Over the past two years, employees have traded in their offices for whichever room in their home was quiet and away from their partners or children. From bathrooms to coat closets, employees had to get creative in finding quiet space away from others working and learning at home. The debates that have ensued since this transition are numerous: does working from home promote a better work-life balance? Or does it force employees to simply live at work? What about company culture? Is the physical presence of employees in the office mandatory to create a collaborative and engaging workplace?

The ”Great Resignation” has prompted widespread discussion about employee engagement and company culture is a big part of this discussion. In our conversations with candidates, company culture is being raised more and more frequently as a key consideration when considering a new role. It’s clear that, in addition to salary and employment benefits, candidates consider the values and beliefs that inform a company’s overall goals in determining whether a role or company is a good fit. In our previous blog, we offered a few suggestions to help candidates assess a company’s culture in a virtual environment. We always recommend that candidates push to get specific examples of initiatives that are in place rather than accepting high level statements about the value of collaboration and connectivity. Company culture bloomed as a hot buzzword in pre-pandemic times, with companies intentionally focusing on developing and marketing their culture as a strategy to preserve and attract talent. As it becomes safer for employees to return to the office, a key question now becomes: is working from home detrimental to the creation of strong company culture?

The overwhelming response from employees has been no! A company has many ways of maintaining a strong company culture without requiring all employees to be in the office every day of the week. Collaborative platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have proved to be great ways to keep employees connected. From #life-wfh slack channels to virtual meditation and game nights, employers have become increasingly creative in finding ways to keep employees feeling engaged and together while working apart. Moreover, employees who had the opportunity to work from home were either as or more productive than they were in the office and have reported higher feelings of satisfaction in their work. In their article, “The Unexpected Upside of Parenting Under Lockdown” Precedent Magazine highlights how, despite the challenges posed by working from home, many parents feel they have enriched their family life as they were able to slow down and spend more time with their children amidst the pandemic. This increased satisfaction with their home and family life also translates to greater feelings of enjoyment with their work.

What the future holds is not clear as employees begin to return to the office. However, recent trends suggest that working from home should not be a thing of the past. During the recruitment process, employers should be prepared to answer questions from candidates about the availability of flexible work arrangements and be able to speak to the ways in which the company worked to maintain and build company culture in the era of remote and hybrid working. In light of a job market that remains highly competitive for strong talent, businesses looking to hire need to find new ways to distinguish themselves and company culture is a big part of the pitch.