Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Did working from home alter corporate culture?

With so many people working from home/ remotely during the pandemic for an extended time, it is logical that we question if this environment has influenced the corporate culture. In this post, I will try to shed light on how home culture may have interfered with corporate culture.


What is corporate culture?


There are many definitions of corporate culture, but it is basically the combination of beliefs, values, ethics, behaviors, and actions of management and employees in running the business. Because this post is mainly written for internal auditors, it is useful to remind them of  the definition used by the IIA in its practice guide” Auditing Culture”:


Culture represents the invisible belief systems, values, norms, and preferences of the individuals that form an organization. Conduct represents the tangible manifestation of culture through the actions, behaviors, and decisions of these individuals”.


Components of the corporate culture


Let’s first agree that every organization regardless of its size or structure has a culture. A quote from Pyxis blog post  explains this in simple words:


Large or small, start-up or mature, commercial or government, every organization has a culture. Corporate culture is either designed from the beginning or left to develop by default. Either way, you will have a corporate culture.”


To understand how corporate culture may be influenced, we need to identify its components. The most important component is people, without people there is no culture! A second component is vision/mission/values,  a third important component is the environment and place of work. Scholars add more components such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and others.


Did working from home alter corporate culture?


In trying to answer this question, we at AdapGility Consulting have posted a poll in our LinkedIn Group. The poll question was:


How did working remotely affect the culture at your organization?”


We have provided three possible answers and received the following results:

- It is about the same     29%

- Improved                       36%

- Deteriorated                  35%


While this poll is far from scientific, it provided me with a starting point to further explore the effect of remote working on corporate culture. The results somehow surprised me! While I was predicting that the vast majority of the answers will be in the stayed the same/deteriorated categories, I was not expecting that 36% of respondents felt that the corporate culture at their organizations has improved.

A study by Quartz and Qualtrics shows that 37% of workers feel that company culture has improved since the begging of the COVID -19 pandemic. The results of the study are almost identical to our Linkedin poll results! I am not sure if this reflects the reality or it is just a coincidence!


 Effects of remote working on culture


Looking back at the basic components of corporate culture, we may assume that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, to an extent, how people feel and think.  It may have also changed our perspective on life, relationships, and values. The change could be positive or negative and it could be temporary or permanents! The change in the work environment/ place of work may also have an effect on mindsets and relationships.


The negative effects of working remotely are widely known such as the feeling of isolation, lack of focus, stress, and zoom fatigue, so I will not repeat them in this post. I will focus on discussing why almost one-third of the respondents to the survey and poll question felt that the corporate culture in their organizations has improved.

Supporters of remote working will tell you that working from home/remotely has provided them with a better work/life balance, reduction in costs (transportation, wardrobe), flexibility in time and place of work, ease of communication, less stress, and tax benefits in some countries.


We have asked the respondents to our poll question who said that the culture at their organizations has improved to share their experience and thoughts. We have received a detailed response from Theocharis Tzionis, a group member, who shared the below thoughts. While I understand the logic behind each point he raised, which seems to be influenced by the combination of the pandemic mindset/empathy and the remote working environment, the first point makes me wonder if the culture is being divided into sub-cultures that are acting in silos and not integrated throughout the organization:

-  First point to make here is that organisational culture for people could mean the culture in their teams, as this is the immediate effects on their own work life. For example, if your department has a more flexible approach to working hours than the rest of the organisation then you may perceive that aspect of culture to be a good one irrespective of the organisation as a whole.

- Managers became more compassionate and understanding.

- Less demanding which in trun makes people happier and thus more productive.

- You get to "see" leadership team more often. Through videos for the organisation's news and approach, as well as the actions for the pandemic.

- Provided far more information and subscriptions to apps for mental health (this should have been in place in my opinion irrespective of the pandemic).

- Managers and leadership team are more flexible.

- People get to spend more time with people that actually matters to them i.e. family and friends and don't have to spend time with office chat with people that may or may not like in the office. This will increase the overall perspective of organisational structure.

- Bad news are conveyed in a more professional and compassionate way because of the situation and the remote working.

- Businesses are changing, therefore leadership teams are forced to change and therefore are more acceptable to new way of doing things.”


- Managers became more compassionate and understanding.

- Less demanding which in trun makes people happier and thus more productive.

- You get to "see" leadership team more often. Through videos for the organisation's news and approach, as well as the actions for the pandemic.

- Provided far more information and subscriptions to apps for mental health (this should have been in place in my opinion irrespective of the pandemic).

- Managers and leadership team are more flexible.

- People get to spend more time with people that actually matters to them i.e. family and friends and don't have to spend time with office chat with people that may or may not like in the office. This will increase the overall perspective of organisational structure.

- Bad news are conveyed in a more professional and compassionate way because of the situation and the remote working.

- Businesses are changing, therefore leadership teams are forced to change and therefore are more acceptable to new way of doing things.”

What do you think? Does the above reflect what is happening at your organization?


Please share your thoughts.

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