Posted: 17 Jun. 2021 7 min. read

Maintaining culture in a virtual environment

Remote company culture: Who are we when we work from anywhere?

WfA Blog 1: Culture

Employees' Expectations Have Changed. Can Culture Keep Up?

Amid the past year of long-term remote work, employees’ needs and desires have changed. Expectations of their employers and the companies they do business with have shifted.  Options for where and when and how to get work done have transformed and ways of working have changed. The impact of these changes on organizational culture is real and tangible and must be proactively addressed.

The “Work from Anywhere” model prompted by the pandemic is here to stay. In fact, 83% of companies plan to put more flexible work policies in place such as working remotely indefinitely even after the health crisis has passed1, and 68% of workers say that having the ability to work both remotely and at the worksite is the ideal workplace model.2

In this shifting work model, organizations are grappling with how to foster corporate culture amid a workforce where different workers will have different experiences of the workplace – some all remote, some all in person, and many in a hybrid model. As organizations emerge from the COVID-19 disruption and activate hybrid work environments, leaders are seeking to cultivate a culture that combines the “secret sauce” that made their organization successful in the past with elements that emerged amid the pandemic to create a cultural environment where values are brought to life, no matter where employees physically (or digitally) sit and interact.

Keep up with evolving expectations

The rapid adoption of remote work will have lasting impacts on our workforce long after the Pandemic finally fades. While working remotely, many employees experienced important shifts: more autonomy, agility, empowerment, and agency in how, where, and when they engage in work. These new ways of working have allowed for increased inclusion, collaboration, flexibility, and work-life balance. As we navigate a return to workplaces, the “new normal” is a workforce whose needs, demands, and expectations have changed permanently. Culture must change to keep up and there have been important cultural wins in worker empowerment that organizations should be careful not to discard.

Keep personhood front and center

Amid concerns that an all or partially remote workforce might deplete or diminish company culture, we’ve actually seen positive enhancements to company cultures in the context of mass virtualization. Companies became more invested in the full personhood of their workers: their health, their family situations, the larger context of their lives. Suddenly workforces – taken out of the physical workplace – were connected to each other’s wellbeing in deeper and more personal ways than before. Organizations had the opportunity to support their workers (and customers) as never before. Employers became more humanized and person-centered. The opportunity now is to maintain and reinforce that connectivity to the whole person that emerged from the pandemic as a cultural value in your organization moving forward.

Make the invisible visible in your corporate culture for the hybrid future

The rapid shift to remote work separated employees from the physical elements of where corporate cultures traditionally manifest, like facilities, workspace, cafeterias, in-person meetings, and hallway conversations. Yet in its place, the migration to remote work shone a light on the power of the invisible elements of corporate cultures: a company’s beliefs and values – and how they were demonstrated – were at the forefront as never before.

Organizations that adapted their “ways of working” with initiatives and policies to support employees – from collaboration networks to home office setups to flex time for working parents to access to mental health providers to virtual workouts to expanded medical leave options – were able to show that they “walked the talk” of their values while managing crisis and business continuity concerns amid pandemic response and recovery.  These actions built trust - trust that the company supports them, trust in decisions that have been made, trust that they can work through uncertainty, and importantly, trust that the company can lead through uncertainty. There is now a terrific opportunity to manifest this deepened trustfully and deliberately into the “special sauce” of your unique culture for the Work from Anywhere world.

Make these invisible elements more visible and connect your hybrid workforce, wherever they are, within a culture that can come to life more vibrant, humanized, and personal than before.

Take advantage of change agents

Your culture was not put on hold when everyone left the physical office. It was tested. It morphed in new directions. The overnight shift to remote was a rapid and unique change agent, for corporate cultures that are notoriously slow to change. Now, the emergence of this post-pandemic hybrid workforce is the new change agent to revisit and reshape culture. Take advantage of this opportunity to adapt your culture to the new work ecosystem to meet the needs and expectations of your workers regardless of how, when, and where they work. Culture change requires persistence and focus. Be intentional about incorporating into the “special sauce” of your unique culture the powerful invisible elements that were key to success and connection amid the pandemic to support the new values, beliefs, and connections you now have across your workforce.

References:

  1. Prudential/Morning Consult, "Pulse of the American Worker Survey”- https://news.prudential.com/presskits/pulse-american-worker-survey-is-this-working.htm - March 2021
  2. SHRM, “Study Finds Productivity Not Deterred by Shift to Remote Work” - https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/study-productivity-shift-remote-work-covid-coronavirus.aspx - September 2020

Co-authors:

Jonathan Pearce
US Leader | Workforce Strategies
jrpearce@deloitte.com
+1 212 436 3268

Kate Casolaro
Culture Transformation Leader
kcasolaro@deloitte.com
+1 404 201 0749

Get in touch

Jonathan Pearce

Jonathan Pearce

US Leader | Workforce Strategies

Jonathan is a Consulting Principal at Deloitte with 20 years of experience guiding clients in executing human-centric business transformation, developing talent strategies and better aligning workforce programs to business priorities. Jonathan advises the C-Suite on large scale initiatives to unlock new enterprise value by reshaping workforces in the context of the Future of Work. Jonathan leads Deloitte’s Workforce Strategy practice and the development of our partner ecosystem and technology assets to support workforce transformations. Previously, Jonathan served as the Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte Tax where he initiated a program to bring to life the Future of Tax and unlock new business value through harnessing technology and human capabilities in innovative ways. Jonathan has deep technical experience in workforce mobility from strategy through operations, to risk management and compliance. He frequently presents on the future of workforce mobility in a digitized world.