Change during the pandemic has been abrupt, unpredictable and exhausting for individuals and organizations. From illness to grief, anxiety to depression, we’ve felt a lot over the past two years.
Work has also presented its own challenges: remote and hybrid arrangements, burnout, employee turnover and new customer expectations. While change is stressful, it also presents a big opportunity — a rare chance to overhaul your company culture.
Did one employee’s miscommunication complicate team dynamics? Did employees doubt your commitment to their health and wellbeing? Did people repeatedly complain about inefficient workflows?
Whether you’re hiring new employees, reworking benefits, implementing new technologies or all three, how will you leverage change to reinvent your workplace?
Find Out What Your People Need
You may think you have a general idea of how your employees were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can be helpful to look at national data, then speak directly with your team.
82% of people surveyed by Cleveland Clinic believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. Does your team agree? Are women managers, as reported by McKinsey & Co., providing more emotional support to employees than male managers?
Before you make cultural adjustments, determine what your people truly need. Popular solutions won’t necessarily improve the culture at your organization, but benchmark data can serve as a starting point when speaking with your team.
Prioritize Your List of Changes
When you assess the needs of your team, what do they want? What requests seem like low-hanging fruit? Big and small requests can help you determine where to start.
The small requests may be something like a health insurance stipend, free lunch on Fridays or a home office reimbursement to cover more ergonomic setups.
Based on national research, the most significant changes will likely involve offering more flexibility, rethinking how you measure productivity and adjusting how you approach mental health. Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
1. Rethink Flexibility
According to a 2020 FlexJobs survey, 81% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had more flexible work options. If you’ve offered flexible arrangements during the pandemic, how can you rethink what flexibility looks like at your organization?
Can you offer additional paid time off (PTO) or hybrid work arrangements? If location flexibility isn’t an option, consider flextime (i.e., flexible start and end times), compressed workweeks (e.g., a four-day work week of 10-hour days), part-time work or job sharing (i.e., having two employees perform the tasks of one full-time position).
In the wake of rapid change, when you rethink flexibility, you can reinvent company culture.
2. Redefine Productivity
The Talent Accelerator, a future of work study conducted in November 2020, found that employees want to reimagine how productivity is measured. Researchers say, “New employees want to work for a company that cares less about the qualified work output they are able to produce and more about the impact they can deliver to the business in a holistic sense.”
Because 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output, how can you abandon the outdated input/output formula and redesign how you measure productivity?
Rather than tracking hours, perhaps your focus should be on completed tasks. Or maybe you opt for 360-degree reviews to account for an employees’ contributions holistically.
When you rethink how you measure productivity, you can reshape your culture.
3. Revamp Mental Health Care and Support
Today’s employees expect companies to have comprehensive approaches to mental health care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 50% of smaller firms and 68% of larger firms reported some type of change to their health and wellness programs — developing digital content, better addressing the health needs of people working from home and expanding online counseling services.
As mental health care continues to adapt, how can you rework your approach to employee well-being? Should you offer virtual mental health counseling to address issues like anxiety and depression, or is it better to reduce cost-sharing for the mental health services you already provide?
When you revamp your mental health care, you can also reshape your culture.
Using Change to Rework Workplace Culture
Pandemic-induced change has challenged individuals and organizations — the near-instant need to work from home, followed by community spread, layered with an ever-oscillating switch from in-person to remote learning.
Employee turnover, remote and hybrid work and new customer demands have been stressful, but amid this change, there is a chance to reinvent company culture. How will you rewrite the story of your company culture?
Current data suggests reinventing what flexibility looks like, rethinking how you measure productivity and revitalizing your approach to mental health care.
But maybe your team could also benefit from healthier snacks in the vending machine, designated mental health days or a meditation app. As you work toward large cultural change, there’s still room for small and intentional improvements.