Employees have gone through a lot in the last year. As companies begin to get back into the office, you might have a culture problem. Transitions back to life as usual can’t happen overnight. We must give our employees ample time to get used to the commute, water cooler conversation, and dressing up for the office again. If your employees are struggling with office life, there are several things you can do to improve your office culture.
What Impact Did The Pandemic Have on Office Culture?
So, what impact did the pandemic have on office culture?
When we think about traditional workplace culture, a lot of our memories start with the office. From general water cooler conversations to lunch with our colleagues, we spent a lot of time in the office pre-pandemic.
In early 2020, many companies shifted their work completely. Companies pivoted to working from home, and more silos formed as we went to virtual communication like Slack and Zoom meetings.
Companies had to learn to restructure communication and benefits that were tied to the office (e.g. free lunches.) The pandemic truly changed the way that we worked. Some companies plan to stay remote forever.
With all the rapid changes we had to make, it’s no wonder the pandemic impacted office culture.
5 Ways to Help Your Office Culture Rebound After the Pandemic
It’s easy to understand why the pandemic has changed office culture in the last year. Knowing this, how do we deal with the fallout of the pandemic when it comes to office culture? Well, you can start with these five activities:
Set Proper Expectations About Office Culture as Employees Return to Work
Before anyone steps foot back in the office, you have to start by setting proper expectations about what office life will look like as employees return to work.
Set expectations about:
- Mask guidelines
- Social distancing protocols
- Cleaning frequency
- Office gatherings and events
Write all of these policies down and put them in a place where every employee can see them. As employees go back to the office, ask them to acknowledge your office guidelines before returning to work.
Ease Back Into Office Life
Many employees have been working from home for more than a year. Getting back into the grind of daily office life isn’t going to be easy for people.
In fact, some people are choosing to quit their job instead of going back to work. The thought of a mass exodus of employees is pretty scary, especially because filling empty positions is so difficult right now.
Don’t ask employees to flip the switch automatically. Come up with a plan that slowly gets people back in the office.
For example, you might choose to create a hybrid work plan where employees can choose to come in the number of days they want. Many employers have even decided to utilize a desk sharing model where employees reserve a desk if they are in the office.
We have to understand how badly we need employees in a physical office. Is it worth the commute and upset employees to require their physical presence? Or is there another option where we give employees the ability to work from an office if it works for them (e.g. downsizing the office or using coworking spaces)?
Consider Ways to Bring Back Pre-Pandemic Traditions Safely
What did the office look like pre-pandemic? Did you offer free lunch or workout Wednesdays? For many employees, the best part of office life was the perks they got for being there.
Are you bringing employees back to the office without thinking about the benefits of returning? If so, it’s time to plan this part of office life.
To make things safer, you’ll likely need to change some aspects of those pre-pandemic traditions. For example, lunches might need to be individually packaged, and workout Wednesdays will need to be socially distanced.
Going back to the office after the pandemic doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch on office traditions. Ease back into holding these traditions regularly to rebound office culture quickly.
Set Up Employees With Weekly Office Buddies
If your company is like most with turnover and hiring new employees, it’s likely that many team members haven’t had the chance to get to know one another.
If you are looking for a way to rebound office culture, start small by assigning weekly office buddies. Encourage office buddies to connect over a meal or a joint project one day during the week. You can even set weekly ice breakers to get the conversation flowing.
Here are some ice breaker questions to get you started:
- What was the last thing that made you smile/laugh/feel excited?
- Where do you want to be in life or your career five years from now?
- What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? How did you get started with that hobby?
- What’s the next destination on your travel bucket list? Why do you want to go there?
- If you could change one thing about your favorite book/movie/television show, what would it be and why?
- What is your favorite place in the city? How did you find out about the place?
- If you could create a super job featuring all of your favorite work activities, what would that job be?
Ask For and Utilize Employee Feedback
Last but not least, one of the best ways to rebound office culture is to talk to your staff and get their opinion. Gathering and utilizing employee feedback is one of the best ways to understand what your team needs from you.
Create a confidential survey using a tool like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Ask all your burning office culture questions and request that employees fill out the survey.
After receiving all your responses, synthesize the information for employees and tell them what you will do about it. Employees can get tired of surveys quickly, especially if they don’t feel that managers are hearing them. Ensure that you close the feedback loop and make any necessary adjustments.
Getting back into the office is going to be challenging for even the most seasoned employees. As an organization leader, it’s your duty to guide employees to speak up for what they need and advocate for your organization at the same time. It’s a tricky balancing act, but it can be done when you make sure to keep active listening top of mind.
If you are looking for more information on hybrid workforces, check out our free hybrid workforce engagement guide. Reach out to us at email@example.com to see if building employee communities with Workrowd is the best way to engage your employees in and out of the office.