Many of us are starting to plan a return to the office as restrictions ease in many states (except of course Victoria) and we gingerly emerge from the character-building exile to our Home Office, cheerfully bidding a fond farewell to spending hours each day on Zoom yet dreading the resumption of the daily commute.
Hopefully you are looking forward to resuming the daily routines, duties, rituals and pleasantries associated with sharing a communal work environment, and to interacting with your colleagues in person.
Culture does not take a holiday
It is worth remembering however that, like the virus, culture does not take a holiday. It is likely that the workplace culture which you experienced, pre-lockdown, will be remarkably similar to the one that you will re-encounter on your first day back – albeit in many cases missing some familiar faces.
Of course, in those now halcyon pre-Covidian days, if “the vibe” of your workplace, and how you expected people to behave generally, was in terrific shape, then congratulations. Don’t go changing!
If, on the other hand, your culture was not in great shape, then maybe you are not as quite so keen to rush back for “more of the same”. For example, did your workplace suffer from:
- Flippant, derogatory remarks and casual put-downs, which, if they were in fact challenged, were apparently “just a joke”;
- Sexualised banter and commentary, which though clearly unprofessional, seem to materialise from nowhere, but were never called out; and/or,
- A manager who appeared to be oblivious to how their own daily (and fluctuating) “emotional temperature” was affecting the capacity of the workplace team to thrive
If the pathology of your workplace is any of the above, for instance, then now is an ideal time to plan an intervention as despite wishful thinking, workplaces don’t just mysteriously fix themselves!
If you are in charge of a team, or advising a manager from your role in HR, then here are a few actions that can really help to improve your workplace culture, and ensure that you have a culture where everyone is able to contribute to building and maintaining a positive culture.
1. Declaring what your expectations are
A break in transmission whilst everyone was in lockdown means that, once everyone has finally emerged from their individual burrows and returned to the physical workplace, they may well be in need of supportive words of gratitude from managers.
So, as a manager, this is certainly an ideal opportunity to thank people for their commitment to each other, the organisation and getting the work down throughout the trying months of lockdown.
At the same time, it’s very helpful to specifically state how much you are looking forward to everyone appreciating the workplace environment and each other here at the physical workplace.
This is your prime moment to expound upon your workplace values , and the deep expectations you have that, from the lockdown now past, everyone will be even more mindful of protecting and cherishing the workplace culture here on in.
Conversely, and if you need to take action to draw a real “line in the sand”, then absolutely press the ‘re-set’ button for the culture that you now expect to see from now on.
Feel free to use that ‘re-set’ term too, if it helps, when explaining to your team, for example, that you have been concerned about behaviours X, Y and Z pre-lockdown, and that this is an ideal time to start afresh, press re-set on how we’ll treat each other from now on, and leave unhelpful, un-collegiate behaviours behind.
2. Walking the talk
Of course, it takes more than just one speech on day one to change cultures. As a manager, you may have been doing some time during lockdown reflecting about what messages you sent to your team, from your own behaviour, about what was acceptable.
If so, name to your team what you will be doing differently from now on. Ask them to hold you to account, just as you will them. More importantly, make an effort to live those values you were raving on about to your team. Ensure that you are visibly and demonstrably, without things getting too cultish and weird, role-modelling the professional behaviour you expect from others.
3. Improve your team’s capacity to communicate and be empowered and workplace issues
Whether you are a manager or staff member, everyone needs to have the skills, support and permission to have conversations about what sort of positive workplace they want to protect and grow.
Regardless of any manager’s wishes, and/or attempts at role-modelling, it is only through ensuring that feedback at all levels of an organisation, and developing everyone’s skills to talk and resolve tricky subjects (see the bullet points above!), that, overtime, a culture will move in the right direction.
So, get that team building and training going now, before the momentum is lost to really take steps to change a culture of awkward silence or passivity when inappropriate conduct happens. Communication skills are critical, whether it is about giving and receiving feedback, having difficult conversations and/or how to be an upstander. Make training your team a priority. You and they will thank them for it.
What kind of organisation do you want to be post-pandemic?
If you would like to explore re-setting and refreshing your organisation further, then join us for our free lunchtime webinar on July 15, where Worklogic Director, Rose Bryant-Smith will help you consider what kind of organisation you want to be post-pandemic and discuss how to position your workplace to make the most of the return to the workplace. Register now.
About Grevis Beard
Grevis Beard, Worklogic Director, is a highly experienced and widely respected author, dynamic speaker and trainer, and workplace investigator.
Grevis speaks knowledgeably and diplomatically on how to resolve workplace conflict, manage people risk and build a positive culture at work based on his extensive experience as a lawyer and workplace investigator. Grevis delivers a comprehensive range of in-house training programs designed to help organisations resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work.