Politics. Love. Slacking. Many things that were once taboo are new workplace norms.
Where and how we work definitely changed when the pandemic hit. But researchers are finding workplace culture may have changed the most.
“Leaders need to acknowledge this significant culture shift in the workplace,” says Jeniffer Strub, Director of Human Resources for Vyond. “Our workplaces have become much more personal. The pandemic has made many of us realize that the strict workplace norms we operated under for so long are not important in the grand scheme of things.”
Norms – such as 9-to-5 and meeting-heavy days – that once commanded work life are growing out of style. And new workplace norms – such as flexibility and adaptability – are taking over.
HR leaders and front-line managers will want to learn the new norms and figure out how to manage for them.
Here are six emerging cultural norms Vyond researchers found – and tips on approaching them in your workplace.
Talking politics, religion OK
Work was like a cocktail party: Don’t talk about politics, religion and money. Not anymore, though.
Just 23% of employees think discussing politics and religion at work is out of line. That’s down from 43% in a year. Apparently, money is still off the discussion block, though.
Management tip: Political and religious discussions are still dangerous because they tend to evoke a lot of emotion. So front-line managers want to pay attention for heated arguments and step in long before anyone feels threatened or harassed.
Office romance in style
About half of employees considered finding love at work a no-no last year. Now, just 20% find issue with the new workplace norm.
Of course, HR can’t dictate where love happens – in your workspace or a remote setting. But some companies still have policies regarding workplace romance and/or nepotism.
Management tip: Now might be a good time to check your policies to see if they need any updates to cover the new work world. Or perhaps you might want to share the policy with employees again to remind them of how it stands.
Social media scrolling isn’t slacking
Employees used to hide Facebook scrolling and Instagram posting. They didn’t want the boss to walk by and think they were slacking.
But it’s not as much of a concern now with new workplace norms. Just about 25% of employees think jumping on social media while working is a no-no. Almost half considered it taboo last year.
Management tip: As employees spend more time on social media at work, HR leaders and front-line managers will want to update them on your social media policies. And those policies should include guidelines on the kind of – if any – content that can be shared from work.
Proper messaging matters more
People used to just want know about things in their company that affected them. Now, employees care about how they learn what’s going on.
Nearly 45% of employees say they’re frustrated when colleagues share information through the wrong channels. For instance, someone might use a collaboration platform when an email would’ve been more appropriate.
But it’s not just about where the message is. Employees say how the message is conveyed is important, too.
Management tip: Strub says, “As the workplace changes, it’s important that the way leaders communicate with employees changes along with it. This could mean approaching employee communications with more personal storytelling and vulnerability.” You might want to establish some communication guidelines on which channels are appropriate for different kinds of messages. For instance, use email to share information, use Slack for collaboration and make calls for emergencies.
Management takes a new tone
“You aren’t going to see the same workforce you said goodbye to last March,” says Terri Patterson, Principal at Control Risks’ crisis and security consulting practice.
Many people are more vulnerable today than they were a year ago, Patterson has found. Things they may have never been talked about in work before will likely become common conversations – from personal and financial troubles to increased fears and challenges.
Management tip: “Set the tone at the top,” Patterson says. “Be flexible. Listen to concerns. Be aware of indicators that people are struggling or at risk.”
Balance is a bigger struggle
No matter where employees actually work, more of them are concerned about finding a balance in the new workplace norms.
Both men and women reported a dip in work-life balance, according to the Vyond study. And there’s a desire to get it back in order.
Management tip: Flexibility helps, but so does a check – and possible adjustment – on work standards. Strub explains, “When we’re all working from home and struggling to balance everything – whether it be childcare, creating an office space in a small apartment or home, working alongside multiple roommates, or dealing with mental health challenges brought on by the stress of the pandemic – does it really matter if our Zoom background doesn’t seem ‘professional?’ It doesn’t, and it’s important that leaders convey this newfound acceptance and relaxing of rigidity at work.”