In nature, we experience regular changes in the atmosphere, be it the seasons, alternating high and low systems that pass over us, the warm wind blowing over the mountains into the valleys or the more long-term climatic changes caused by global warming. We feel these changes; some are felt to be invigorating, others cause the opposite. After a thunderstorm we can absorb all kinds of smells and feel refreshed, extreme periods of heat or cold are rather stressful for us. Many of our senses are used in this process. We smell it, we feel the differences in pressure, we see the changes in the air, some changes can even be grasped with our hands.
In companies, too, there is an “organizational climate”. It is the perception we have towards our company, its culture, behaviour of managers and employees, rituals and traditions, and so on. This feeling takes place rather unconsciously and influences our way of thinking and acting. If something feels “coherent”, our actions are positively influenced, we can even get into a flow. If the statements of the management do not match with their actions, then we sense this. If the corporate culture proclaims that happiness, health and love prevail in the company, but something else is “conveyed” by the atmosphere, then we feel uncomfortable and try to find out what “is actually going on here”. The atmosphere is therefore difficult to grasp, but it is there, and it is virtually a “medium” between the culture of a company and the behaviour of the people.
Through Covid 19 we have been forced to keep social distance. We work from the home office via electronic media and losing many atmospheric impressions, such as smells, emotional moods, etc. When we also switch off the camera during virtual conferences, it seems as if we are sitting in an echo chamber. Suddenly we became aware of the importance of personal contact and interpersonal conversations. At Tiba, employees introduced “move it” during breaks, where electronic media could be used to ensure at least a minimum of contact, collective activity and exchange, even over long distances. After a multitude of activities at the beginning of the pandemic, the pendulum quickly swung towards frustration, loneliness and lethargy in late May and early June. In July we looked for ways to get back together face-to-face, with mask and distance, but at least to get back a minimum of interaction.
Now there are many voices that describe virtual work and home office as the “new normal” and have found many positive sides to it. However, this could quickly prove to be a boomerang for companies. If employees were already looking for change and self-fulfilment before Covid 19, they could see this as an opportunity to become more independent and only have “remote” contact with the company, physically, in terms of labour law and above all socially. In recent years, competition between companies in the sense of “war for talent” has become increasingly fierce, and some have even outbid each other with feel-good offers such as table football etc.
During these difficult times, we have all become more conscious of the value of community, the importance of social contacts and the value of being part of a company. In my opinion, what really matters is to create a match between the desired culture, the values or beliefs and the everyday reality. People feel it (via atmosphere) when something does not fit together, when the leader “preaches water and drinks wine himself”. We have tuned antennas for what is really going on in the company. A company is a community that inspires us, that closely involves us and gives us the opportunity to actualize. The essential purpose of companies is to be a catalyst, to create synergies and to reach common growth.
Managers should consider what atmosphere fits the purpose, how they can influence it through their own behaviour, and what they do in particularly difficult times (such as Covid 19) in order not to lose “contact” with their employees. This is not a matter of esotericism, rather a concrete need for action. Otherwise the centrifugal forces in the company will become too great and employees will look for a different environment in which everything matches.
Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Managementberatung