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Navigating Corporate Culture in an Everchanging Workplace

It’s not hyperbole to state how profoundly the 2020 pandemic impacted the global workforce. With employees worldwide proving that they were still able to perform at above-average levels from the comfort of their home offices and kitchen tables, big and small employers alike saw no need to renew office leases and began aggressively recruiting remote and/or “hybrid” positions, with operating expenses and families being the primary benefactors of the ‘new norm’. The remote/hybrid work model allotted an unprecedented amount of flexibility that provided a true ‘work-life’ balance seldom achieved when working a traditional 9-5 and was probably the only positive thing to emerge from the pandemic.

However, in 2022, though many employers kept the hybrid/remote work model in place, there was also a noticeable shift in the trend with many employers harkening back to the traditional 5-day (in-office) work week. Flash forward to 2023 when remote and hybrid models are declining but still relevant, and flex schedules and alternative work hours are becoming more frequent. At this point, it is anyone’s guess what the workplace will look like two years from now.

Amidst a corporate world that’s experienced so much reinvention in a relatively short period, where and when does corporate culture come to the forefront of the conversation? After all, how do companies cultivate and nurture a truly effective culture, if half the staff is working outside of the office, on opposite days, during different hours, and in alternate time zones? Moreover, if the tide can change at any given moment, how does a corporation obtain true employee buy-in of the culture they are trying to promote?

It’s often said (and undeniably true) that a company is only as good as its people, and while those companies advocating a full return to the office maintain that their rationale for such return is increased productivity, the same can be said for the advancement of the company’s culture.

While remote and hybrid work models have many advantages, corporate culture is one area that may suffer from a lack of in-person interaction. The reason being that a company’s culture only thrives if everyone is committed to its success and able to capture some in-person time to forge personal relationships and strong synergies within the organization.

Conference calls, zoom meetings, and lengthy emails are sure ways to keep the business going, but ultimately, a true team needs to be on an equal playing field to maintain that sense of “team”, which is marginalized if some are working in the morning, another group in the evening, and others working in the office on different days of the week.

As an advocate for the hybrid work model who also happens to be Gen X, I wholeheartedly understand the value that face time with employees brings to an organization but would be completely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the many benefits that working remotely provides. The way to move forward so that everyone wins from the “new norm” is rooted in creating an environment that fosters consistency, accountability, structure, communication, and enjoyment. These values ring true for all organizations interested not only in moving the financial ball forward but also making sure the company’s culture remains front and center at all times.

Here are a few tips to achieve this that can evolve with an organization, regardless of what the company’s landscape looks like:

- Set forth a universal hybrid schedule for all employees to ensure that everyone is required to work the same amount of days in the office. This will make it easier for teams to connect when everyone knows the schedule.

- Schedule a mandatory in-person team activity either quarterly or monthly for either a company-wide luncheon, an after-work happy hour, or some other fun activity to give people time to connect personally.

- Company-wide communications, such as an intranet site or monthly newsletter, that highlights personal and team “wins” keeps the company informed and gives employees reasons to celebrate both within their own team and company-wide. It also inspires a strong sense of community and motivates other teams to make their team the next to be recognized as a ”top-performer” in the future. Employee appreciation is timeless and does wonders for the culture.

- Remote workers and companies subscribing to a 100% remote workplace should also be committed to implementing some sort of regular “face-time” activities – whether it be gathering at an offsite location for a company-wide meeting or requiring a certain number of video meetings per week to ensure that people are connecting- the importance of “face-time” is crucial.

- Create engaging employee campaigns geared towards earning points or completing certain tasks to foster camaraderie, spirited competition, and unity. Whether it’s a sales goal or some other contest (i.e., online competition on “fun facts” about your teammates ) it will do wonders for morale and the culture at large.

Aside from its actual value proposition, a company’s culture remains one of the key differentiators in the marketplace, the more a company invests in its culture the more gratifying the business will be for all that work there and those that manage the organization. Where the workplace will be in a few years is uncertain, but if company leaders continue to create and implement a strong culture that is embraced by their employees, the evolution of the workplace is limitless and its future undoubtedly bright.



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