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HR Lunchtime Debate: What will company cultures look like post-pandemic now available on-demand

Companies will need to be more agile and more empathetically-led following the coronavirus crisis, experts agreed in our HR Lunchtime Debate on 14 May

Speaking of their personal experience plus hopes for the future, the panellists all argued for a change in the way our workplaces operate during the live webinar.

As employees have begun working remotely, juggling the demands of childcare and increased anxiety alongside their jobs, many organisations have become newly agile - something Susan McGuire, interim manager at the University of Strathclyde, has personal experience of.

She said: “Flexible working has come in, as much for helping people with families as to deal with the workload.

“Informal communication has become much more prevalent. And as an organisation, two things have become much more important: greater awareness of the employee as a person and much more altruism.”

McGuire’s employer has also instituted a four-day working week, with employees given Fridays off to recuperate during a stressful time.

She has seen appreciation amongst her colleagues since the new measures were introduced and hopes to see her organisation’s agility continue beyond the pandemic.

“One of the big policies we’d want to have a look at is whether or not we can enable people to work on a more compressed-hour basis and have more time at home post-pandemic,” she said.

For Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Utopia, agility was similarly crucial, especially when it comes to assessing productivity.

“Micromanagement just doesn’t work when people are working remotely,” he said. “Time-based [work] is not the future.”

He also predicted an acceleration in technology uptake by organisations.

“AI was always going to change the number of people who consider an office their workplace,” he said. “I think the crisis will speed this up.”

Kristofer Karsten, head of people and culture at Ceridian HMC, agreed, noting that tech can allow companies to “maintain a real-time dialogue” with customers and employees, promoting greater agility and meaning progress is made more quickly.

Our panellists also believed that personable, vulnerable leadership was key for getting through the crisis - and would be more highly valued post-pandemic.

Emma Jayne, area director of people and culture at luxury hotel group Dorchester Collection, said: “We’re going to need a lot of kindness [the key theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week] in the weeks and months to come.”

Fiandaca added: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the female leaders around the world seem to have fared much better, because I think that empathetic and vulnerable leadership has been a key part of their success.

“I hope this will help people understand the need for a completely new type of leadership.”

Overall our panellists were optimistic about a positive change to company culture post-pandemic.

McGuire concluded that in these difficult times, people are stepping up to the plate.

She said: “I think we’re looking out for each other more and I think that all of that is contributing towards a really positive culture change.

“The key for me is to make sure that we can capitalise on that change as we move forward and out of this period of time. We can really use it to benefit our organisations.”

A recording of the webinar is now available on demand here.

More detailed coverage of the debate will appear in the May/June issue of HR magazine.