How post-pandemic office spaces could change corporate culture


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By now it’s very clear that the coronavirus pandemic will change the way we work in offices – perhaps indefinitely. Less certain is the impact that these physical and structural changes will have on corporate culture, which has become an intangible asset that companies now aspire to perfect. Company culture can also be used to describe the warm feelings of employees or the high expectations of a company’s management team.

“Think of it as safe, not sad,” says Marc Spector, a fellow at the American Institute of Architects and director of Spectorgroup, referring to the measures companies will need to implement to get employees back to the office in a post- pandemic world. It emphasizes the goal of focusing more on health and wellness and less on “unity”. The New York-based global architecture, interior design and urban planning firm’s portfolio includes high-profile properties such as Brookfield Place, 60 Wall Street and Nikon’s US headquarters.

“Companies are going to have to reorient workstations so that people aren’t facing each other. This may mean changing where the computer is or where the power source is. Companies are going to have to remove all tables and seating in conference rooms or other common areas to give greater flexibility in space distancing. All personal belongings from desks or desks should be removed. This way, these spaces can be completely and thoroughly cleaned.” , says Spector.He also recommends that companies implement measures such as contactless entry for restrooms and elevators and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, so there is less direct contact with various surfaces.

A shift in corporate culture

The office of the post-pandemic future might look more like a place out of a dystopian movie, leaving some to worry that it could have a massive impact on employee morale and corporate culture. Others think the new normal will be more positive.

Company culture is the secret sauce that builds workers’ loyalty and trust to their employer and defines the nature of an organization.. This is the fleeting feeling that CHROs and Chief People Officers talk about and feverishly strive to develop within their companies.

Until recently, it was built within the confines of a corporate office. The pandemic is likely to change the corporate culture in most companies in the long term, as companies face a more remote workforce that lacks the ability to log into a room or even, in some circumstances, face to face. While this may keep workers safe, it will likely feel more sterile, less connected, and possibly imply less chance for employees to thrive.

The statistics are already beginning to prove it. According to an April survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 2 in 3 employers say maintaining employee morale during the pandemic has been a challenge, especially companies with 500 or more employees. A third of companies say they have found it difficult to maintain company culture during the pandemic. And while employers may be feeling a drop in morale, employees might just be happy to have a job during the pandemic. Q2 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey finds workers happier with their jobs than they were before the pandemic, but more than half (54%) say their jobs have become increasingly difficult .

On the other hand, some companies draw their strength from their culture, having successfully navigated these times. “We use our culture to frame it. We’ve always had a culture of collaboration and support. We’re engaging our people more than ever,” says Tracy Keogh, CHRO at HP. “We are an agile culture and we have adapted to the needs of our employees. I also think this situation has made us do things in a few weeks that could have taken us years to do otherwise.”

HP engages with its workforce in several ways, through weekly Zoom-based briefings and town halls with physicians who can provide the latest updates on coronavirus and other health-related issues. health, as well as weekly home-schooling seminars for parents.

We ensure that managers constantly check in with their teams and connect with them in different ways. Zoom is also a game-changer for us. Our CEO used to travel around the world meeting with teams, but now, thanks to a series of Zoom calls, he can reach everyone and talk directly with them. We are seeing that people are able to connect more globally, and we are seeing that there are ways to be more inclusive with their employees by meeting them where they are,” said Keogh.

Flexible work arrangements will be key to solving many of the challenges women have faced during the pandemic in balancing their personal lives and careers.

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But meeting your employees where they are doesn’t always compensate fohr chance encounters and unexpected moments that help a team or department bond with each other.

According to Andy Molinski, organizational and cross-cultural psychologist at Brandeis University, there are a lot of chance meetings and conversations that take place in the office – like grabbing someone in the hallway or at the water cooler to ask them a quick question – that just doesn’t happen. will not happen with a remote work experience and a digital landscape. “Now it’s kind of aloof and disengaged,” he said.

Spector from Spectorgroup agrees: “Employees are productive from home, but the sense of community and connection is what is most lacking. The impromptu casual conversations are not happening and have been replaced by more focused conversations on tasks.”

Positive change requires bold and firm leadership

Michelle Penelope King, gender equality expert and author of “The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work,” says that today’s workforce requires very strong leadership skills and it’s up to managers to rethink their management styles and how best to involve their teams.

“Leaders are going to have to look at vulnerability and create space for people to innovate and grow,” King says. “Transformational leaders won’t just dive into a program, but will check in with their members and get diverse perspectives before going into business. I think a relationship management style will really help the company culture during this period.”

King says the first thing managers should do is check in with their colleagues and understand their individual needs. “Building an effective workday will likely be different for various employees. For example, a 9 a.m. meeting may not be ideal for a parent, but may be ideal for someone who lives alone. new level of compassion in business, and successful managers will create the right environment for every member of their teams to help people succeed.”

One aspect of working after the pandemic that seems to be unanimous is that employees cannot all return at the same time. “They have to stage it in teams or staggered in 25% increments,” says Spector of architecture firm Spectorgroup.

HP’s Keogh agrees: “The big challenges we see coming now is that it’s not going to be a quick comeback, and you can already see that frustration on the streets,” she says. “It’s going to be a long time. We have mechanisms in place to support people from a mental health perspective and train managers on that. We’ve put a lot of responsibility on our managers at the moment. It will be hard to keep people’s spirits up long term, especially those who have been affected by the disease, but we are continually getting smarter and making sure we learn from each phase.”

Spector says his team will also return in phases. “It will be important to extend the culture of the office to the culture of working from home by encouraging relaxed Zoom coffee breaks to check in and see how people are doing, or by getting creative with birthday celebrations and events that could have played a big part in pre-Covid corporate culture.”

“It’s going to be a long time…but we’re continually getting smarter and making sure we capture the lessons learned in every phase.

He added that once employees start returning, the company will expect the level of professionalism to return to pre-Covid levels, meaning those working from home will have to remove trousers tracksuits and hoodies and wear appropriate business attire.

But while reshaping company culture post-pandemic can be a big task for managers, HR directors and HR leaders, Keogh sees it as a unique opportunity for leaders and managers to connect and to build their teams. “If you don’t, you’re really missing an opportunity,” she said. “You’re going through a crisis and you’re connecting with your people. It’s the most authentic time in business history.”

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