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How to Measure Culture in a Hybrid World of Work

By | Caroline Styr |

A common company culture definition is “the way things are done around here” or the “unspoken” rules of how things get done. It is typically understood as comprising of the following elements, which are important measures of culture: signs and symbols, shared practices and underlying assumptions of an organisation.

Covid-19 has had a significant and indisputable impact on these basic elements of culture:

  • Signs and symbols. Workers removed from offices around the world were no longer faced with (often carefully planted) cultural symbols on a daily basis, for example open plan office structures, corporate clothing, imagery on the office walls or even ping pong tables and yoga mats. 

  • Shared practices. The way work gets done has changed significantly: One-to-one catch ups over coffee have been replaced by regular zoom calls, new tools and technology have been implemented to keep processes running remotely. Even commuting rituals (or Thursday night post-work rituals) that were once common ground (“the district line this morning – what a nightmare!”) no longer exist for all. 

  • Underlying assumptions. Safety, health and wellbeing and resilience have stormed to the top of the agenda to keep organisations and their people afloat since early 2020. Previously prioritised values, such as exploration and creativity, have taken a back seat in many organisations as a result.

As organisations adapt to hybrid work models, understanding how company culture has changed and how to develop effective culture change programmes is increasingly important. We offer four top tips from the research on measuring company culture published since March 2020 as well as company culture examples.

1.    The role of psychological safety in measuring culture

Many academic publishers committed to making research publicly available throughout the pandemic, in an attempt to support organisations through unchartered territory. Research looking at the impact of Covid-19 on culture is no exception.

A paper titled ‘Organisational Culture and Covid-19,’ written by André Spicer of the Business School, City, University of London, explores the various “botched cultural change processes” of significant “jolts” in the environment:

 To encourage more cyclical processes of reflection, experimentation and then action, Spicer recommends first and foremost ensuring that employees have sufficient psychological safety: a belief that context is safe for interpersonal risk taking – that speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes will be welcomed and valued.

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