With the COVID-19 Pandemic starting to wane and people getting back into the office from working remotely, we are again facing a time of disruption in the workplace. Before the pandemic, teams and organizations were used to being connected and working closely in the office. Once the pandemic hit, teams were dispersed, and people were working individually in an uncertain climate. According to Gallup, up to 62% of all workers in the US worked remotely and virtually during the pandemic. During that time, workplace culture was one of the major things to suffer.
A strong, consistent culture is difficult to create and maintain during “normal,” ideal conditions. During times of disruption, it can be virtually impossible. However, it’s one of the most vital and important things to keep a team or organization motivated and moving in the right direction. As we move back into the office, leaders must step up and help to reestablish norms, practices, and behaviors that reinforce the organization’s values and help to motivate their employees throughout the workday.
Leaders absolutely must communicate and establish a narrative and dialogue with their team members. The important messages and values need to be repeated in order to stay consistent. Reminding people consistently who your organization is and why they exist will help to reinforce those messages when the focus narrows down to the day-to-day operations. Leaders also need to ensure that they are practicing what they preach and show that they embrace and practice the organization’s values and best practices. Doing so will encourage all of the team members to follow suit.
Leaders also need to embrace and reassure their team members in the four universal needs of followers. Gallup’s global research has identified four universal needs of followers: hope, trust, compassion, and stability. Hope being excitement about a better future. Trust that your words will connect with your actions. Compassion being the understanding of others (how they feel, what is on their mind, and showing that you are an active listener). And stability in knowing that things will be consistent, even in times of immense change. Leaders must demonstrate and weave into their narrative messages of hope, trust, compassion, and stability on a daily basis.
Leaders must embrace that the way things have always been done has changed during the pandemic and is changing again as we move back into the workplace. These are dramatic shifts for many people. Going from working in an office to working remotely or virtually to moving back into the office – rituals, practices, patterns, communication, partnership, and collaboration has changed. Leaders must step up and clearly establish new rituals, new practices, and patterns, new methods of communication, partnership, and collaboration. Things will change. Clearly communicating and establishing these ways of working will help ease the disruptions and develop standards for the employees.
Leaders must also practice empathy. Seeing your employees and team members as individuals, not just numbers or producers of work. Listening to their concerns, both personal and professional, will show that you care about them as an individual and establish a culture of caring within the workplace. Practice active listening daily.
Make sure that you are also checking in and recognizing your employees. Recognizing your employees is one of the most effective ways to communicate cultural expectations at the office level. Find employees who are exemplifying the organization’s values and showcase them in the office. Those performing under the disruptions and succeeding should be recognized and set as examples. Have them share their best practices with their coworkers, and if available, have them assist. Creating open lines of communication and praise can help establish a positive organizational culture.
As a leader, you should ensure that everyone has time to reflect and remind themselves what they value most about their organization’s culture. Is the mission motivating? Are there opportunities to succeed together? Are there big challenges to tackle? Are there opportunities for social connection and building relationships? Are there opportunities to develop, learn and grow? How are we continuing to provide a positive organizational culture in times of uncertainty and change?
Organizational culture is important, and as leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that we use these times of disruption to strengthen it, not let it fall apart.