What Has COVID Killed at Companies that Should Never Be Revived?
Some Aspects of Work Culture Don’t Need to Make a Comeback
In 2020, COVID required every company to pivot and, in many cases, rapidly modernize their culture – adding virtual meetings, remote events, asynchronous chat, and more.
As we navigate a return to some normalcy in 2021, there are aspects of past, traditional work cultures that we don’t need to revive.
If we’ve learned anything in 2021, it’s that change is constant and flexibility is possible in the workplace.
Here are six things that COVID killed in the workplace that don’t need to be revived:
1. The Typical 9-5 Lifestyle
During the pandemic, we learned very quickly that we don’t need to work for eight hours straight during the workday. Nor do we need to attend Zoom meetings all day, which can cause burnout from starting at a screen for long periods. By trusting employees to get their work done in a schedule that works for them, it can increase productivity and give parents the ability to juggle their responsibilities without guilt.
2. Emphasis on Office Spaces
For many companies, working in an office environment is no longer necessary. Instead of investing in office spaces and amenities, employers should shift their focus to intellectual infrastructure and internal cultures, such as new technologies to facilitate connection, professional development, and networking opportunities across the company.
3. Unnecessary Travel
By making all consultations and meetings virtual, we reduce commutes, save money and make more time for productivity. Based on US Census Bureau data, the average American working remotely in 2020 saved over a week – 8.6 days – of time behind the wheel. In the future of work, we can save travel for the most important work gatherings
4. Unrealistic, Inauthentic Ideas of Professionalism (and Parental Guilt)
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that we’re human. We have lives going on outside of the office. This doesn’t mean that we care about work less. It just means that we should shift our focus to a more balanced work environment.
In the workplace, employees should be able to show up as themselves in their work. Dogs barking and babies crying are a normal part of our daily lives, and these interruptions can actually help build more authentic, trusting, and human relationships among remote teams.
5. Gender-Biased Networking and Proximity-Based Promotions
Let’s be more intentional and inclusive about strengthening our communities as a company. We’re long past the days of the after-work basketball league or meeting up for a drink at a sports bar that could potentially leave out women and parents.
Instead, create systems that support advancement that is equitable for both in-person and virtual employees who may not get as much face time with superiors.
6. Apathy toward Current Events
Companies need to have empathy toward current events because those events directly impact employees. Companies can no longer ignore crucial world events that affect the mental health and wellbeing of employees. It’s time to acknowledge the issues through transparency and holding space to speak on the issues. This includes making public statements – but these statements need to be backed up by internal actions: holding listening sessions, addressing bias and micro-aggressions within the workplace, investing in DEI training, and more.
As pandemic restrictions loosen, it’s important to keep a critical eye on former aspects of your work culture that don’t need to make a comeback.