The Culture Series: Workplace Culture during a Global Pandemic

Today marks one year since we held our Culture Conference. Whilst an auditorium packed full of people and networking drinks on a sunny roof terrace feel like a distant memory, hopefully your organisation’s culture is not as far from your mind. As organisations continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19, now, perhaps more than ever, it is important for organisations to pay attention to their culture.

Culture can be described as not what an organisation does, but the way in which they do it. Now that the way we are working has changed dramatically, what does that mean for an organisation’s culture? There are a number of challenges in maintaining a good workplace culture when (for many of us) the workplace has become a series of kitchen tables, bedrooms and home offices connected via video calls. Below we share some thoughts on how best to continue to foster the culture of an organisation during these unusual times.


  • Values: with teams dispersed and many people working from home, strong cultural values should help keep teams together and maintain a sense of belonging. Regularly remind your workforce what these values are and ensure that they are central to management’s communications and decision making. It is also important to promote examples of when teams or individuals have demonstrated these values and integrated them into their new way of working.


  • Behaviour: unfortunately, there is a risk that current working conditions may give rise to some cases of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, or that some individuals may fail to see the importance of good behaviours when faced with a time of crisis. Organisations should continue to monitor their workforce, and deal with any bad behaviours appropriately. This may require managers to receive additional training on how to identify and deal with potential misconduct. Further training may also be required for the workforce, in particular for those involved in regulated or high-risk activities.


  • Leadership: the ‘Tone from the Top’ has always been an important factor in instilling a good workplace culture, but a workforce will particularly look to their leaders for guidance in a time of crisis or uncertainty. Leaders at all levels of the organisation should ensure that they are making themselves as, if not more, visible than normal, provide assurance and support, and act as a good example to others.


  • Transparency: even though it may not always be possible to provide a definitive answer, be open with your workforce and communicate with them on a regular and reciprocal basis. Encouraging an open dialogue (both with management as well as within teams) allows individuals to continue to feel connected and also provides organisations with the opportunity to identify risks or concerns.


  • Care: in these challenging times it is important to look after your workforce. Many individuals will be facing personal challenges, whether that is juggling working from home with childcare, suffering an impact on their mental wellbeing, being concerned about their or a loved one’s health or worrying about their job security or another adverse financial impact of the crisis. Be considerate of individual circumstances, ‘check in’ with your workforce and provide them with additional support where possible.


The headings above featured prominently in the ‘word cloud’ which was gathered when the audience at last year’s conference were asked to describe what culture meant to them. Whilst these themes continue to remain relevant today, it may also be time to evaluate and re-assess your organisation’s culture.


Times of crisis often cause people to step back and work out what is really important to them. As organisations start to move out of crisis mode, and perhaps back towards their pre-pandemic ways of working, it is a good time to take that step back. We recommend investing time to assess:


  • what are the key values that have kept your organisation going in these challenging times?
  • are there any aspects of your workplace culture which require some further attention?
  • have the priorities of your organisation and/or your workforce changed and how do you plan to adapt your culture to suit these changes?