To modern workers everywhere,
Entire companies in which close-knit teams used to meet every day are now distributed across countries. Surely corporate “culture”—whether that’s a set of shared values, or something even more intangible—is crumbling under the strain of remote work and never being together?
Some new research conducted by Quartz and Qualtrics suggests not. In our poll of over 2,100 professionals around the world*, 37% said their company’s culture had improved since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic struck, while just 15% said it had deteriorated.
Perhaps this is tied to the fact that 53% said their companies had become more supportive, while 51% said they felt their companies had become kinder. (Most of the other respondents thought there hadn’t been a change, while a small minority felt their companies were poorer now on those attributes.)
Meanwhile, the 70% of people who identified their company as having a good culture pre-pandemic were more likely to say it had further improved, while those who said their culture was bad were more likely to say it had worsened. That’s not surprising, but it’s still telling, pointing to the idea that culture, even though it can be hard to define and pin down, is especially important in challenging times.
There are other heartening signs for leaders worrying about a dissipation of focus along with the distribution of teams: Over half of those surveyed said they felt more loyal to their organization since the pandemic, and a similar proportion said they felt more purposeful in their work. It turns out, perhaps, that physical proximity wasn’t so important to culture after all: What always mattered was how we treated each other, and that’s still very much the case.—Cassie Werber
*Note: The Quartz/Qualtrics survey included respondents in Australia, Canada, the US, UK, France, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
+ For more on how companies are replacing what’s been lost, read Cassie’s new article, “How to nurture company culture when everyone’s working from home.” It’s a Quartz member exclusive and part of our field guide to reimagining the office. Not a member yet? Subscribe now and get 40% off your first year of membership with the code QZFLASHSALE.
Five things we learned this week
Remote workers really should consider moving to college towns.
US parents have options if they’re unable to return to the office because of school closures.
A career coach’s best tips for how to manage up as a woman of color.
There’s a very common reason white men cite for not getting involved in diversity and inclusion.
The way a company chooses its managers says a lot about its tolerance for workplace toxicity.
Live workshop this week: How to build an antiracist company
Yes, we’ve already done a workshop on this very topic, but you didn’t think the goal of building an antiracist company would be achieved so quickly, did you? On Thursday, Aug. 13, from 11 am US eastern time, our expert panel will be back for a full hour of Q&A. Whether your questions are tactical or more philosophical, you’ll get answers to help you handle and begin to dismantle structural inequalities in workplaces large and small. This Quartz at Work (from home) live workshop is free for anyone to attend; the recording will be exclusively available to Quartz members.
It’s a fact
The work-from-home trend isn’t helping makeup sales. Annual revenue for the global beauty industry is forecast to contract by as much as 30% this year, according to McKinsey. Maybe it’s time for the lipstick index to go away for good?
30-second case study—from the future
One balmy summer lunchtime in 2023, you meet up with a friend for sandwiches in a local park. You each walked from home, where you had spent the morning working, and where you work most of the time now. As you sip takeaway coffee, your friend asks: What was your last office like?
You fall to reminiscing: your desk with its too-bright aspect and loud neighbor, the overactive air conditioner, impromptu breaks with colleagues, getting pulled into unnecessary meetings just because you were there. It seems like a long time ago. After all, when did you last commute into the city for five days straight? When was your last thousand-seat conference? When did you last find yourself working on a project into Friday evening, while the packed office around you softened into a fuzz of pre-weekend conversation, drinks, and dinner plans?
Back at home, you wash your hands and check the time until your walk to pick up the kids. It’s nice to be close to the school. You avert your eyes from the wall that still needs painting, and back to the screen set up in a corner of the bedroom, then message a colleague, perhaps with a coffee cup or flower emoji to let them know you’re thinking of them.
The takeaway: Are you mourning for a time when the office was the de facto king of work culture? If companies have adapted well, probably not—you might well be working more productively, saving time, and still connecting with workmates, just more often via technology.
Your friend, meanwhile, may be finding all the same advantages, albeit through a very different experience—say, going into the office for a few hours a week and eating individually packaged salads with colleagues in a well-ventilated conference room at a now-normal one-meter distance from others. As Cassie Werber writes in this week’s field guide, when we go back to the office, it will be on new and much more flexible terms—perhaps giving us renewed appreciation for the unique things it has to offer.
What does remote work smell like?
As we found out with last week’s newsletter survey, it’s a matter of personal preference.
✦ Special to Quartz members ✦
What is presenteeism?
Presenteeism /prɛznˈtiːɪzəm/ (noun)—the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job.
Coronavirus has cast presenteeism in a new light, forcing workers and their employers to ask: What are we willing to risk in order to maintain a culture which, many were already pointing out, neither benefited most employees nor, perhaps, provided an accurate measure either of productivity or engagement? Learn more about the ways companies are reimagining the office, from their design to making sure presenteeism doesn’t manifest during work-from-home, in our latest field guide, Reimagining the Office.
Words of wisdom
“[W]omen typically do not raise their hands for a corporate position until they feel confident that they can do 100% of the job, and succeed in every aspect of it, from day one. The rule of thirds was my way of addressing this issue for myself and overcoming my self-doubts to give myself the permission to aspire. It was alright, I would tell myself, to take on a position that was ‘one third in my comfort zone, one third a stretch, and one third pure white-knuckle terror.’”—Nandita Bakhshi, president and CEO, Bank of the West
Read Nandita’s full article in Quartz at Work: Why every woman should learn the rule of thirds.
What if you posed your company’s mission statement as a question? When we’re asked a question, Terramera founder Karn Manhas writes, “our brains release serotonin and trigger something called instinctive elaboration—basically, we can’t help but put our problem-solving hats on and start volunteering solutions.” That makes questions a useful format for a mission statement. But as Kam points out, “not all questions are created equal.” In this gem from our archive, learn how to harness the power of inquiry to get real and inspiring answers, about your mission or anything else.
You got The Memo!
Our best wishes for a productive and creative day. Please send any workplace news, comments, inspiring mission questions, and individually packaged salads to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. This week’s edition of The Memo was produced by Heather Landy, Cassie Werber, Jackie Bischof, and Sarah Todd.