Driving Culture in a Changing Environment: Lessons Learned from COVID-19
These and any other challenges can be addressed by assessing what was working pre-pandemic – and more importantly why was it working pre-pandemic – and then examine these positive attributes and uncover new technology-driven ways to achieve them.
While working remotely has brought on many challenges, it also created some benefits that we may have never discovered otherwise. Such benefits revealed in our panel discussion include:
- Humanistic View of Colleagues: The workplace now has an inherent casualness to it. In our new virtual world, we have a window into our colleague’s personal lives. From this comes more empathy, a deeper understanding, and greater appreciation for our co-workers. This casualness can also impact meeting engagement in instances where videoconferences replaces formal meetings:
- Acceptance of Non-Traditional Work Hours: This flexibility allows employees to be more productive in our work life and home life. If you weren't in the office from 9am and 5pm, it was previously looked down upon. In some cases, it doesn’t necessarily matter what time a task was completed, as long as it was done on time and done well.
- Broadening Our Approach to Wellness: As we are continually reminded that personal health should be a top priority, many companies are re-evaluating their benefits program to ensure they are providing their employees with the best options to secure optimal wellness. Some wellness benefits that remote work has enlightened includes:
- Having direct access to natural light and taking short breaks to get outside allows for an increase in productivity and mood.
- Creating a proper, ergonomic set up at home is important. Companies need to consider how to mirror an ideal office-set-up at home.
- Having easier access to healthy, homemade food options.
HOW TO MOVE FORWARD
As Josh mentioned in our panel discussion, the words of Winston Churchill ring true: “never let a good crisis go to waste.” His sage advice can be applied to the next steps of developing this new workplace. While the pandemic has challenged us in so many ways, we have learned we are resilient. It has given us opportunities to find new, better ways to conduct our work while also continually improving our company culture. We can accomplish this through:
- Building a Culture Around Trust: We want to make sure that people only come into the office if they are comfortable doing so. When employees are uncomfortable, they will not perform as well. A great workplace culture is based on trust, empathy, and equity among all employees.
- Leveraging Technology: This is our lifeline to the outside world, and having the proper technology is vital to getting our work done as efficiently as possible, whether you are working remotely or in the office. As more people return to work, it is important to establish a hybrid between the two to remain inclusive for all workspaces.
- Establishing a Better Work/Life Balance: For some of us, we are now sleeping, eating, working, and living in the same space. Appropriately separating work life and home life is essential. Companies that establish ground rules, realistic expectations, and acknowledge the whole employee will come out ahead.
- Optimizing Travel: Prior to the pandemic, there was an abundance of work travel in some cases. This can cause unnecessary stress and inefficiency. We are learning that some meetings and conversations can be done virtually just as well as in-person.
- Assessing Real Estate: Think of the office as a tool to accomplish our business needs. Even before the pandemic, SmithGroup viewed our office as a resource for staff, and every space we built is a means to help complete work.
Ultimately, blending the benefits we learned over the last six months with the understanding that work will never be the same, we can Design a Better Future of work, one that is more empathetic, equitable, and flexible. For additional information on how to use the workplace to impact culture or for insights on office design after COVID-19, visit our collection of resources.