Changing Office Culture – The impact of long-term home working

Work place culture

Over the last few months, many organisations have worked hard to create and extend the ability of their team members to work from home on a continual basis. Whilst in March 2020 this was a necessity for many businesses, there is likely to be a long-term impact of this level of homeworking which will outlast the current restrictions placed on workplaces.

Flexible working with some level of working from home was a benefit many businesses already had in place to support their teams, however few businesses operated entirely virtually. This has now become the norm. As a result, it is likely that we will see some level of cultural impact due to the extended period of home working.

Impact on Culture

Firstly, it will be more important than ever to ensure that the company’s culture and identity is clearly articulated and embedded into teams. With less face to face time, and limited times when the full company is working together in an office environment, ensuring the culture, business behaviours and expectations are aligned is even more critical.

This can be particularly challenging if your business has grown or you have been in a period of recruitment during the restrictions. As a result, you may have whole teams or individuals within teams who have never met face-to-face and have never entered your office. The ability of new employees to understand and live the values of your company will be critical to maintaining your culture.

In order to support your culture virtually, consider completing a culture exercise. This can take different forms depending on what suits your business. A few examples would be to run an on-line workshop for the whole company to look at how the company values can be demonstrated through on-line working; the development of a culture and values recognition scheme; or taking some time to document your culture. Consider codifying what it means to be part of the company, what does living the values look like on a daily basis and why are the values and culture important to the overarching company vision. This can then be shared with all team members and actively discussed with newer employees during onboarding.

The second long-term impact of the extended period of home working may be that many employees would like to continue working from home post restrictions. While it’s likely that your business had some level of home working pre restrictions, a recent study by Cardiff and Southampton universities (completed in August 2020) suggested that a significant amount of people wish to continue home working post pandemic. The study found that almost 90% would like to continue working from home in some capacity, with almost half wanting to work at home often or all of the time.

The desire of a significant number of your employees to continue to work from home will have a cultural impact and you may wish to consider how this will be manageable for your business. Given the potential large number of employees seeking some level of continued home working, businesses which do not offer considerable home working options may see their number of leavers rise as employees seek more flexible working environments. Equally there are benefits for employees being able to work together face to face and, as such, a blended approach may be the right option.

One positive route to enable large scale flexible working would be to consider a Core Days Policy where employees are only required to work from the office on set days per week. For the remainder of the week an employee can choose to work from home or the office without the need for a formal flexible working request or manager approval. This would allow time for teams to come together but also allow companies to meet the demand for home working. Ensuring that employees have a clear understanding of the company values and how to live the culture will be key to ensuring policies like this are successful over the long term.

Final thoughts

The future of work was always heading in this direction. COVID-19 has simply accelerated the process and challenged businesses to adapt, evolve and embrace a new normal.

Purpose HR can provide help and support to businesses who are seeking to ensure that their culture can transition to virtual working as well as providing support for the development of policies which will meet the demand of home working. For more information please contact the Purpose HR team by emailing info@purposehr.co.uk.