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The impact of COVID-19 on workplace culture

Office worker sat at a desk in front of a computer, taken from an iHASCO eLearning training course.

The Coronavirus pandemic saw offices deserted and employees working from home. Whilst at first it seemed like a temporary arrangement it soon became clear that the office as we know it is unlikely to be the same ever again. With remote work still being encouraged wherever possible, many businesses have recognised that making lasting changes will provide a more positive company culture.

Company culture is being tested

Company culture defines an organisation, and the pandemic has had a profound effect on what the average working day looks like. Gone are the tea runs, office lunches and face-to-face contact with colleagues. Instead video calls, emails and phone conversations have become relied upon communication methods for a variety of purposes, from office meetings to social interaction. What previously identified a company has now been shaken up, and business leaders have had to re-evaluate how their company culture translates to a more dispersed workforce. And at a time where ‘people driven leadership’ is key.

A company lives and breathes by its values. However when faced with an unprecedented pandemic it has been easy to lose sight of core values, whilst fighting for survival. After this initial struggle it has allowed businesses to undergo a readjustment period and in some cases presented the opportunity to instil values that had previously been difficult to introduce. Cementing an inclusive company culture now is set to lead to positive long term change in terms of greater productivity levels and long term viability.

02’s The Flexible Future of Work report, found 30% of employees felt lonely while working from home and 26% missed informally socialising with colleagues. These findings highlight the challenges facing companies with a dispersed workforce. The office buzz, the bouncing ideas off one another and energy of a once thriving workplace is hard to recreate virtually. 

Increased focus on company culture

This huge influx in remote working has caused companies to focus on building and reaffirming company culture from the perspective of a new normal, where workers remain physically distant. In many cases the use of technology has brought colleagues together and allowed them to connect in new ways. There is a greater appreciation and understanding of each other's home lives and struggles. People become more 'real' as office and home lives have intertwined. 

It has also relied on engagement from all staff, with managers leading from the top down. This has made way for more empathetic leadership and in turn created a working environment that motivates and retains employees, as well as attracts talent. Those companies who have successfully supported their workforce and led from the front despite challenging and uncertain times will be stronger for it.

Office culture can be strengthened remotely by a number of ways and various methods being used by businesses include: increasing employee contact with managers, new ways to communicate with employees (such as video calls and instant messaging) and organising online social meets such as virtual coffee mornings and team quizzes. Keeping a team together with a shared vision and beliefs is important to move the company forward. It is more important than ever to work together and support one another. 

Employee welfare and training

Throughout this period of uncertainty many organisations have recognised the importance of continuing to provide direction and support to their employees. For some this has been in the form of online health, safety and wellbeing training, which has been vital to create a positive work culture. It has helped build trust and confidence among the workforce. 

The pandemic has been catastrophic for people’s mental health and wellbeing and employers are striving to empower their employees to cope with uncertainty. Providing support and having open discussions about mental health is part of developing an open office culture. 

Online courses such as Resilience training, Managing Anxiety, Effective Remote Working and Stress Awareness and Management are vital to provide employees with support in these areas as well as help to positively promote wellbeing across a company. These short training courses are packed with pracitcal tips in an engaging and clear way. Learners can complete the training at their own pace and from any location as long as they have a smart phone, tablet or laptop, as well as a 4G or wi-fi connection. Companies can sign up for a free trial and get limited access to the whole iHASCO course library to see the value of these courses and how they would benefit their employees.

Company culture at iHASCO

Here at iHASCO we have five core values that are ingrained in everything we do. Even though staff may be away from the office they are very much part of what we do on a daily basis. The already embedded culture has made it easier to continue with a healthy working environment whether employees are working from home or in the office.

Here at iHASCO we know everyone has been missing the buzz of the office, yet despite this we have still managed to maintain our energy and continue to have fun through the use of virtual meetings, slack and office competitions. Also understanding the challenges our staff face has helped ensure we are supporting the whole team to ensure they can carry out their role effectively. We look after one another and recognise success as a whole team effort. We are proud to have maintained our existing office culture and strengthened it to incorporate those in the office or those working remotely.

Alex Morris, Director at iHASCO

iHASCO employees have been treated to video messages from management, regular virtual team meetings, additional check-ins with line managers and not to mention plentiful access to health, safety and wellbeing training! Employee safety and wellbeing is a priority and there are Mental Health First Aiders on hand to talk to, as well as an Employee Assistance Programme. But best of all staff know to ask for help when needed.

It’s not been all about work either! We have been lucky enough to be able to select a charity partner to support and this has resulted in a number of mood boosting events for staff to take part in, including virtual quizzes and online kickboxing classes! 

Our usual staff newsletters, office humour and banter is still there, albeit virtually! 

Although we are apart, we still feel very much part of a team.