As we all try to adjust to the ever-changing “new normal,” it seems that some pandemic-era office changes will stick around long after COVID has left headlines. Some of these slow moving culture shifts have been stirred up by the present labor shortage. Working in parallel, the “Great Resignation” has transformed many of these office attributes and culture shifts from “nice to haves” to “have to haves.”
Here are three ways the traditional office atmosphere has changed since the start of the pandemic.
Hybrid working culture is here to stay
In 2021, the emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine made returning to the office a possibility after months of remote work. While a hybrid working model may have seemed like a pandemic-specific working arrangement, it’s quickly becoming the norm in many organizations, in large part due to employee demand. According to a Gallup Poll from February 2022, 59% of workers prefer some form of hybrid work schedule, (greater than 10% but less than 100% of time spent in the office). This shift impacts how companies structure their physical work space, but also the company culture and weekly routine.
While the hybrid working model may be an adjustment for corporate traditionalists, it presents a fantastic opportunity for employees to compartmentalize their time to the company’s benefit. When local health conditions allow, days spent in the office can be focused on collaborative meetings and brainstorming sessions, but also the essential relationship-building that happens through unstructured social time. Office leaders should try to be creative to make in-office days worthwhile and effective for their employees. Avoid making in-office days all about sitting on video calls with colleagues in the next room.
Segmenting the week can allow work-from-home days to be more focused on task lists and project completion. Plus, establishing the trust and camaraderie required for effective teamwork in the office will help employees better communicate during team issues that may arise during work-from-home days.
While it may take some adjustment and industry-specific tweaks, a hybrid working model can help benefit the experience of individual employees and the relational health of your overall team.
Greater emphasis on wellness
Prior to the pandemic, physical and mental health were not topics commonly brought up around the office. But when early pandemic remote work caused the lines between home and office to blur, it forced us to think about — and talk about — these aspects of life more than ever before. Balancing family and work responsibilities, battling loneliness or managing underlying mental health challenges can impact your employees’ satisfaction and performance.
In response, many companies have taken steps to promote wellness-focused culture changes, such as greater access to mental health resources, the option for asynchronistic or flexbile work schedules, increased PTO and sick time, to name a few. Overall, these culture shifts help create work environments that are sustainable for employees, helping employers avoid turnover from the all-too-common burnout. Promoting wellness in your workplace may require an industry-specific approach, but will help you build a people-first culture focused on connection and viability.
New approaches to traditional office behaviors
The days of mandatory three piece suits and firm handshakes may be slipping away.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift away from more traditional business office wear in favor of comfort-first options. Once you get accustomed to wearing sweatpants with your dress shirt on a Zoom call, it can be challenging to go back to stiff and starched alternatives. While some more dramatic clothing trends may be the result of expected cultural shifts after an event like a pandemic, there may be an overall shift towards more casual wear.
In addition, everyone has a different comfort level with returning to social greetings like handshakes. In order to keep social distance, some people in the office may still opt for waves, fist bumps or “elbow high-fives” instead of traditional introductory handshakes. Employers should remain sensitive to the individual needs and comfort-levels of their team.
Helping you navigate any challenge
You don’t go through a global pandemic and come out on the other side unchanged.
We know each company has unique and complex needs to help you support your employees, grow your business and promote your bottom line. We’re here to help you consider your company’s space and structure can help your team thrive post-pandemic.