The company I work for went through a merger this month and I’ve been planted into a new role. In many ways it is very similar to my previous position but with any new organisation comes new ways of doing things; new policies, new procedures and crucially a new culture.


Workplace Culture

I write this from the viewpoint of an employee; I’m not an expert in organisational culture but it is a topic that has always fascinated the psychologist in me. I’ve worked within many organisations over the years, from local government to third-sector charities and housing associations. As I settle in to each new place there is that feeling, after a few months, of becoming known. You start to be a part of things, a part of the family. Your role – what you do – may be very similar, you may even have the same job title, but the way you do things, the attitudes and behaviours you adopt, can differ substantially.

Organisations are a construct shaped by many different elements; employees, managers, directors, the CEO, a Board and other stakeholders. They all put a stamp on its character. Some places are more top-down, others may be more organic, some carry a more historic sense of institution, but each has a personality of its own, an identity beyond that of its constituent parts. Newbies are assimilated and we find a place for ourselves – or realise it is not the right fit and perhaps move on.



For me, my place has often been on the outskirts. I am an observer by nature and I sit comfortably there. My work has always taken me out of the office and on the road for much of the week and from this physical distance, the dynamics of a place are more noticeable. Despite being a remote worker, however, I still always felt I belonged. It might take a little bit longer to feel a part of the team but I would get there.

This time though, in a post-Covid world, it feels much harder. I’m used to working remotely, but it is different now everyone else is doing the same! How can you feel a part of something when it is not obvious what you are trying to be a part of? Adopting a culture is not easy when the culture is not all around you. I know I will gradually learn the ways of the new company from my immediate colleagues but there are whole layers of people, teams and departments who will remain strangers, only encountered by email and on screen, if at all.


Faces on a Screen

I have ‘seen’ our new CEO once at a large online meeting and the Director of my Department a couple of times in similar scenarios. These are spaces where you listen but don’t tend to contribute, it is not a place where your voice will be heard. Later, in a smaller team meeting, longer-serving colleagues were discussing this Director, his future plans and forthcoming retirement. I realised they were talking about someone they actually knew but to me he felt like a fictional character, I was not invested in him, or what he might stand for and I couldn’t see how that was going to change. He would never walk past my desk and introduce himself, never engage in some non-work chat in the kitchen, or ask questions about me and my interests. To me, he will always be just a face on a screen.


Inductions That Build Connection

There are undeniably major benefits to agile working for both the employer and employee, but some elements crucial to work satisfaction are lost. The risk this creates needs to be acknowledged and addressed if employees are to be given that sense of being a valued part of an organisation, to feel that their contribution matters. From the perspective of Positive Psychology this is of particular concern because being a part of a greater whole is one way in which we derive additional meaning from our work. For many of us, it is therefore an essential ingredient to our wellbeing.

The PERMA Work Profiler (Kern, 2014) was developed to measure wellbeing in the workplace. This is where we spend much of our day and where many factors important to our identity and meaning are evident. We are often in flow, doing work that hopefully challenges and engages us, and is often the source of many of our accomplishments. Crucially it is here where we build supportive relationships with the people who we can turn to when we encounter work stresses.

The repercussions may not be felt immediately, especially if there is a relatively stable workforce but at some point, that synergy will be lost unless we find new ways to promote belonging. The question of how new staff members should be integrated is an urgent one. Inductions that enable belonging, connection and a regard for the ethos of the company will be much harder now we are all remote workers passing through half-empty offices once a week. The challenge is to build a sense of cohesion so we are not isolated units of production but a group of people whose sum is greater than their parts.


Kern, M. L. (2014). The workplace PERMA profiler. University of Pennsylvania.

Read more about Tracy Bevan and her other articles HERE


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