Culture and COVID: a shift in corporate thinking?

By Charlotte Bate, MAD-HR

Might this turn out to be the year that the concept of company culture finds its way higher up the priority list?

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Spring 2021

MAD-HR: Making a Difference

While you could be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic will have caused intangible assets like culture to be something of an invisible ‘victim’ in the busy-ness and unpredictability of recent months, there’s actually some evidence to suggest it’s got better.

Research by the World Economic Forum identified that 37% of respondents said their workplace culture had improved since the start of the pandemic, with employees reporting that the business was far better at communication, more generous, kind, supportive and empathetic.

Of course, there’s an argument for whether this is a realistic shift in culture, or more a matter of perception. After all, with many staff working from home, and bosses seeing our pets and kids on every zoom call, perhaps it creates the sense that leaders and managers are more ‘nurturing’ and ‘understanding’ of their team.

COVID-19 has exposed business culture as an issue

What we can be sure of, however, is that the very issue of culture has been more exposed through the pandemic, with managers, leaders and owners having the mirror very much held up to themselves and their style of delivery.

With no opportunity to prepare, the overnight onset of the first lockdown created a perfect chance to take an ‘in the moment’ snapshot of where that company stood on its cultural commitment to being transparent in communication, empowering others, driving performance and operating with mutual trust.

Where culture already existed, organisations felt the benefit from employees who took ownership even though they were working remotely and reliant on technology. In cases where the culture was less developed, staff by contrast felt more distant, disconnected and lacked clear direction, impacting productivity and morale.

The lesson from this is therefore clearly apparent – culture is more than a ‘nice to have’, it is critical for any SME.

Create a culture by asking probing questions

When shaping and creating a culture, the key is to start with asking some probing, and perhaps uncomfortable, questions. For example:

  • Have I gained the commitment of my staff in the best and worst times?
  • Do my team feel empowered within the business?
  • Are the actions and approaches within the company ones which evidence our values?
  • Am I truly as supportive and as clear in my communication as I think I am?
  • Does decision making rest only with leaders of the organisation, and does this come at the expense of staff feeling included?

Culture is in MAD-HR’s DNA

At MAD-HR, we define our culture as our DNA.  It is how we work, support our clients and each other.  Our own unique set of values (ask us about PARIS, our way of thinking) set us apart from our competitors and we make no apology for urging all clients to prioritise theirs.

Given we are now in a time where demand for agile working is more important than ever, and where businesses will be facing innumerable challenges, this really couldn’t be a more important time for a ‘commitment to culture’.

Photo of Charlotte taken by Ross Dean Photography

Charlotte Bate is Director at MAD-HR. For help with developing your culture, or to discuss issues presented by a lack of culture in your business, please contact the MAD-HR team T: 01473 360160 E: or visit

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