05 Jan 2022

How the pandemic can improve workplace culture

by Joan

There’s no denying it: shifting to remote work in 2020 had its ups and downs. Even now, companies struggle to keep their productivity up and culture strong.

Despite the hardships, productivity did not go down for most companies. In fact, in many cases, productivity actually improved. Forbes credits this improvement to employees gaining control of their workdays and work environments, setting themselves up for successful work conditions. 

Overall, productivity has remained stable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s time to figure out how to improve company culture too.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies with the top talents are 20 percent more productive than others. Keeping your top talents engaged and invested in your company is key to maintaining optimal productivity.

For another stat by Harvard Business Review: an engaged employee is 45 percent more productive than unengaged employees. What’s more, an inspired employee is 55 percent more productive than an engaged employee.

Company culture is key for keeping employees invested, engaged, and inspired.

It’s taken us decades to learn that working from home isn’t a death knell to productivity, yet 2020 gave us a crash-course trial run, committing all office workers to remote conditions. Until recently, there were two particular stigmas that kept employees in the office:

  • Employees need supervision. For years, managers feared employees would loaf off and get distracted without supervision. Over the past two years, our impromptu move to remote work has proven this stigma false. Productivity did not fall and employees rose to the challenge.
  • Face-to-face is best. We’ve all heard that “face-to-face” conversations are better than remote interactions. When it comes to productivity, this isn’t necessarily true. With the help of recent technology, employee productivity has remained stable.

However, when it comes to company culture and relationships, there still is nothing better than in-person interactions. So, how can companies recreate the same effect? How can employees get the interactions they need to feel connected?

In our rush to shift from in-office to remote work conditions, most companies didn’t have time to lay a solid wireframe for maintaining company culture. It’s time to iron out the kinks.

New purpose for the workplace

Now that companies understand that remote work doesn’t lead to a dip in productivity, most are readjusting to support hybrid practices. In fact, employees are insisting on hybrid practices, leaving inflexible jobs for flexible ones.

With employees working remotely most of the time, offices aren’t as full as they once were. Where once employees came in to work eight to five hours a day, there are empty desks and underused real estate.

The workplace is changing. Most companies are cutting back on real estate, exchanging desks for flexible workspaces.

We’ve discussed the benefits of flexible practices in previous articles, but what are the bones of flexible workspaces?

A flexible workplace is a space where employees can work how they want where they want. Ideally, the workspaces are adaptable, adjusting to the needs of the users: digital screens, writing boards, audio capabilities, workstations, etcetera.

Moving forward, most companies will reconfigure their office spaces as collaboration stations or quiet workspaces.

So, with employees coming and going with no set dates, times, or schedules, how can companies foster internal culture?

Looking at what’s worked in the past can help us figure out the future.

Values that have been deeply impacted since the start of the pandemic

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed workplace culture. However, whether it’s changed for the worse or better depends on how the transition to remote and hybrid work was managed.

There are four key company values that have changed for good, thanks to the pandemic:

  • Agility. In 2020, every company, every office, every team had to change with hardly any notice. They had to transform, redesign themselves, and overall adapt to remote conditions. Hierarchies were altered, roles were changed, and company values evolved to accommodate the new norm.
  • Relationships. We’ve all pressed through the same struggles these past two years. Fighting together, working together, or even walking the same path generates camaraderie and respect among employees. Employees who are joined together are more resilient, ready to face new challenges or changes in the workplace.
  • Innovation. The past two years have really put innovation to the test. Not only did employees need to innovate on the job, but they also had to innovate how to do their jobs. Being thrown into a remote world with no infrastructure and few guidelines left many teams high and dry, left to invent their own solutions.
  • Priorities. With COVID-19 impacting lives worldwide, companies have taken another step toward prioritizing their employee’s health and needs as much as their customer’s needs. The cool thing is, happy employees are productive employees, which helps the company move forward as well.

Every single one of these values has pushed toward employee relationships, collaboration, and how teams get through tough times together. Organizations who have successfully connected to their employees during the pandemic, really bridge the gap, are the ones who are thriving.

How workplace has changed during the pandemic for the better

The situation may not be as dire as it sounds. A recent study showed that 37 percent of employees feel company culture has improved since the pandemic.

What’s more, 52 percent felt more purposeful in their jobs in the past two years. Remember the stat from earlier in this article?  Engaged employees are 45 percent more productive. Employees with a purpose are naturally more engaged in their work.

So, what’s changed? How are employees connecting so well and how can we harness the momentum? Lucky for us, COVID-19 has given companies opportunities to…

Reinvent the workplace

For the first time in history, companies worldwide have transformed their work practices practically overnight. As a whole, the world is reinventing the office.

We have opportunities to improve employee satisfaction, reinvent the work environment, and transform company culture, practically from scratch. COVID-19 set us up to find out what works and then go for it.

Reinvent work

While companies are reinventing their work protocols, employees have been figuring out how to do their jobs remotely. They’ve found themselves surprisingly productive, with the bonus of improved job satisfaction.

Since the pandemic sent the majority of office workers home, employees have been free to discover which techniques work for them and which don’t.

Introduce flexibility

Over the past couple of years, companies discovered the benefits of flexible work spaces, including:

  • Greater innovation
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower operational costs

The pandemic has pressed companies toward implementing flexible work habits and their benefits. The workplace has been transformed into a more flexible and customizable environment than ever before.

Enhance employee drive

In the words of Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.” In 2020, COVID-19 protocols forced managers to trust their employees to work unsupervised. Despite managers’ greatest fears, employees have risen to the challenge.

The pandemic has given employees a greater sense of responsibility and freedom to think outside the box. Overall, they are more driven to be innovative and productive on the job.

Customize workspaces

One reason employees are more comfortable working from home is because they can customize their environment. They can add bean bag chairs, desk standing lamps, whiteboards, projectors…

The pandemic has given companies the opportunity to create customizable workspaces too. Most organizations are revamping their work environments to accommodate hybrid and flexible work habits.

What’s next

In line with redesigning the work environment, bookable workspaces and desks are becoming popular. Fitting your office with a workplace management system can support your office transformation as we shift into a world of hybrid work.

Joan solutions have you covered. Joan is one all-encompassing resource that is compatible with your in-house applications. Our user-friendly solutions manage the hybrid environment and offer analytics to help you finesse your office.

In a world of bookable spaces, Joan can mitigate double bookings, room squatters, and overall manage your flexible workspace.

“Yes, we love both our Joans. It’s completely changed how we manage our meeting rooms and I would say we would not be able to manage things effectively without them.”

— John Smyth, Rubicoin

For more information on how a workplace management system can improve your workspace, check out Joan solutions.