Three ways COVID-19 changed workplace culture forever and how you can develop good governance


Building a workplace culture that motivates people to perform their best work, supports open communication, transparency, and provides your workforce with stability requires diligence and deftness to achieve in the best of times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations have had to rapidly rethink their strategies that build a great culture out of the office, and into people’s homes.

HR and people and culture managers understand the need to be flexible, resourceful and creative in developing and applying strategies that help your individuals and teams feel connected to, and supported by, their employer.

Now, as Australian states emerge from the peak of COVID-19 transmission, organisations are beginning to consider what the new ‘new normal’ might look like in the workplace. How much flexibility can we offer? How do we manage a staggered return to the office? How will we respond if we return to lockdown?

The answers to these questions should be grounded in your organisation’s culture and governance.

Based on responses to the Governance Institute of Australia COVID 19 Member Impact Survey, we have taken three most pressing challenges for organisational culture and offered HR professionals some tips for tackling them.

WFH vs working in the office

The pandemic forced organisations to fast-track work from home arrangements. Adaptability and resilience was demanded across business - from boards to management and employees. But ultimately, a culture that embraces the flexibility of work location is here to stay, and every organisation should have a plan that sets out what this might look like for its team.

Development of this plan should be a collaboration between HR, people and culture, team leaders and employees. It should address areas such as technological support, learning and development, team engagement, risk management, and employee performance. This plan should be developed against your organisation's strategic plan and endorsed at a senior level.

Transparency and open communication
A culture of transparency and open communication about the way the business is performing, its success and challenges and the future outlook is often a sign of both good governance and great culture. Transparency and communication can elevate the positivity your employees feel towards their employer and their work. Having a regular schedule and varied strategies for sharing corporate information - formal, informal, face-to-face online and in the office, or via email, enables this transparency culture.

As well, accessibility of management and colleagues is critical. Ensure that there are ways that your people can access the human support they need in a way that encourages open and honest discussion.

Mental health and wellbeing
The consequences for people’s mental health and wellbeing of the stay at home restrictions and home quarantine has been well documented. A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘Household Impacts of COVID-19’ survey asked Australians about feelings that impact on emotional and mental wellbeing. This survey found that almost half of respondents (46%) felt nervous at least some of the time, 41% felt restless at least some of the time and another 41% felt everything was an effort at least some of the time.

With the office now a part of the home, the separation between work and home life has become blurred. By developing a plan which supports and includes resources for employees to optimise mental health and wellbeing is proactive to mitigating risk and reflects positively on how your employees perceive their employer.

Good governance goes to the heart of a good culture. Governance Institute of Australia’s short courses give you the foundations of good governance and emphasise the importance of culture in your organisation. You’ll be taught by industry-leading practitioners, and you can complete a six-course certificate or individual courses to top-up your essential skills.

Are you involved in NFP? Governance Institute of Australia has released an exclusive NFP Certificate discount, pay for three short courses before 31 October and get the fourth free — save up to $595. Find out more here.

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