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Micro-cultures may be better for wellbeing

With more of us working from home, workplace ‘micro-cultures’ have started to form among tight-knit groups of people over the past 18 months. Rather than a dangerous erosion of a company’s culture, there is an argument that these more fragmented groups and behaviours should be embraced.

More than just a corporate buzzword, workplace culture is how a company attracts the right talent and is a key driver for productivity. The better the culture, the happier the employee and the better the business performs.

Creating a positive work environment:

Care and connection: How to build a company culture

Happiness key to performance

Relevance: the key to organisational engagement

Studies have shown that a workplace with poor or non-existent culture leads to employee unhappiness and higher turnover rates, damaging wellbeing among employees.

By nurturing a work environment and culture centred on employee wellbeing, businesses create an atmosphere of trust and support. 

Wearing down boundaries between work life and home life has changed how we connect with our workplace and its influence on wellbeing.

If a company wants to look after their employees’ wellbeing, they must take into account their company culture strategy, which may now need revising as we recover from the pandemic.

When working from home, many employees have interacted with a small, tight-knit network of colleagues that have seen into each other’s homes and lives. This increased level of openness has not only strengthened professional relationships, but also shifted how we view our work life and the values that are important to us. This has formed micro-cultures.

Micro-cultures are smaller pockets of company culture that relate well to a set group of individuals within the company.

They used to be interpreted as a sign that a business’s strategy isn’t strong enough and is lacking consistency, but micro-cultures actually have a lot of value. 

Being less exposed to the entire business and better in touch with a handful of the team individuals work day-to-day can spark connections and exclusive pockets of culture that still link to the business's core goals.

Smaller pockets of culture boost employee networking through opportunities to connect with others that have common experiences, values, and behaviours outside of the majority culture.

Micro-cultures can shape the broader company culture to the specific individual, allowing them to feel heard and respected. Some will want to work from home, others may not.

Employees who feel heard are much more likely to feel able to do their best work, so listening to individual needs will be crucial as they  steer c-suite decisions whilst encouraging personal empowerment.

There is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy that works when you consider culture and wellbeing, so micro-cultures should not be defined by traditional organisational structure.

But when employees see a pattern of actions that don’t match their personal values or their workplace’s cultural values, trust is broken.

So, these values and principles should remain consistent whilst we learn what individuals in these micro-culture formations would prefer.

For some, the office will now become more of a space to connect and readjust, giving employers a new way to look after employees’ wellbeing. Other employees may prefer a platform from the comfort of their home to connect with their workplace.

Micro-cultures give us insight into what different people want and what works for them, while also giving each other the vital support needed in difficult times.

Listening to what employees want and tailoring it in line with the company’s values and visions will keep the business strong, whilst having employee wellbeing at the forefront of every decision.

In the coming year, businesses have to embrace, rather than break, the micro-cultures that have formed during the pandemic. If they can do that, the benefits will be seen company-wide.


Vicky Walker is HR director at Westfield Health