5 Tips to Improve Company Culture During COVID-19

Company culture is more than just a code of behaviour. Planned right, it can help you boost productivity and outperform competition, especially in a pandemic.

Resources 7 min read Oct 21, 2021

Preserving your company culture throughout this pandemic can be challenging. As if adjusting to remote work wasn’t hard enough, we might soon find ourselves having to mentally reset as offices open up… only to go back to a work-from-home setting after a short couple of months.

It seems there’s no getting off this roller coaster anytime soon. But as much as there are obstacles, there are also opportunities to improve and come out on the other side a better, stronger team.

Why is company culture important?

Company culture defines the ways in which people in an organisation behave by their existing norms, whether implicitly or explicitly. It’s apparent in the language that we use, the ways that we work with each other, and the actions and behaviours that are supported or discouraged.

It’s more than just a code of ethics. Company culture serves as a foundation for organisations to roll out their strategies, and in fact, has an impact on market performance. According to a Harvard Business School study, companies that have a strong culture tend to outdo their competitors. How?

Success improves morale, as employees realise how their work contributes to the organization’s goals, which then has a knock-on effect on productivity. This then influences the hiring process, guiding human resources in picking aspirants that fit the “ideal candidate” profile. Positive feedback loop.

How can organisations sustain these effects during a pandemic? Here are five tips on how you can improve your company culture during the time of COVID.

Tip #1: Identify old norms that are no longer useful

“This could have been an email.” Memes echoing this kind of sentiment spread online during the pandemic, as organisations started to question the way they do work.

As we had to switch to 100% remote arrangements, inevitably, some practices that wouldn’t carry over well in a digital environment were left behind. What were these old processes at your own organisation? Did any activities you once thought essential become outdated in the virtual workplace?

Take stock of your company manual, rethink what SOPs have now outlived their purpose, and focus on what really matters: running the office like a tight ship!

Tip #2: Look for new habits and practices that have emerged

Let’s be honest; there’s no “normal” to go back to when this is all over. COVID-19 has changed us and organisations must adapt. Rather than wax nostalgic about the way things were, use this time for discovery.

Take a step back, reflect about how your company culture has changed. Are your work processes different now? What improvements or shortcomings have resulted in your team’s performance? Maybe shorter, fewer group meetings have paid off, to give way to more one-on-one sessions.

Perhaps, you’ve had to come up with new systems, games, or reward systems to keep employees engaged while working remotely. From bonuses and gift cards to taking a well-earned mental health day as part of a company-wide wellness program, all of these help boost morale and engage employees when we’re all working so far apart.

What new norms and habits can you incorporate into your new business-as-usual?

Tip #3: Instill a culture of lifelong learning

Are you an organisation of lifelong learners?

Having a general enthusiasm for learning gives teams the drive to strive for excellence and innovate in their work. How do you instill a culture of lifelong learning? Invest in an office resource library and encourage skill-sharing. Enrol your staff in classes and courses, not only for work but even just for sheer pleasure and creative indulgence. Run in-house hackathons. Sponsor individual sessions with a financial advisor.

Overall, eagerness for learning is proven to have a strong correlation to overall quality of life, propelling an individual’s career growth, financial life, and social life. More than that, it motivates employees even in the face of unexpected challenges, and creates a desire to connect with others and thus, put quality front and center. Where’s the downside?

Tip #4: Bring it all together in a cohesive action plan

Coming up with ideas is one thing; executing is a whole other process. Once you know what you want to (re)shape your company culture into, it’s time to put it all together in a cohesive blueprint.

For the most part, setting your plan of action into motion comes in the form of HR policies. Crafting an effective HR transition plan takes time and meticulous planning. It must state the goals, measures, and capabilities of the organisation. For instance, If a lackluster employee retention rate is one of your company’s biggest obstacles, creating feasible HR policies to look after your employees and boost morale should be top of mind.

Often, it is more effective and sustainable to focus on a handful of reachable short-term objectives. Spread your key goals throughout the year with clear checkpoints to help you stay on track.

Tip #5: Communicate your plan across the organisation

Your company culture is not a fixed idea, as the challenges of the pandemic have taught us. It is a living entity and everyone in the organisation is an essential part of it.

Now that you’ve mapped out your transition plan, the next critical step is to communicate the new and improved company culture you envision throughout the organisation. After all, the best strategy is only as good as its implementation.

Encourage your team to express their thoughts on the plan. How do they feel about the planned changes? Maybe some don’t agree with your decisions. Hear them out.

This rings especially true when it comes to return-to-office policies. The pandemic has impacted homes in different ways and so, make sure to practise some flexibility to account for unique work-life situations. Not only will this help you make a better-informed decision; your employees will also feel heard, valued, and appreciated.

In this article, we talked about some ways in which you can improve your company culture during the pandemic. While we are gradually learning how to manage the impacts of COVID-19, we know we’re not completely out of the woods yet. But leaders have a choice in how company culture is to be developed: You can hide in the shadows and allow the culture to be defined by unspoken actions, or you can take proactive steps to shape it.