In today’s workplace, company culture impacts every aspect of a business. Companies with strong cultural identities have higher employee engagement, higher productivity, and higher revenue than those without. On the other hand, companies without a strong culture are subject to lower productivity, higher turnover, and slower growth.
Organizations understand the importance of culture, and many do an excellent job of highlighting it (i.e. LinkedIn’s dedicated page on company culture). However, most of us are seeing culture take a backseat in the midst of COVID-19. It begs the question: what does good company culture look like during such volatile times?
COVID-19’s impact on culture
COVID-19 impacted organizations of all sizes and sectors. A recent Gartner survey on 161 finance executives found that 34% of organizations plan to furlough staff and 25% plan to reduce their workforce, among other actions such as hiring freezes and reduced salaries.
At the same time, millions of Americans are out of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is sitting at 11.1%. On the week ending July 4, another 1.3 million filed for unemployment—and that’s projected to continue rising in the weeks ahead.
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With record unemployment and millions desperately looking for jobs, should companies de-prioritize company culture in lieu of saving money? After all, if the purpose of culture is to attract talent, then it’s not really necessary in this employer’s market, right?
Wrong. In periods of uncertainty such as the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations need to leverage their competitive advantages as much as possible—and culture plays a key role. In a study on 5,000 respondents by Glassdoor, 77% of people would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and over half consider it more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
As organizations slowly recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19, this becomes even more important. According to a report by SHRM, one in five Americans left a job due to poor company culture within the last year. Replacing an employee costs up to 150% of his/her annual salary and drives productivity into the ground.
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Organizations that want to succeed in the post-COVID era must make sure employees stay happy and productive, and prevent them from running to competitors with better culture. With teams mostly working from home, however, what does culture look like now?
Let’s look at how some of today’s top companies leverage culture during the COVID-19 crisis:
Workday, a leading provider of financial management and human capital management software, offered its employees a one-time cash bonus of two weeks worth of pay to help offset unforeseen costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also expanded its Care.com childcare benefit to 15 days for employees who needed childcare, gave employees free access to a meditation app to support mental health, and offered sick leave for anyone who acquired COVID-19. These actions show that Workday values employees’ mental and physical health, and also understands that a happy workforce is more productive.
Prioritizing employee safety, Google is allowing employees to work from home until the end of 2020. In addition, it’s offering employees a $1,000 work from home allowance to cover equipment costs.
This will help employees create a more sustainable home office environment and communicate better with the right tools. Studies show that 16% of remote workers struggle with the number of distractions at home, but having a suitable workspace can help mitigate that.
Graphics processing company NVIDIA moved its yearly performance reviews up by six months to offer raises to its employees amidst the global pandemic. NVIDIA’s HR team developed webinars and online resources to help employees manage their mental health.
For employees with children, NVIDIA compiled 200 resources for education, virtual field trips, entertainment ideas, and online storytimes. This is a great example of a company going above and beyond to not only facilitate a positive workplace but also a positive home environment.
As an essential business, Target kept employee safety top of mind during the pandemic. It extended sick leave for all employees and offered high-risk employees 30 days of paid leave if they felt uncomfortable coming into work.
Target also offered financial assistance to employees, giving every employee working in stores a $2/hour pay increase from March through May 2, and created a matching program for employees who wished to contribute.
Social media giant Twitter was one of the first companies to send employees home when COVID-19 cases began rising in March. Then, in May, Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter and Square) announced that many employees will soon have the option of working remotely indefinitely.
The company also provided employees with daycare reimbursements, continued to pay contract workers whether they’re able to work or not, and banned all in-person events for the rest of 2020.
Persevering by embracing culture
It’s clear that many organizations see tremendous value in driving company culture during COVID-19—and rightfully so. As most employees continue working from home—many through the rest of 2020—it can be challenging to keep employees engaged. However, as businesses stabilize, remote employees must be engaged and productive to ensure a speedy recovery. That’s where company culture makes all the difference.
Companies that can keep remote employees happy will emerge from the pandemic with their heads above water. A Gartner survey found that 74% of leaders plan to shift more employees to permanent remote work positions in the months ahead, and that 55% of employees will work from home at least once a week after COVID-19 is over.
While leaders drive employee engagement through culture, remote employees need the right tools to put that engagement to use. Communication is at the forefront of this challenge. With employees scattered across different states and time zones, it’s easy for isolation to set in and silo work. They need a way to effortlessly collaborate as if they were in the office together.
Enter unified communications as a service. Unified communications solutions combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform, allowing remote employees to work together wherever they are and using any device. Employees can jump from messaging to video calls with a single click, never needing to leave the app to open another.
With a strong company culture and the technology to supercharge remote teamwork, organizations are ready to tackle the productivity challenges of the post-COVID-19 era of work, attract and retain their employees, and come out of the pandemic ahead of the competition.
Originally published Jul 13, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023