The outbreak of COVID-19 is radically changing how many U.S. companies operate.
Public safety measures have closed physical offices and made remote working the norm. Travel restrictions have heightened the importance of efficient technology, communication and collaboration. Executives have had to pivot quickly, reorganizing and rallying their workforce to push forward in an unprecedented time.
Some business leaders think COVID-19 marks a permanent turning point. And at the center of the seismic change is the reshaping of corporate culture – the beliefs and behaviors that influence how a company’s employees and management interact, says Chuck Crumpton, author of The Jagged Journey: A Raw & Real Memoir about the Non-Perfect Path of Life & Business.
“The pandemic unquestionably will have lasting effects on corporate cultures,” Crumpton says. “There’s a growing sense it’s a fundamental shift, a new normal.
“It starts with empathy. Company leaders are seeing they need to listen more to their employees’ concerns, which are really everybody’s concerns right now. Many people have fear and uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to be more understanding and build relationships with the people you work with, and from there as a company, being better able to work in new and more collaborative ways.”
Crumpton explains the ways corporate culture will be reshaped in the wake of COVID-19 and how leaders can influence those positive changes:
Providing emotional support along with technical support. While technology is the key to keeping a remote workforce functioning at a high level, Crumpton says how leaders create a culture of mutual support will be a big factor in company culture and the employee experience. “You want to get people helping and looking out for each other,” Crumpton says. “Not every Google Chat, call or email has to be business-related.”
More, and better, communication. Working remotely, with managers and employees at different locations, places an emphasis on focused and more precise communication – even over-communication if necessary – to keep operations flowing, Crumpton says. “The use of video conferencing is very effective, keeping everyone connected and agendas targeted,” he says. “It increases responsiveness, attention span, and strengthens collaboration.”
More of a family feeling. “Working from home personalizes the workplace, partly because you are working from your personal space, and the imaginary line between family and work is basically gone,” Crumpton says. “People are out of their shell now, more relatable. Colleagues and clients are happy to share a screen with their kids or pets in the background. There’s a blending of the personal and professional, and it’s liberating.”
Better collaboration. “Your relationship with your teammates will improve,” Crumpton says. “Fighting a common enemy, the coronavirus, creates bonds in relationships. Everyone being in this together brings new levels of connection with colleagues and clients. You’re happy to see each other on-screen during this period of physical isolation, and that feeling can be brought forward when things settle down. The bond strengthens with teammates also by having worked together to solve problems and be proactive during difficult times. That means better collaboration and more enthusiasm for teamwork and shared success.”
“This crisis has challenged us in seemingly every way,” Crumpton says. “It’s been sudden, profound, and life-changing. Companies have been forced to make major changes, and in the process, they’re seeing the workplace and the world differently. It’s a great opportunity for growth and positive, permanent change.”