APU Business Editor's Pick Original

Redesigning Company Culture in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The past year has seen a massive shift in how work gets done around the world. As a result, organizational performance and workplace culture have become mission-critical issues for every business leader.

During my nearly 30-year career, I’ve mentored dozens of professionals about organizational performance and workplace culture. I find that although each situation is unique, the techniques to solve a problem often fall into one of three categories: communication, communication and communication.

Learning how to interact, speak, listen and network are all important components of navigating the professional workspace. Just about every disagreement among coworkers can be traced to some form of communication misstep.

Understanding Workplace Culture and Communication

Communication is couched in the culture of the office. In other words, how you communicate is a function of the expectations of those with whom you work.

In some settings, qualities such as brashness, boldness and blunt communication are celebrated. But in other settings, collaboration, congeniality and caring are heralded. The key is to understand and recognize that company culture beats corporate strategy; that is, your best intentions can be thwarted if you don’t properly understand your workplace dynamics.

New Jobs Mean New Workplace Rules

For some people, this year has been a year of opportunity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May, the U.S. economy added 559,000 new jobs, double the number of jobs added in April. In addition, the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, marking the first time it has dropped below 6% since the pandemic started in March of 2020.

As a result, workers are leaving their previous positions in search of better opportunities. Many employers are reporting difficulties hiring qualified applicants, and some seasonal employers have resorted to offering incentives to hire temporary workers. Incentives include allowing workers to bring their pets to the office, providing profit sharing, and creating morale boosters such as naming a team member of the month.

Essential Skills for the Workplace

Getting a job is one thing, but being effective in the new role is quite another. According to Hays Recruiting, a worldwide placement company, there are a number of skills that must be mastered in the workplace. Ideally, you should:

  1. Understand your employer’s expectations — Make sure you understand your company’s culture. Your cultural “fit” with the organization and your working relationship with your supervisor or manager are very important.
  2. Have a positive attitude — Whether things are going well or badly, always maintain a balanced viewpoint and resist the urge to complain to coworkers about your boss or your job. Your complaints could work their way up to those higher in the organization. Instead, find the right channels to suggest improvements.
  3. Be a team player — Those people who are willing to set aside their personal goals for the overall goals of the department or company are valued by organizations.
  4. Be willing to take on extra duties — Whether it’s overseeing a major new project or offering to learn a new system, always volunteer for extra responsibilities.
  5. Avoid gossip — Stay focused on the positive and avoid sharing sensitive personal or departmental information with your coworkers.
  6. Be considerate — Whether or not you’re sharing a tight working space, respect the shared space by keeping your voice at an appropriate level on the phone and in person.
  7. Keep your personal life private — Keep personal calls and emails to a minimum. Leave errands for lunchtime or when you’re away from work.
  8. Avoid personal business on company technology — Most companies monitor employee usage of their technology, so skip the personal emails and text messages.
  9. Be on time — Most employers are prepared to be flexible, and each environment has its own rules on timekeeping. Find out what they are and stick to them.
  10. Meet deadlines — Keep your word. Always meet deadlines; if you miss a deadline, it may have a trickle-down effect throughout your company.

Office Culture Will Be Reexamined As Workers Return to Their Workplaces

As employers start bringing their workers back to the office, Forbes advises that the office culture will be reexamined. The pandemic has definitely changed some of the former notions of a productive workplace, as workers have combined work and home responsibilities over the past 15 months. When company culture takes priority over corporate strategy, it also means that a reexamination of a productive workplace is needed.

Here are my seven tips to rethink the culture in your workplace:

  1. Rethink the definition of culture — Is the culture of the office long hours, endless meetings, strict deadlines and little recognition? If so, you may see an exodus of employees seeking to find more accommodating workplace offerings.
  2. People are key to creating culture — The culture of the office is based on its employees. Personalities are key to developing a warm and inviting workplace.
  3. Company culture extends beyond the boardroom — As we’ve witnessed over the past 15 months, workplace culture includes home culture and how well they mix. While employees have reported higher productivity rates while working from home, workers have also mixed home activities like monitoring their children, preparing meals and completing household chores between work-related activities.
  4. Building trust takes time — Employers can build trust by removing many of the in-person requirements in the workplace. This trust-building can include allowing flex time for arrivals and departures, replacing unnecessary meetings with email correspondence, providing workplace amenities, and giving employees the autonomy to lead and execute tasks without micromanaging.
  5. Replace hierarchy with collaboration — Rank-and-file workplaces often have several layers of bureaucracy that can hinder productivity. Rethink the workplace environment by providing employees with access to key decision makers in a timely manner.
  6. Prioritize results, not work hours — In most workplaces, salary is a reflection of the number of hours worked. Most employees are expected to show up at a certain time and work eight to 10 continuous hours for five consecutive days. Rethinking office culture means focusing on the results and not the process by allowing team members to work intermittently, work during non-peak hours, and work on weekends if need be. It also means having a flexible telework policy.
  7. Work-life balance should be emphasized — Having critical conversations with employees will tell employers what matters most to each individual worker. The company should be receptive to ways to foster employee performance in and out of the workplace. This could include providing increased flexibility for parents and allowing employees to enroll in relevant academic courses.

So what’s the best strategy for building a formidable workplace culture? There is no one answer, but the questions should begin with the employer promoting inclusivity, engaging with employees, and collaboratively working to instill a new and improved productive work environment.

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is an award-winning author, presenter, and professor with nearly 30 years of experience in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). She is the creator of the Professor S.T.E.A.M. Children’s Book Series, which brings tomorrow’s concepts to future leaders today. A global speaker, STE(A)M advocate, and STE(A)M communicator, she holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an M.S. in Meteorology and Water Resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is a faculty member in Transportation and Logistics at the Wallace E. Boston School of Business and specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in transportation, education, and technology.

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