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Company culture has changed forever – but there’s still hope

Jane Slimming and Lisa Lister of Culco

Things are irreversibly different now than they were two years ago.

Agency owners and employers need to understand what they can learn from COVID and implement a company culture suited to the needs of a post-pandemic workforce – there are many reasons to be positive.

That’s according to founder of Zeal Jane Slimming (pictured, left), who recently co-founded Culco, which provides business owners with tools and advice to implement a successful company culture.


Company culture defines a business and the pandemic has had a profound effect on this, and the average working day.

No longer have we been able to brainstorm creative ideas as a team, meet clients in person, or go for lunch with colleagues on a Friday. What previously identified a company has been permanently altered, and business owners have had to re-evaluate company and team values.

Personal experience and research has shown a large number of agency owners have struggled to maintain company culture and team morale during the pandemic, with many battling exhaustion, lack of focus, lack of motivation, and difficulty making decisions. These are, of course, all key to running a successful business, engaging a team, and driving new clients.

Virtual working, a recruitment crisis in businesses across the UK, and the requirement to self-isolate and socially distance, have all had a significant impact on agency culture. Not only have we seen staff less likely to engage with their wider team, but leaders struggling to deliver ongoing initiatives to support staff mentally, physically and with career progression.

It appears to be a bleak outlook. But as we begin to transition out of the pandemic and slowly return to normal, there are many reasons to be positive that agency culture will bounce back stronger than ever.

The cost of poor culture

Poor culture isn’t a new, COVID-related issue. According to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of turnover per employee earning £25,000 a year or more is £30,614.

At the same time, breatheHR says poor workplace culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion annually. 34% of staff in SMEs are also likely to leave their job due to what they see as poor culture.

Many business leaders, including agency owners, struggle knowing where to start when it comes to investing in their culture. Yet those who do reap the rewards.

Positive culture can lead to improved morale and relationships between colleagues and managers, employees going the extra mile, better customer service, improved individual performance and productivity, and reduced employee turnover.

Clearly there are benefits to investing in company culture.

The impact of the pandemic

Navigating the past couple of years has been extremely difficult. I think we can all agree that the pandemic has had one of the most profound effects on company culture ever experienced in the modern world.

Not only were we forced to separate from our colleagues and clients for months on end, but we also had to navigate never-ending screen time, and difficulties coordinating fun events to maintain culture.

This led to many people experiencing burnout, job insecurity, and even losing the love they had for their job.

People have also discovered that they don’t have to be in an office; they can get most things done remotely and they don’t need to commute to work. This has impacted people’s priorities when it comes to what they look for in their job.

We’re more unsure of the future – our daily lives have transformed and what’s next has become uncertain.

Anxiety, emotional stress, and lifestyle changes have led to people experiencing poor sleep, and with their mental and physical health declining many struggle to deal with tasks which would have previously been straightforward.

Happiness is at an all-time low. Conflicting information, polarising opinions, and no clear views of right or wrong – combined with excitement and good times being taken away – have left people with a lack of trust and optimism. This has not only affected daily lives, but translated into the workplace.

Recruitment’s become extremely difficult, as we continue to navigate the crisis currently gripping the UK. This has led to skyrocketing costs to replace staff, big companies throwing significant salaries at talent, and talented, motivated employees becoming increasingly challenging to find.

COVID has highlighted that culture is crucial, now more than ever before. Not only do we need to support individuals’ mental and physical health, but we need to provide flexibility for people, and new ways of delivering a positive workplace culture, particularly to attract and retain talent.

What’s next?

While we can, in theory, put back in place the same business operations as we had before the pandemic, it isn’t that simple in practice. As both individuals and a society, we’ve changed – from basic feelings to attitudes and perceptions of day-to-day life.

More people than ever before are looking for a healthy work-life balance, excellent mental health support, and flexibility in how, where, and when they work.

For example, the accelerated adoption of technology has led to the impression that face-to-face no longer matters, both for work being carried out and company culture. However, this can have serious consequences on company culture and employee happiness.

Without face-to-face communication, it’s more difficult to build rapport and trust – and a lack of daily rituals, such as commuting, can leave staff working longer hours and feeling less inclined to join in with culture initiatives.

To survive and thrive in a post-Covid world, agencies need to learn from the pandemic, self-reflect and change the way they deliver and engage with culture. Nights out and ‘beer o’clock’ aren’t enough any more to encourage staff members not only to stay, but actively engage with their colleagues and the business.

Staff need something more meaningful and deeper. Remember, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for company culture.

A significant shift in culture can be extremely difficult to navigate, particularly if it happens without warning. But with reflection and things like transparency, good communication, and flexibility, business leaders can learn many things from the pandemic and implement company cultures which are extremely successful, attract talented individuals, and meet the needs of a post-pandemic workforce.

Never before has culture been so important for companies to take seriously and invest in.

Not only does it make commercial sense to keep staff happy and fulfilled, but it also supports the wider economy and can enable the UK to become a global leader in motivation, staff support, and profitability.

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