How COVID-19 is Putting Company Cultures to the Test

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The COVID-19 epidemic has rapidly forced businesses across the globe into an unparalleled point of inflection. Leadership, employee experiences, digital workplace experiences, and company cultures are all being tested to an unprecedented degree as organizations scramble to adapt to unfamiliar new conditions.

Article 5 Minutes

The effects of COVID-19 are noticeable in virtually every aspect of modern business operations. The way companies function has changed virtually overnight, with millions of employees turning to remote work in the face of international lockdowns.

Hefty travel restrictions have prevented businesses from performing tasks as well. Moral support, team collaboration, and adaptability to change have never seemed more crucial for the survival of organizations of all sizes and natures.

Suddenly, businesses and their staff are beginning to ask themselves pertinent questions about their company cultures and how they can be improved. The focus has shifted to organizations that can be compassionate, accommodating, understanding, and flexible towards their employees while supplying a solid technological infrastructure for their remote working needs.

Managers are quickly being prompted to adjust to managing scattered teams and dealing with employees who are facing family issues, school cancellations, and widespread quarantines. COVID-19 is truly putting company cultures to the test in a way that has never been seen before.

Core company cultures revealed

CEOs and other executives facing these challenges have noted that the pandemic has shown them what their company cultures are truly about at their core. Many say that business continuity is the most essential aspect to focus on now, although companies must still be able to empathize with employees suffering from fear, isolation, and other issues that could impact their professional performances and home lives.

It’s no secret that most people are dealing with a certain amount of fear, which means that empathy and strong team relationships are absolutely crucial at this time.

Experts are also hailing the business response to the coronavirus outbreak as a ‘fundamental shift in how work will be carried out’. This is happening on a global scale. For example, Facebook has instructed all their Seattle employees to work remotely until further notice, while Apple CEO Tim Cook told most of his global employees to work remotely in the face of an “unprecedented event”. Even Google has requested that its North American employees stay at home and perform their professional duties online.

Adjusting to a new normal

Ultimately, many economists and workplace experts are of the opinion that these changes will become the ‘new normal’. We are seeing a fundamental and complete shift in how work is done, and this trend will more than likely become the new status quo for most workers.

We don’t know how different workplaces will look after the pandemic has been brought under control, but it’s safe to say they certainly won’t operate in the same way that they did before.

The bulk of the responsibility will fall to leaders and people managers to implement measures that will support employees as they make the abrupt transition to remote work. This is no easy feat, considering that so many employees are now working in small apartments alongside their partners and children under extremely stressful conditions.

Naturally, businesses and organizations of all sizes are feeling the impacts of these high levels of stress. Some are choosing to cancel all travel plans and continue to have their employees work remotely in a bid to value people’s mindsets over their short-term profit margins.

This strategy is expected to lead to long-term profits, while still being sensitive to the difficulties and nervousness that employees are facing at the present.

Adapting to remote working methods

The widespread switch from face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings has also come as a shock for many companies’ cultures, but most have taken it in their stride. Virtual meetings essentially slash the risk of viral transmission to zero, effectively protecting employees – especially those who have young children, pregnant or at-risk spouses, and elderly family members at home.

To adapt to this new way of working, a number of new strategies and protocols have had to be adopted. Video conferencing is expected to become widely used in the future, and meetings will need to have clear and concise agendas and conclusions.

Many companies are also encouraging their staff to ‘over-communicate’ their statuses to ensure they are coping adequately with their workload and personal responsibilities.

Challenges and technological solutions

One of the main challenges facing company cultures now is the pressing concern that employees will take advantage of the situation and fail to produce work that is up to standard.

However, experts insist that this problem can be solved with clear and regular communication. Those who stay in touch with their managers and colleagues tend to get their work done successfully.

Most staff members are only too pleased to have the opportunity to earn what is most likely above the minimum wage, from home. Of course, if employee performance remains optimal, this could lead to an expansion of the remote work movement in the near future.

Other challenges that companies are becoming aware of include a lack of communication tools, colleague collaboration, and the social aspect that is so important to most company cultures. Again, these challenges are all seemingly solvable through the use of versatile, free communication tools, video chat programs, and instant messaging applications.

The concept of social distancing definitely has the power to test company cultures to a whole new degree, and for now, the long term implications of this are still a mystery. However, all the tools and programs that companies need to create successful and productive remote work environments are existent and available.

The major hurdle now lies in ensuring that employees have adequate training, support, and tools to deliver on their tasks while still receiving the guidance they need from their supervisors. Technology will play a massive role in the ultimate success of this new way of working, but how managers, leaders, and organizations support their employees is just as crucial.

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Charli Tanner

Writer

With a strong background in IT & HR and a passion for writing, Charli is a freelance writer typing away one article at a time. When she's not clacking away at the keyboard, she enjoys a glass of red wine while playing on her Nintendo Switch.

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