Company culture isn’t slides in the office, it’s the thing that brings every employee and potential candidate together. It’s what unifies them and excites them. Crucially, it can be the difference between getting that key hire or not when you and your competitors are offering the same salary.
It’s for that reason that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.
And in times like these, when businesses are stretched, it’s even more important to have a company culture that will set you apart from the competition when the talent pool explodes with new talent.
We reached out to a few technology leaders across Europe to see how they’re getting on with their culture during COVID-19.
Lynn Johnston MCIPD is the Head of HR at AVEVA. Traditionally operating from AVEVA’s Cambridge office, Lynn and her team service the UK from an HR perspective. Amongst all their 8 offices in the UK, there existed a certain culture that many UK office workers might be used to:
“Having a desk gave you some sort of status. There were some old fashioned views around that office that I haven’t seen before.”
The shift away from the office setting as a result of COVID, compounded by the UK government’s‘ stay alert’ stance, has ushered in what many people are calling the ‘new normal’ – a new, more flexible way of working that holds remote working as a key doctrine. The logic behind this move is something Lynn and AVEVA are working through.
“Why would you go into the office just to do emails? There should be a reason to go in and it should be collaboration. There are still some people that will have a personal preference to not be at home and we will always accommodate that too.”
With a high amount of flexibility on where people can work from, AVEVA found challenges in pivoting their infrastructure to meet the demand of the many, not the few.
“Our IT team has done a great job with logistics and infrastructure flexibility.”
As teams have been fully facilitating to work from home, the culture at AVEVA has shifted with them. With an engagement strategy that focuses on translating the current government guidance on holidays, and managing sickness.
“Within the HR function, we have a comms team that works hard on guidance on well-being. We’re just trying to work on that community culture that we miss out on.”
Ben Kelly is the Co-Founder of digital agency, Appeal Digital where they generally reserved remote working for exceptional circumstances. Like many digital agencies, Culture was an important consideration.
“We were really keen on building a culture, we thought the remote working might disrupt that, but we’ve found we’ve been able to maintain that.”
A familiar idea for most people in an office setting will be the idea that illness, unless particularly bad, will rarely stop you from going into the office. This was a culture that Appeal Digital traditional had.
“There’s a grey area between sick and too sick to work, I think previously people felt they should come in if they were still capable of doing the work, because they didn’t have the option to work from home. I think now we’ll actively encourage those who are ill but still want to work, to stay at home rather than spread anything around the office. Knowing now they can be just as effective.”
The number of sick days taken by UK workers has almost halved since 1993, according to the Office for National Statistics. Where the average employee once spent 7.2 days a year at home due to illness, they took just 4.1 days off in 2017.
Experts say a shifting work culture is to blame for creating a stigma around taking time off. Studies show that mistrust and fear of judgment from bosses have forced an increasing number of employees to come to work when sick.
This, however, is something Ben expects to change in both his office and the overall working ecosphere after COVID.
“Being more mindful of that is something that needs to be addressed more in the workplace. I think we will be a bit more respectful of that in our culture. When someone doesn’t want to come in because someone else is ill.”
Hayley-Mae Osborne is the People, Culture and Resourcing Specialist at Play Sports Network.
At the moment, Hayley-Mae’s main focus is on recruitment but she’s found herself performing an admin function as of late. In addition to general recruitment, Hayley-Mae also takes charge of a training function that has seen an increased emphasis during lockdown.
Training is a leading doctrine at Play Sports Network and, with COVID forcing many people to work from home, training can serve as an opportunity for people to focus on growth and development when a countrywide outlook isn’t a positive one.
“HR Champions have reorganised it to be done via webinar. Obviously it’s not the same but the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
I think right now people are really appreciating still being able to focus on growth so being able to maintain our training process has been key to on-going employee engagement.”
Proud of the culture that has developed at Play Sports Network, Hayley-Mae can see a new appreciation for the comradery found in office settings developing once teams return to the office.
“I think a lot of people have been surprised with how much they missed the team culture and environment in the workplace. If you are an extrovert and you enjoy that there will be a lot more engagement. We certainly won’t be taking the culture we have in our teams for granted when we do eventually return back to normal.”
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