Company Culture
6 min read

Working through it: our collective journey through crisis


Didier Elzinga

Founder and CEO, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When the COVID-19 crisis first began, I started by talking about how and why to prioritize employee experience during a crisis. We were at the very beginning of what we now know is a prolonged period of unrest and transition (if you had told me then we would still be in this situation now, I’m not sure I would have believed that was possible…) 

Everywhere around me I saw leaders first ensure that their business was going to survive, then realize that survival was going to be dependent on the new environment we were all rapidly creating for our employees to keep working – but often from home and in a crisis. Things that we had intended to invest in later (like employee experience and wellbeing) became critical features of our new world of work.

In the months that followed our initial lockdown, COVID-19 has tumbled into social unrest, economic crisis, and a global pandemic, and every team out there is facing unique challenges that need unique solutions. And in particular, we all started to need unique solutions not only for thriving, but sometimes just surviving and getting through some incredibly tough days.

In the face of that uncertainty about how to move forward in crisis, we decided to launch a project focused on gathering insights about how others were working through it. 

WORKING THROUGH IT is a collective seven-part journey through crisis. 

Over the course of five months, we talked to our customers, our community, and thought leaders about what they were doing to make decisions, stay well, and create supportive environments for their teams. 

In the moments when we felt the most disconnected – we learned about new communication methods. In the situations where we didn’t know what to say or do – we spoke with empathy experts. In the days when we just couldn’t justify asking employees to show up – we talked to DEI leaders.

This journey was the work of many people at Culture Amp and in the community around us – all of whom are dedicated to putting culture first as they responded to crisis within their own teams. One particular highlight for me was the opportunity to have conversations with incredible leaders that I have admired for a long time, all as part of our “From the heart of the C-suite” series. Every session brought an honesty and openness, from the inspiring conversation I had with Pip Marlow, APAC Salesforce CEO, to the humbling, uplifting time spent speaking with Alicia Jessip, DEI leader from TEKsystems.

Along the way, we all learned many, many lessons about what it means to be human versus productive. We learned the importance of listening as leading. And we crafted a long list of resources for you to use when you find yourself in similar situations down the road.

Though the crisis is nowhere near over, this phase of our exploration is and we want to share our learnings with your team. Whether you’re feeling fatigued by this current situation or ambitious about prepping for the next inevitable one, we invite you to utilize the extensive collection of resources we’ve created as part of WORKING THROUGH IT. 


There’s no playbook for crisis

But we created a toolkit to help you work through it

Check it out


Part 1: Start with today

At the beginning of this journey, we quickly realized that that most of us were still far from a sense of “normalcy” – but research shows that in periods of uncertainty about tomorrow, it can help to stop and focus on where we’re at today. For Part 1 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we curated and created resources to help you restore wellbeing to your mind and body – right here, right now. Join us and spend some time learning how and why to care for yourself, your team, and your wider community.

Part 2: The only way forward is through

Nina Simone once said, “You use up everything you got trying to give everyone else what they want.” Throughout our conversations with leaders, there was one common theme: boundaries. Of course, problems need to be solved and decisions need to be made, but what’s most important is ensuring that leaders feel well-equipped, well-rested, and well-informed enough to take action. For Part 2 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we explore how empathetic leadership and boundaries can be used to protect time and energy for people supporting teams.

Part 3: Is anything certain?

While producing this part, we were in the midst of an intense period of unrest – at work and in society at large. During times of uncertainty, we found that empathetic leadership is more critical than ever. For Part 3 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we looked at how leaders can lessen frustration by deconstructing problems and demystifying adversity.

Part 4: How long will this feeling last?

Our Culture First podcast guest Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D., couldn’t have said it any better: “There’s no good card for this.” Showing up for ourselves and those we work with isn’t an easy feat right now. But by exercising emotional intelligence we have control over how we respond to today’s situations. Explore Part 4 of WORKING THROUGH IT to strengthen your EQ and show up for the people who need you (including yourself).

Part 5: How to connect in a disconnected world

If there’s one thing that makes crisis bearable, it’s navigating it with others by your side. In times of crisis, constant decision-making, meetings, and problem-solving can feel exhausting. But it’s also critical to feeling like you’re not alone in your stress, confusion, frustrations, and especially those moments of pride when you surmount an obstacle together. In Part 5 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we share communication tools to help you build deeper connections with your team – to learn how to communicate better, more often, and more effectively.

Part 6: Reclaiming success by redefining it

Performance can take a hit when everyone’s focus is on surviving instead of thriving. Performance metrics and measures can drastically change when business priorities shift, so it’s important to check in with your employees to better understand where their motivations lie and how you can help them do their best despite the circumstances. In Part 6 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we look at what’s no longer serving us when it comes to defining and measuring success, individually and collectively.

Part 7: Embracing a new future

Life-altering events often speed up the process of change. While much is unknown about the path forward, we all play an instrumental role in forging this path and can use our learnings as a guide. After a crisis is a perfect time to identify new and better approaches. Uncertainty creates an opportunity to work together to come up with creative solutions to evolve the world of work. In Part 7 of WORKING THROUGH IT, we look toward the future.


WORKING THROUGH CRISIS: A toolkit for crisis preparedness

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