COVID-19’s effect on the social and economic arenas was like a bolt from the blue. It not only made the companies move to remote working but also had a profound effect on the organizational cultures. How could one conserve and nurture that intangible aspect of the workspace that has been maintained since day one? Organizational cultures are the signs and symbols, shared practices, and underlying assumptions of an organization (Meyerson and Martin, 1987). Generally, culture doesn’t change rapidly; it adjusts slowly in response to the accumulation of norms of the behavior. However, after the unprecedented outbreak, as we all started to stay indoors for safety, our workspace culture swiftly transformed itself into work-from-home culture with the help of digital tools. There was no definite timeline as to when we’d be going back to the office; we just had to fit with the new environmental realities. While there were new policies being floated such as work-from-home and workstation allowances as soon as this virtual office started, it wasn’t easy for the people and their families to adjust to this ‘new normal. Employers and employees took care of each other as humanity took over the economy!
Here’s how the culture went for a change:
1.Offline vs Online welcome
For the first-time employees, who had just started their professional journey, it was a task. Pre COVID, an elaborate onboarding session with team lunch was the popular norm. Post-COVID, Zoom Onboarding sessions took over. This lack of face-to-face interaction did create a gap in cultural knowledge transfer. But everyone has been helping out with fun games and activities to onboard new employees and engage everyone, for example, virtual lunch and coffee sessions.
2. Conversing vs Calling
Our conversations went from instant to more scheduled and formal. Before COVID, we could knock and speak to whomsoever we wanted. But now, we nudge and call; we have to check if the person at the other end is free. But people are checking up on each other more than ever. One can see so many posts where people are helping out each other, be it for jobs, internships, or networking.
3. Moments vs Memories
It takes a surprising moment and a group of people to come up with new ideas and solutions by having conversations. Under this virtual setup, this isn’t possible since our communication is not spontaneous but distanced and maintained by calendar invites. Now, we have to go back to our notes, excel sheets, calendar invites, and our memories. However, we have started noting down our work tasks and have started managing our calendars efficiently. One can also schedule short calls to have meaningful conversations.
4. Visible vs Vague
It is difficult to pick up emotional cues in the virtual setup; more so, to convey empathy. Recognition of efforts is also limited since not everyone is aware of what one is doing. The responsibility now falls upon the Leadership to build new rituals and processes that are transparent, through which people’s actions are noticeable.
This profound change has two major aspects with respect to the shift in organizational cultures pre and post COVID:
- studying the aftermath and coming up with a suitable response
- looking for research opportunities to have an impactful change
While we are almost done with the first one and the second step has been started, now is the perfect time to determine how your organization’s culture has been holding up with respect to employee experience. It is like what happened in the Harry Potter series – Pre Voldemort and Post Voldemort era; misery came but happiness was there to stay. Let’s hope this change in the organizational culture is for good!
The Pandemic has brought an enormous change in the way a workplace operates and an organization propagates its culture. Thinking through all the changes this crisis has made us go through, we would have to keep a check on the behaviors we want to imbibe and want to let go off. This will require a continuous and empathetic approach towards this process.
|Author – Kritika Kaushik, Managing Consultant, Headsup Corporation
Kritika works as HR Managing Consultant at Headsup Corporation. Her areas of expertise include Talent Acquisition, HR Processes Audit, Talent Management, and Organisation Design. She loves to read fiction and liked to draw references out of them.