The future of work will be different; That’s something we can all agree on at this point. As you consider return to work plans, every corner of your business – from operational processes and technology infrastructure to employee monitoring and travel restrictions – will be examined and reassessed.
Adapting your culture for this ‘new normal’ is imperative to maintaining a unified, cohesive workforce. You may not know where to start. That’s okay. There’s a lot of reactive learning happening as this post-pandemic environment evolves.
But EBI wants to help. We’re reestablishing our Global Design Culture by focusing on five considerations to propel us forward after COVID-19. We’re confident you’ll find these key points helpful, too.
The practice of Global Design Culture is a cohesive organizational superpower. In her post, “Driving Humanity Back to Business with Design Culture,” Marti Kurland, EBI’s Leader of Global Design Culture, says the practice is a blend of defining your organization and your core values and ensuring your environment matches that mission.
Curating Global Design Culture is intentional, as opposed to stumbling onto your culture by default. The practice reevaluates your company’s core values and then uses those values as a framework for outlining expectations, performance, engagement, and brand synergy for employees and leaders. The idea is to be intentional in establishing company values so those values will seamlessly guide the actions and decisions of all employees.
One way to really be intentional in your approach is to use this time spent away from the office to build your new or realigned culture, ensure any workplace modifications you’re making for employee safety adhere to that standard, and then share that vision with employees and leaders before they re-enter the workplace. This can work to quell any fears employees may have about returning the workplace, and reassure them you’ve considered their needs while refining your Global Design Culture.
As employees headed home to work remotely, one thing became abundantly clear – we all have lives that extend beyond the office. This came into clear view the moment we turned on our video chat services and our colleagues immediately saw our homes, our children, our pets, our parents, and whoever (or whatever) else happened to circus dance behind us.
This balancing act proved to be a great equalizer. Each one of us could see ourselves in a co-worker, and instead of becoming frustrated, annoyed, or even cross with one another, we became more empathetic. Instead of just imagining ourselves in each other’s shoes, we could actually see it.
This ability to empathize with our colleagues could have a terrific impact in how we advocate for a better work-life balance once the workplace opens. What things could’ve been interpreted before COVID-19 as “get out of work” excuses like children’s orthodontic appointments or driving your parents to the grocery store, may now be recognized with empathy and solution-oriented plans to help that employee maintain productivity.
A short while ago, our vice president of marketing, RJ Frasca, remarked:
“Now is the time to trust your team, not expect everything to line up with a normal schedule,” says RJ Frasca, Vice President of Marketing at EBI. “Try setting goals and priorities early in the week, or even the week before, and then having morning stand-up meetings to check in with everyone. Be ready to adapt quickly as priorities will shift quickly in these types of situations. Most importantly, be available to support your teams’ needs.”
Even though some of you have already reopened your doors, Frasca’s suggestion of utilizing flexible work schedules is a savvy move to continue building a new culture in our new normal. Weighing your employees’ actual working conditions and possible obstacles shows consideration and empathy for their new normal, in addition to discussing what the company’s new normal is in terms of worker expectation. Perhaps you’re considering keeping more staff remote. Or following education’s lead and starting hybrid work weeks or shifts. Or continuing to loosen time-based standards, instead focusing on output and completion of objectives. Whatever solution you land on, the idea for employers is to expand your view of how employees can bring their best to you.
Knowing your leaders and employees for who they are now, post-COVID-19, can be helpful for formulating an updated culture based on new perspectives. We’re not talking about knowing their names and titles, but rather what their strengths and challenges are. This is helpful because it gives you insight into your community as a whole and how they may best operate now. With that knowledge, you can mobilize your most relevant resources to maximize impact.
Understanding community vulnerabilities has helped some organizations successfully increase their resilience. Although many companies may have used asset mapping before this pandemic and resulting economic crisis, it may also be a useful tool on the back end as you consider your return to work plans. Since you may be operating with a reduced staff, or using a hybrid model, or any number of return-to-work scenarios, asset mapping can help you understand your businesses’ strengths and challenges as they exist now.
Employees don’t want any more surprises. They’ve dealt with enough shocking changes. Employees need clear and timely communications about the steps your company is taking for re-entry sent ahead of time that outline how the process will unfold and what expectations you may have for them upon their return. Knowing how a new process will be implemented and getting an opportunity to ask questions beforehand eases anxiety and builds trust between you and your employees.
You’ve heard by now that employees are looking for reassurances that you’re taking their personal safety seriously. But a lesser talked about aspect of culture is emotional safety for employees. A new ebook addresses some of these concerns and provides help tips to recognize and rebuild employees’ emotional safety.
Beyond Safety: Reopening and Rebuilding Your Workplace with Employee Needs and Organizational Culture in Mind, written by Marti Kurland, leader of EBI’s Global Design Culture and Catherine Mattice-Zundel, President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, is available by downloading this On Demand webinar and getting on the list to receive the book, which will be released to the public soon.
Global Design Culture is our framework to help mitigate fear and anxiety about coming back to the office. We hope you’ve found some helpful tips to assist you in reestablishing your culture!
Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.