From Trends to Truths: 6 Changes to Corporate Culture in A Post-Pandemic World

Imagine: it’s spring 2022, and the working world has emerged from pandemic hibernation. Lattes and laptops sit on countertops as remote workers clickity-clack their way through the day. It’s just like 2019, except, well, everything has changed.

Lily Tomlin in *9 to 5* foreshadows major changes in the corporate world.

While thankfully, the pandemic will soon no longer rule our lives, we can’t entirely know how the world will look. “You cannot predict the future,” management guru Peter Drucker once said, “but you can create it.” So how should we prepare? And how can we create the future we prefer? I’ve been keeping an eye out for trends that are likely to become post-pandemic truths; here’s what I’ve found so far.

1. WFH IS THE RULE, NOT THE EXCEPTION

Not everyone can live a fully distributed life, and thoughtful companies allow for variability. I appreciate what I saw while working with incident response platform PagerDuty. They’ve established three personas for three scenarios, and set expectations accordingly. 1) On-premises employees such as facilities directors or front-desk staff, are those whose role requires them to be at the office all the time. 2) Distributed employees live far from central offices and come in a few times a year. 3) Hybrid employees are those who agree to be in the office three to four days a week.

But at-home productivity comes with caveats, which is why

2. ALL WORK FROM HOME MAY NOT BE ALL GOOD

A study on remote work by productivity software maker Atlassian finds that remote work may lead to an innovation drought. More formal connections and structured communication are, so far, limiting the serendipitous encounters that spark new ideas. Here’s how the report summed up the issue:

People shared the insulating effects of [distributed] work. They missed the organic encounters of others’ work, once pinned to walls or left on desks, [making] progress open to comment and improvement. Some were concerned that the quality of the team’s work might be threatened if there continued to be limited perspectives given or gathered.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to collaborate from a distance, but it is more challenging and in this extrovert’s experience a lot less fun. Which sounds to me like

3. IT’S TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT CREATIVITY

This New Yorker piece reported an internal survey of R/GA staff that found workers wanted “More spaces for collaborating [and] less individual desk space.” They also wished “to see more team-oriented spaces like a table, screen, and partial privacy that a team can use to have informal meetings.” In response to these shifting circumstances, the firm traded their gargantuan downtown New York and San Francisco leases for comparatively-tiny office hubs built for collaborative work.

Worth noting: periodic gathering isn’t entirely new. For proof of utility we can look to firms that have been forever distributed. A recent Harvard Business Review article explained how consulting behemoth McKinsey hosts “Super Fridays.” These are once-a-month culture-building events where firm leadership brings together all 5,500 employees. I can only imagine they’d continue to invest in this immense assembly if it was effective. But that arrangement is just one example of

4. PLANNED SPONTANEITY AND RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

If we are going to work apart, we need to establish new ways of connecting. “Wear your favorite T-shirt to our next meeting,” Neil Stevenson, Co-Founder of Harmonic, instructed his employees. Over Zoom, he had each person share why they chose their shirt. Even better, these interactions go right to the bottom line because they foster trust, a critical element we humans need to do our best work. Other approaches include leaning into those days teams gather in person and creative collaboration technology like Mural and Miro. However, all this planning will likely lead to scheduling fatigue. So, it’s time to

5. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN BOUNDARIES

To be successful, we can no longer rely on the physical separation of work and life to draw boundaries for us. We need to take ownership of when we are on or off the clock and make sure to tell colleagues. If you want suggestions for how to can start reclaiming your edges, I laid out a few here. And finally, this self-directed scheduling is perfectly compatible with

6. NON-LINEAR WORK DAYS

We can’t predict the future but by keeping eyes and minds open, we can begin to close the gap between predicting and creating. A bit of planning for more flexibility and a few thoughtful work experiments will go a long way to help organizations prepare for a post-pandemic work world.

Have you seen trends you think are sure to become truths? Leave a comment below.

Author of Great Mondays: How To Design A Company Culture Employees Love. You don’t have your copy yet? Well what are you waiting for? https://amzn.to/2snC2mN

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