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Topic: Culture

5 Culture Trends for 2020

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Is your approach to building a great workplace culture out of date? If so, chances are it’s not working very well. Culture is changing at the speed of technology and society. That’s why, in 2020, companies are discovering new ways to address culture issues and create workplaces that help people thrive. Here are five of the hottest culture trends impacting your organisation:

Update: The way we work shifted dramatically overnight. In Q1 of 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. Businesses and their employees are being forced to change how they work in some unprecedented ways. While most employees transitioned to remote work, many are left working on the front lines with new social distancing requirements. Confusion, anxiety, and fear are palpable. How will employees adapt to this change in work environment, process, and roles? How can companies help employees be calm, productive, and healthy?

O.C. Tanner pulse surveys show 40% of employees globally are worried about losing their job, while 60% worry about lost income. 65% of employees report feeling a “tense” work environment, and 46% of employees say they are less productive at work. There’s a 221% increase in fearfulness among employees, and a 135% increase in feeling isolated.

During a time of great uncertainty and change, many companies are struggling with how to take care of their people and keep their businesses operating.

What companies can do: In times of crisis, it is a company’s responsibility to help employees thrive. This includes many things: ensuring employees are safe at work, giving them access to the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, prioritizing employee wellbeing, and communicating honestly, accurately, and frequently. Organisations are taking the necessary steps: 92% of companies took appropriate actions to make sure their employees were safe at work. Video communication from senior leaders nearly doubled. The number of flexible leave policies increased 95%. Now is the time to make employees your most important asset. Take care of their needs, help them stay connected in a time of physical disconnection, and show appreciation for their work and efforts, especially those on the front line. If you take care of your people, they will take care of your business.

This means we need to understand how employees are feeling and what they want from work.  Here the 5 culture trends for 2020 (as they existed before the pandemic):


Culture Trend #1: Burnout is very real.

Just this year, the World Health Organisation classified burnout as an official syndrome related to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2020 Global Culture Report found that 79% of employees are suffering from some sort of burnout at work; 40% of those report moderate to severe burnout.

Burnout takes an enormous toll on employees and organisations. Burnout results in 120,000 deaths per year and $190 billion in healthcare spending1. In addition to an increase in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, and high cholesterol, employees who feel burned out are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.2 Companies see 376% less engagement, 87% more turnover, and 22% decreased work output when employees feel burned out.3

Burnout affects everyone, regardless of age, role, industry, or tenure. It’s not just doctors and nurses who are burning out—employees in all industries, Millennials and Boomers, blue collar and white-collar workers are doing more with less and feeling an increasing amount of stress. 

What does burnout look like?

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Burnout is the result of chronic culture deficiencies. In other words, bad workplace cultures are contributing to higher rates of burnout. Cultures with a lack of a clear purpose, few opportunities to grow, lackluster leadership, poor wellbeing, and no appreciation or connection will inevitably lead to employees burning out. The question is not if, but when. Poor workplace cultures lead to a 157% increase in moderate to severe burnout. 

What companies can do: More vacation days and on-site massages aren’t going to prevent employee burnout. But having a great workplace culture can. Provide employees with a meaningful purpose that inspires them. Show how their work makes a difference by recognising their accomplishments and sharing stories of success. Train leaders to build trust and have positive interactions with their people. Provide a sense of belonging, growth, and connection in your teams. Put employee wellbeing before your bottom line. By focusing on creating positive everyday experiences for employees, companies can create cultures that help mitigate, and even prevent, employee burnout.  

1 “The Hidden Costs of Stressed-Out Workers”, Jeffrey Pfeffer, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2019.
2 Employee Burnout, Part 1: 5 Main Causes”, Ben Wigert and Sangeeta Agrawal, Gallup, July 12, 2018.
3 2020 Global Culture Report, O.C. Tanner Institute

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