As companies transition to hybrid work for the long term, leaders are also having to evaluate their company culture in avoid to avoid a catastrophic loss of it.
What Is Hybrid Work Culture?
Hybrid work culture is how a hybrid company, one where employees work from a mix of locations at different times, creates a shared experience for its employees. It can be positive or negative and is a result of shared goals and practices.
A hybrid work culture differs from a typical office company culture because its employees are not always in the same location leading to different relationships and connections. While company culture traditionally refers to shared values, goals and common behaviours at a company; the hybrid work culture shines a spotlight on the flexible nature of hybrid work.
Importance Of Hybrid Work Culture
A company without culture is like a human without a soul. It will live, but it won’t thrive.
A lack of company culture will breed toxicity amongst its employees and lead to much higher levels of burnout and attrition.
Toxic company cultures are also costly; unhappy, disengaged employees can cost millions each year through sick days, lower levels of productivity and ongoing recruitment costs.
Companies who want to remain innovative and ahead of the pack constantly need to be working on their company culture and ensure it remains positive.
“There's no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” Richard Branson
Successful hybrid work cultures are seen in organisations that listen to their employees to try and deliver them a positive employee experience that increases their overall sense of well-being, making their work a happy place to be.
It goes a lot further than just allowing flexibility to people’s schedules, if employees aren’t interacting physically on a regular basis, then organisations will need to go the extra mile to foster relationships.
Main Challenge For Creating Culture In A Hybrid Environment
Here's what it will take to create the conditions for effective culture in a hybrid environment.
There is a lot of research out there that demonstrates one of the main predictors of positive relationships is proximity. If you see the same people every day, small talk is inevitable, you naturally begin to learn about them and are there when they experience positive events as well as negative events in their life. Just interacting with people on a frequent basis will create feelings of connection.
This was fantastic news for companies when they were primarily office-based. Company culture was a lot easier to maintain as people were able to naturally foster their own work relationships.
With the advent of hybrid work, companies are having to work a lot harder to create that feeling of connection via a mix of virtual and real-life interactions.
How To Create A Positive Hybrid Work Culture
Although every organisation is unique, there are key points that every company should focus on when it comes to creating a positive hybrid work culture.
A positive hybrid work culture needs to focus on inclusivity and fair treatment for all employees. Otherwise, the remote-first employees could get left behind as is often the case. Remote workers report experiencing fewer career and development opportunities, proving presenteeism is still an issue in the workplace.
Combat this by taking a proactive approach, and treating all employees fairly no matter their location. This may mean overhauling review processes or how results are tracked.
As well as ensuring everyone receives the same opportunities, leaders will need to focus on the social aspect of a hybrid workplace.
Look to the larger organisations to see how they are encouraging hybrid workers into the workplace with exciting office designs like wellness centres or rooftop bars. Where in the past companies might have taken a backseat to organise social activities between employees, instead relying on proximity to growing relationships, they are now actively making it a focus with lots of planned bonding to foster company culture.
Remote workers who don’t get to partake in Friday afternoon beers will still need to be thought of, how can they be included? Virtual team-building activities can only go so far, in fact up to two-thirds of corporate travellers feel that it’s difficult to build professional relationships virtually. Could a worldwide retreat be organised once a year with a focus on socialising to better improve company culture?
3. Work-Life Balance
Although initially when the pandemic first hit, people were overjoyed with the extra time they gained from working from home as time has gone on there are reports of remote and hybrid workers who feel their work-life balance is even more out of kilt than before. This is due to the blurred lines between home and work, feeling like they can never switch off and replying to emails at all hours of the day or even at weekends.
If this isn’t tackled, more and more hybrid workers will experience burnout, sooner rather than later. And worse, it’s been found that when individuals find their work-life balance tipped the wrong way, they are far more likely to cut out working relationships in a bid to protect their energy. Constance Noonan Hadley, an organizational psychologist, says “Regardless of remote status, building relationships will still feel like a luxury that workers cannot afford unless there is a shift in how time is prioritized and valued by managers.”
So, what can be done?
It will call on leaders to set firm boundaries about work-life balance, and then lead by example. That means no long term extreme hours, acknowledging particularly stressful periods with the promise of a more relaxed period to come and then respecting these promises.
4. Manager Responsibility
It’s not just work-life balance where leaders need to show up. To create a harmonious hybrid work culture, managers are vital to keeping teams together.
It’s human nature to want to belong, and in a way, our work has become people’s place of worship, we look to our company as our tribe. Managers will need to lead their teams and help them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. In a nutshell, managers should help give their team purpose.
Managers can do this by focusing once again on relationships.
Where once managers were focused on getting the most out of their team and ensuring productivity remained high in the office, in the hybrid world, managers need to work on their soft skills. This is to make sure everyone feels valued and like they are connected to one another, avoiding people working in siloes. Hybrid teams work a lot better when there is a strong company culture present.
It is also crucial for managers to remain open and available to their team when they need them, this could be for both work and personal matters.
5. Regular Reviews
There is no such thing as a perfect workplace and so the same should be same for a hybrid work culture. Organisations are bound to make mistakes, one way to limit the number is by implementing regular reviews that take into account all employees.
In addition to scheduling regular feedback sessions on how the company culture could improve, be sure to communicate clearly the company's shared goals and vision.
Consider creating a company manifesto that details the mission and culture of your organisation.
If it sounds like a lot of the work involved with creating a positive hybrid work culture comes down to the managers, that’s because it does. Remote and hybrid leaders are responsible for first creating a happy work culture and then maintaining it.
A company's culture tends to be unique, shaped by the values, priorities, and ways of working that each company employs. The shift to hybrid working is a significant change and the companies succeeding are spending time on getting their hybrid culture right.
Adapting how we work and communicate to ensure people are included no matter their location is a core tenant. Take the time and map out how you want to shape your hybrid culture and look for ways to implement it into how your company works.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.