Where pre-pandemic offices prioritised togetherness, post-pandemic offices will prioritise physical health — how will this affect corporate culture?
Traditionally, office culture was cultivated through social gatherings, in-person discussions, and casual "water cooler" chats throughout the day. It was a collective culture, made up of all the small but significant interactions employees had with one another when they shared the same office space.
How will COVID change work?
Now, in a world still navigating remote working arrangements, this kind of corporate culture has taken a back seat to keeping everyone safe. And this priority isn't expected to go away even when offices fill back up again.
The pandemic has changed the way companies operate across the board. Pre-COVID, an office culture that prioritised togetherness may have been key to employee retention, but now, many people may simply be happy to have a job and their health, with togetherness losing importance when compared to safe working arrangements and job security.
This could mean that post-pandemic offices, balancing a mix of remote and in-person employees, could feel sterile and impersonal. With desks being arranged to face away from one another, restrictions in common areas, and virtual discussions remaining part of the norm, a lively corporate culture will be more difficult than ever to maintain.
That being said, despite the physical distance and changes in office set-up, there are ways to help corporate culture thrive in a post-pandemic world. According to one CNBC article, it all comes down to strong leaders. Leaders who check in with their staff, communicate openly and often, and lead with vulnerability and compassion are more likely to have a positive impact on the overall company culture.
According to our recent Global Office Tenant Report, 60% of occupiers reported they wouldn't return to the office until it felt safe, and 80% of occupiers stated they expect updated information on their building as well as safety measures and procedures from their landlords and company. Strong leaders who help their staff feel safe, informed, and like their safety is a top priority will consequently have a better starting point for regaining some of that thriving office culture even in a post-pandemic world.
While leading a company through crisis is a giant task for managers, human resource teams and chief executives, it's a unique opportunity to build a profound amount of trust with employees — trust that will nourish connection when workplaces start to shift away from safety and back toward togetherness again in the future.