Covid-19 - The impact on Office Culture

News Oct 08, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has almost certainly impacted your day-to-day life in one way or another.

Earlier this Spring, Covid had rendered office space as a high-risk playground for the virus to spread quickly and rapidly. The end result? A total shutdown.

The pandemic has resulted in 35.5 million total cases worldwide with more than 1 million deaths - numbers that are still on the rise. For many employees, this has meant an abrupt transition to working from home, day in and day out, for the foreseeable future. Some companies, such as Adobe, Amazon, and Gartner have even put shifts in place away from full-time office work for the foreseeable future.

“It’s critical for business leaders to understand that large-scale shifts are changing how people work and how business gets done,” says Brian Kropp,VP of Gartner. All Gartner employees will work remotely through January 2021.

As offices are labelled ‘safe’ for non-essential workers to resume business as usual, many aspects of post-pandemic office culture will still remain different in a number of ways.

The adoption of automation technologies

Including robotics, autonomous vehicles, and AI-driven software that can perform processing workflows has also accelerated during the pandemic, although to a lesser extent than digitisation.

According to Mckinsey and Company, ‘These trends reflect automation’s ability to facilitate contactless interactions at a time of social distancing and heightened awareness of hygiene, as well as cost pressures that may arise from the economic slowdown caused by COVID. Another plus: robots don’t get sick.’

Nearly half of executives note that their adoption of automation has accelerated, post-COVID. According to research from Mckinsey, the adoption of automation has expanded most among firms that had a greater shift to remote work since the outbreak.

Increased flexibility, resulting in a better work-life balance

Many professionals will continue to seek work from home benefits, even after it’s safe to return to the office. At the same time, many organisations that were once against a WFH policy are now finding that employees can indeed be productive outside of the office. In fact, a great deal of professionals are more productive outside of the office and plan to continue working remotely, even when it’s safe to return.

A transformational leadership shift

The behavior of senior-level employees in organisations affects the mental health of their employees. This is especially true during times of uncertainty, such as a global pandemic.

When leaders report using a leadership style that combines positive combinations of transformational leadership and contingent reward, rewarding employees when they do good work, leaders may experience lower levels of burnout.

As noted in an article from Workspace, "We can no longer reward leaders for just ‘getting the job done’, rather we need to focus on how leaders are doing this by creating an environment where people feel valued and supported” - Michelle King, gender equality expert of The Fix. This transformational leadership style will be even more necessary in the future as technological advances."

A shift in meeting trends

According to research from Microsoft, the frequency and number of meetings is increasing, however, people are spending less time overall in these meetings. The trend follows more “bite-size meetings” versus longer hour-long sessions.

Even at a short length, though, these virtual meetings can be strenuous. An abundance of virtual meetings, in whatever form, have been seen to cause cognitive dissonance because it’s not always an easy-task to feel connected, virtually.

Whether held via zoom or in-office, meetings are incredibly time-consuming and will continue to be questioned moving forward. Meetings of the past might have signified importance or engagement,  but moving forward, contributions are likely to be seen in terms of output of workload.

So, what will the new way of working look like for you and your company? As employers around the world experiment with these new transitions, we must act now to ensure that the workplace is both a safe and productive space.