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Topic: Culture

The Work Place Podcast

Season 2, Episode 11
Pandemic takeaways, vol. 1

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Welcome to The Work Place, where we’re hot on the trail of what makes great workplace cultures tick, and what we can all do to make the ones we work in better. I’m Andrew Scarcella. This mini-ep, we have some tangible takeaways from the pandemic—how is it changing workplace cultures and the people who work in them. If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know we usually do Tangible Takeaways at the end of each episode to highlight key insights and quotes from our guest’s interview, but today they’re getting an episode all their own.

Since the pandemic began, the people behind the Global Culture Report (our very own O.C. Tanner Institute) have been conducting weekly pulse surveys to better understand the impact the health crisis is having on employees, organisations, and cultures.

So, without further ado . . .

It’s time for Tangible Takeaways, where we take big ideas out of the walk-in and braise them low and slow until they’re fork-tender and falling off the bone—then plate them up with an lovely roasted root vegetable puree topped with spicy microgreens and radish ash as the star of our seasonally-inspired, locally-sourced, socially-distanced menu.

1. The first is that fear is a bigger obstacle to workplace culture than anyone could have imagined. Before the pandemic, fear of losing one’s job was at a low simmer, mostly tied to industry-specific trends. A few short months later and that fear is being felt across industries and across the world, and not just in the so-called “non-essential” businesses, either.  Even healthcare, arguably the most essential of businesses, has seen disproportionate levels of furloughs and layoffs as people continue to avoid going to hospitals and clinics, like, well, the plague. Last week’s pulse survey showed that fear of losing one’s job was up more than 13% from the previous week, side by side with the fear of losing income. The infection curve may be flattening, but the fear curve continues to climb as the pandemic drags on. And organisations should take notice, must take notice, if they want to keep their culture strong. With all they’ve done to pivot, adjust, and protect their people—it’s doing little to calm them. I don’t think we’re in for a panic, but the increased levels of stress, fear, and uncertainty will have long lasting effects. Workplace PTSD might well become a common phrase for HR departments in the months and years following this crisis.

2. The second is that transparency is finally having its moment. Week after week, pulse survey data shows that people are valuing transparency more and more in their workplace cultures, and now, it’s one of the most important things organisations can do to keep their people happy. Happy, of course, being a relative term nowadays. In cultures where transparency increased during the pandemic, trust in leadership soared, along with substantial increases in job satisfaction and engagement. Where it didn’t, people were 87% more likely to leave, with almost every other key culture metric falling by double digits. There’s simply no room for distrust in workplace culture anymore, and HR leaders need to be doing everything they can to keep the lines of communication open between leaders and their teams. Video conferencing, despite its many annoying aspects, is shaping up to be one of the most effective channels. More than two thirds of employees surveyed reported that video calls or messages made them feel more connected to their leaders. Virtual townhalls are also a big boost to morale, with employees reporting feeling more supported, more engaged, and more part of the team. Best-practices for video conferencing are still mostly being figured out on the fly, but for now, frequency, inclusion, and a Q&A at the end are the brightest north stars. Follow them, and you won’t get lost.

3. The third is that working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s MORE than it’s cracked up to be. Sure, I miss the office small talk, the confusingly named meeting rooms, and the surprise afternoon cookies that appear when someone’s having a bad day. But I love waking up with no commute hanging over my head, no cafeteria tempting me with it’s sad salads, no fluorescent lights to suck out what little melanin I have in my skin. And I’m not alone. More than 90% of employees surveyed said they’d prefer to work from home—at least some of the time—even after the pandemic passes. Now I’m not the first person to say this, but I might be the first to shout it from the mountaintop.

LET MY PEOPLE WORK REMOTELY!

It’s the holy grail the knowledge economy promised, but never delivered on. And as usual, it took a natural disaster to get people to consider changing the status quo. But I hope it sticks, because even though I worry what it means for workplace culture, I’d be okay if most office-based work faded away like fax machines. Still around, but a bit of a joke.

That’s it for this mini-ep of The Work Place. This episode was written by yours truly with original music and sound design by Daniel Foster Smith.

The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud™️ provides a single, modular suite of apps for influencing and improving employee experiences through recognition, career anniversaries, wellbeing, leadership, and more.

If you want your organisation to become a place where people can’t wait to come to work in the morning, go to octanner.com.

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