anymore. And any hope of a company in-person retreat is so 2019.
The pandemic has naturally changed a lot about how businesses operate, and a lot of those changes affect company culture. The policies and practices that define your company culture post-COVID are bound to look a little different than they once did… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Leaning into the cultural shifts brought about by the pandemic may actually help you attract and keep the best workers.
1. Handshakes are out.
Anyone who loves a good, firm handshake between colleagues is out of luck post-pandemic. The risk of germ transmission is just too high. Some outliers might return to this traditional greeting eventually, but many professionals will keep their hands to themselves going forward. (“I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,” Dr. Anthony Fauci famously said back in May.) Maybe your office will embrace the fist bump?
2. Workers want more flexibility.
Having demonstrated they can work productively from home, some employees will be less than thrilled about returning to the office. Once you’ve gotten used to your commute being from the bedroom to the dining room, it’s hard to go back to a long car or train ride. Employers can expect that increased flexibility will be a priority for workers going forward. Being allowed to work remotely, at least a few days a week, is a more attractive perk than a raise for some employees.
3. Say goodbye to uncomfortable shoes.
In the average Zoom meeting there’s a good chance that just out of frame, half the participants are wearing yoga pants, pajamas… or even less. The dress code can’t stay quite that lax once people are back in the office. But after months of dressing primarily for comfort, employees may come into work looking a little more casual than they did pre-pandemic. While employers still get to create and enforce rules about professional dress, relaxing any particularly strict policies is an easy way to score some culture points.
4. Business travel may shrink.
This particular shift in company culture post-COVID could be painful for anyone who loves a per diem. Business travel as we knew it has changed. Some workplaces may never resume their pre-COVID travel policies. People are still wary of non-essential travel, and businesses that have struggled to stay afloat don’t have the spare cash for flights and hotels. Any business travel that isn’t truly essential is likely to be quashed in the near future.
5. Everyone wants more breathing room.
The pandemic has made all of us hyperaware of personal space. After months of practicing social distancing, employees’ physical habits have changed. Some will be uncomfortable leaving that protective bubble, even once it’s safe to gather again. Appeasing these new preferences may mean that you never return to your pre-pandemic office layout, instead keeping employees spread apart as much as possible. This may also mean that your workplace isn’t as boisterous and chatty as it was pre-pandemic.
6. Safety protocols will be scrutinized.
Personal safety is paramount now more than ever. Company culture post-COVID will have to address health and safety measures. We’ve seen companies be publicly shamed for failing to protect their employees from coronavirus exposure. Whatever happens going forward, demonstrating a real commitment to employee safety will have to be a priority for companies that want to retain their best workers.
7. Communication styles may change.
The way that coworkers connect with each other is a huge component of your company culture. (Are communications casual and spontaneous in your workplace, or do people speak formally and always over email?) Before, managers could check in with their direct reports in person, and standup meetings could happen on the fly. Now, employees have gotten used to most communications happening virtually. These trends may continue and create a lasting shift toward virtual communication.
8. eLearning is for everyone now.
If kindergartners can be expected to attend school virtually, surely professionals can do the same. Offering professional development continues to be a core component of a robust company culture. Facilitating employee access to training, continuing education courses and conferences lets you grow your talent pool and attract high-quality job candidates. With many resources now available online, small businesses will be loath to send employees out of town for development. Some employers may prefer to have their teams stay local and attend training over Zoom whenever possible.
9. Recruiting and hiring may increasingly be done virtually.
Hiring people from Zoom interviews is a strange adjustment when you’re used to doing hiring in person. But companies and candidates have managed to make this arrangement work, long before the pandemic started, and it’s not going away now. Virtual recruiting/hiring also lets you evaluate non-local candidates without having to pay for any travel expenses. This is ideal for companies hiring for specialized positions that can’t find enough local talent.
10. Team bonding may stay (somewhat) virtual too.
Has your team managed to maintain camaraderie without any face-to-face socializing? The erosion of social work relationships has been a natural consequence of the pandemic. Nurturing these relationships among coworkers will be essential for restoring company culture post-COVID. Zoom happy hours and non-work chats on Slack can’t completely replace the spontaneous friendly chats that once happened in the workplace, but they’re better than nothing.
Your company culture creates the special energy that makes people want to work for you. Few (if any) businesses have seen their cultures untouched by the pandemic. Rolling with the new normal and taking employee cues is the key to making sure your post-COVID company culture is as vibrant as it was before coronavirus did its worst.
For more concrete tips on how to shift your culture to address today’s emerging needs, join our upcoming webinar Shifting Your Culture to Meet the Needs of the “Hybrid Workplace” on Tuesday, September 22 at 1:00 PM EST. If you can’t make the live session, sign up and we will send you a recording.