How Do You Preserve Work Culture During A Pandemic?

How Do You Preserve Work Culture During A Pandemic?

While the pandemic is still very much a part of our lives, companies are slowly beginning to look to the future, a future where the majority of their workers will once again be able to work from the office, if they want to. As a result, many companies have been busy marketing their hybrid model practices to the world. The hybrid model is undoubtedly here to stay. Still, it opens up a much larger question – how does company culture have to adjust to a new way of working and how much of an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the culture a company previously had?

Almost exactly two years ago, Greentube moved to a remote working situation overnight, with no estimated timeline as to when our employees would be able to return to the office. A few months later, most companies, including ourselves, established a hybrid-remote policy which allows employees to work remotely, while others have the opportunity to work on-site.

Two years on, we still do not have a ‘new norm’ for work yet. We’re still in a world where we are forced to act and react daily with regards to how and where we work, depending on local situations. This has undeniably affected company culture. Company culture used to be associated with social activity, personal contact and interaction within a physical space, coffee breaks and office chats. This is no longer the truth anymore, at least not the whole truth.

In Spotify’s recent ‘Work From Home’ employee survey, the biggest concern was how to nurture a sense of company belonging while at home, which led the business to unpack what that means not just now, but also in the future. It prompted discussions about what leaders need to keep doing, stop doing, and improve upon to enable a relevant sense of community.

Here are some of Greentube Malta’s insights and tips on how to keep company culture alive (and well):

Tip 1: Structure is everything

Before the pandemic, if we had a query, concern, or just needed to run an idea past a colleague, any uncertainty could be clarified ad-hoc with a quick turn of the chair or brief walk and a chat. Now, these opportunities are limited. While many of us were already used to a remote set up of sorts by having teams spread across different countries all over the world, this is now amplified in today’s hybrid culture.

Processes, reporting lines, providing accurate context to changes made by the business or managers need to be highly clarified. Very little can be taken for granted or assumed. Any sense of ambiguity is heightened in the minds of an employee and their motivations to look for another job may be enhanced by misunderstandings or misinterpretation.

Heads of departments, managers and any employee who is accountable for decisions on behalf of others have an even bigger task to ensure clarity for their teams. Process and purpose have never been so interconnected in the working world of today.

Tip 2: Pulse check your team – often!

On the lines of taking nothing for granted, it is easy for staff to hide behind their computer screens and act “OK” for a one-hour meeting, once a week.

At Greentube Malta, we send out periodic “pulse checks”. These are short, punchy questions to gauge overall employee morale per department. These checks are sent out through our regular communication channel (Microsoft Teams) in order to maximize participation and have more accurate data.

Having remote teams requires a lot more hands-on people management efforts for managers. As the world continually pushes itself to become more automated and efficient, the “Manager” concept is slowly dying out. Companies want to see their managers lead their teams and their abilities as individuals, not just manage their workload.

Most of the time, if you’re a great manager, these pulse checks can become monotonous and feedback the same. However, once you’ve collected a large amount of data over time, you can start to see trends and correlations between projects, time periods in the year, team mood etc.

The best part? Managers can flag issues as they happen and put relevant, real-time topics on their agenda to keep their people engaged, resulting in genuine synergy within teams.

Here is an example of pulse questions we’ve sent on Microsoft Teams:


Tip 3: Management and HR need to ask the tough questions … and be ready to listen

 “How enthusiastically would you re-apply for a job here?”

“Do you feel connected to your teammates and me?”

“How do you think the team is doing as a whole? What could be done differently?”

Receiving negative feedback as a manager/HR team can sometimes feel like a personal attack. However, ego has to be eliminated as we constructively filter information and implement change when necessary.

No company is perfect, but people respond well to feeling as though they are being listened to. It most definitely creates more work for HR/People Operations and Managers, but the result is more tangible employee happiness and feedback.

Tip 4: Candidate hiring requirements have changed. Adaptability has to be at the top of the list

This is now a key requirement in almost every job description. Everyone claims to be adaptable, but people who have been in the face of fire with change in an organization know that change is not always well received. We need to hire people who are agile and look to change as an opportunity and not a roadblock for themselves. Many people who claim to be adaptable in an interview, simply aren’t. Most people are open to change only when there is a direct benefit to them, and for HR and business leaders, it is critical to push candidates on showcasing and giving examples of situations where they have dealt with huge changes for the greater good of the office and their teams, not just themselves. What was their original opinion? Did they disagree? If so, why? And did you come around eventually?

Tip 5: Don’t impose mandatory online team events

“The benefit of working from home is work-life balance.”

Although working from home allows you more flexibility in your home routine, it also means people will spend more time on their computers, meaning the last thing most people want is a staged, online team event. We need interaction, but online team events are not the answer. A pre-arranged team building event meet-up outside the office will always hold more value, although more logistically challenging to organize. Employers should now, more than ever, be encouraging and incentivizing employees to leave the house and enjoy physical activity and promote mental well-being.