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Workplace Culture Change during the COVID-19 Crisis

Published: Thursday 16th April 2020

Culture change in the workplace has taken its place suddenly and dramatically. As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, company culture for many organisations is being tested. Many employers are coming under scrutiny for not aligning company culture with real, meaningful action in face of the challenges posed by the Coronavirus. Organisations now have the opportunity to tangibly demonstrate company culture, through leadership, the employee experience and how they implement remote working practices in the face of the current crisis.

A testing time for employers when it comes to company culture change

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For many companies such as those in the retail and hospitality sector, there is little that can be done apart from close shop and keep workers up to date as things progress. Many retailers have continued to trade online but the bars, cafes and restaurants have had to close. One of the biggest UK pub chains, JD Wetherspoon, has already come under criticism for not paying staff during the crisis. Clearly, this is something that will affect its employer brand long after the crisis has ended. For many office workers, a remote work culture has become the norm. Overnight huge numbers of the workforce have stopped commuting and started working from home.

Welcome to the new remote work culture

Companies have had to adapt quickly with this culture change in the workforce instigating working practices that reflect this new environment in order to maintain business continuity. To do this, businesses have had to be more accommodating for the employees and more flexible. This is when many organisations will discover what their company culture is really like.

Back view of female employee speak talk on video call with diverse multiracial colleagues on online briefing. Remote work concept.

The companies that do best will be the ones that have already been practising and established solid remote working processes. Technology will play a big role, but being flexible with employees is equally important. How organisations support employees well-being will be a crucial barometer of success in these times. Not every call, email or meeting should be all about business – it should also be about what you can do to support workers.

Protecting front line staff

Of course, for key workers in sectors such as healthcare, logistics and supermarkets, a remote work culture is impossible. Here, employers such as Tesco and Co-Op are under pressure to recruit new staff and we’ve already seen this happening across the UK in healthcare industry. Employers need to be doing everything they can to recruit staff to meet demand. One way of doing that is through free job listings* on the job boards such as Zoek UK.

teamwork concept of diversity multiethnic people with group hands bump for relationship and together.

The other focus should be on providing staff with the protections they need to work safely. A good example is prioritising healthcare workers when it comes to testing for Covid-19. Of course, it’s still important to provide flexibility and support. Front line staff working under extreme pressure will need more support when it comes to managing their work-life balance.

How you handle culture change in the workplace says a lot about you as an employer

Companies that react well by supporting workers will do best during this crisis. Incentive schemes or other ways to show appreciation for front line staff could make a big difference. On the other hand, organisations that don’t treat workers with respect during this time could discover that their employer brand is irretrievably damaged and could struggle to recruit the best talent in future.

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