How to Establish Workplace Culture and Employee Bonding Post-Pandemic
If your organization is returning to a physical workplace soon—or maybe has done so already—you’ve probably worked hard to prioritize and ensure the health and safety of your employees. However, once your employees are back, it’s also important to re-establish your organization’s workplace culture, especially if some of your employees have never worked in the office before.
Read on for strategies employers can take to re-acclimate your workforce and enhance employee bonding once you’re back in the office.
What is Company Culture and Why is it Important?
Company culture often refers to the personality of a company. It’s a learned, shared experience that defines the environment employees work in, company mission, company values, ethics, expectations, and goals.
Employees are more likely to enjoy their time in the workplace if they fit in with the company culture, which impacts retention and engagement rates. Additionally, employees are more likely to recommend others to work for your company.
In the past, anything resembling culture was likely a byproduct of work tasks and the work environment; now, culture informs daily work and the work environment. Employee recognition company O.C. Tanner identified intentional efforts to build company culture as a trend for 2020 and employers have every reason to believe this will extend into 2021. HR should look to build a meaningful culture that enhances the company and the employees’ experience.
Strategies to Build Company Culture Post-COVID
With the wide availability of vaccines in the United States, workplaces are already starting to return to their offices after over a year of remote work. Some employees might be excited, others might be nervous, so it’s important for managers to check in with their direct reports in order to keep a pulse on how they’re feeling.
Here are some actionable ways employers can build company culture when you return to work:
1. Celebrate Your Return to the Office
During the first day back to the office, organize a welcome lunch or happy hour for your employees to get to know each other in person. This way, employees who knew each other before working remotely have the chance to reconnect and employees who started during the pandemic will be able to meet team members in a social setting. Also, celebrating the return to the office with a fun catered lunch or outing will help employees feel welcome and excited to be back.
2. Update Your Culture Guide with New Office Policies
Your Culture Guide should go beyond the typical employee handbook by explaining the history of an organization, its mission, how the organization tackles problems, and communication norms. The Culture Guide should also communicate any efforts or guidelines that your office is taking post-COVID, like social distancing desks, new safety policies, or remote and hybrid work policies. It’s likely that employees haven’t reviewed the Culture Guide since starting their role, so be sure to remind them to take a look at any changes.
3. Use Name Tags and Emphasize Introductions
It sounds simple, but knowing team members’ names around the office can help exponentially with an organization’s culture. Be sure to have your team wear name tags the first day or two so that everyone can familiarize themselves with each other and avoid awkward encounters of forgetting names.
4. Communicate and Be Open to Feedback
There might be some road bumps while reopening the office, and that’s ok. In many cases, it’s been over a year since teams have operated in-person at offices. That being said, be available to answer questions, address concerns, and accept feedback from your team members. Also, be sure to communicate with your workforce every step of the way as you reopen the office.
5. Be Prepared to Set a New Precedent
In addition to preparing the physical workspace for employees to return, HR teams and employers will also need to think through what the first day back at the office will look like.
As with most things impacted by COVID-19, it’s pretty unusual to work with people for more than a year and then meet them in person for the first time. Remember that certain parts of the organization’s culture from before the pandemic might not exist anymore, so employers might want to think about your first day as an opportunity to set a new precedent for the organization team. It should serve as a proper introduction (or reintroduction) to the company culture.
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