Working from home has been a positive experience for employees, and has proved to be very successful for many business leaders too. However, there are still many benefits of being in an office and, as we hopefully start to come out of the pandemic, 98% of our clients plan to embrace the best of both. So, how do you create a constructive culture under a hybrid model?
It may seem straightforward and as if there is little need to change anything. Yet, building long lasting relationships and reinforcing a company culture has always been established in the office. Therefore, we need to rethink how we do some things under a hybrid model. Here are our top tips:
Communicating regularly and encouraging team members to do the same will create bonds. It also demonstrates you are accessible and it’s an opportunity to share, ensuring the team is well informed and up to date on any events.
“One of the most important elements of effective leadership is when leaders are perceived as present and accessible” Tracy Brower, Forbes
Staying in touch with employees and getting the team together is the responsibility of everyone, not just the MD or CEO, it goes across all leadership roles.
2. Shared purpose
This connects people to the long term goals of a business. Employees don’t just turn up to work, they do their best and collaborate. When people are in the office there is more natural energy and shared purpose. This is often reduced in hybrid working.
Reminding employees of how the work they do is connected to the team, and how the team connects to the company’s goals, is important to gain shared purpose. This can be achieved in individual and team meetings, calls and emails. Both planned and impromptu when WFH or in the office. It is an easy one to forget to communicate as it sounds so obvious. However, it can be key to the momentum of a company culture.
3. Office Space
A place where people want to go that is enjoyable, covid safe and inspiring will help build a good culture.
“Workers will use the office as a commonplace for learning, connection building, and collaboration that isn’t possible in a fully remote workplace.” Ryan Carruthers (Ringcentral)
Having people in the office together that need to connect will make the workspace productive and efficient. For example, establishing a core day(s) will help it thrive.
It is key to have both a physical space that encourages cooperation and social interaction. As well as planning who should be in together to maximise the use of in office time.
Employees feel valued at work if they are given appreciation and feedback. A strong culture will always recognise people. In a hybrid workplace we need to think about how we do this. For example, a ‘well done’ across the desk may need to be transferred to an email or phone call.
Appreciation leads to a happy and more productive employee who is more likely to engage with a company culture and shared purpose.
5. Fairness and conflict
Conflict arises in successful cultures and they are dealt with productively. When working in a hybrid model there is less opportunity to know about the fairness of outcomes. It can be difficult to know who is held to account or rewarded as you may not see the event or behaviour but you hear about it.
Constant communication is needed so people know how issues have been dealt with – avoiding them may be easier if you are in the office less but they can’t be buried as it will lead to a disgruntled workforce.
6. Be inclusive
By shifting to a hybrid model we want to make sure we are inclusive. We cannot create an unconscious bias whereby those that are in the office are favoured. For example, if there’s a meeting with some people in the office and others are not, have everyone on their own individual screen. Also, email or message to update others on conversations that have happened in the office
“We should be cautious not to create an “in” group and an “out” group” Bill Schaninger, McKinsey article
Rigid schedules and blanket policies can reduce the gains of hybrid working. For example, giving people the choice of where they work from when not in the office can be highly effective.
Another example would be to have core hours but provide a degree of flexibility on start and finish times.
When employees have the opportunity to choose it raises morale as it shows that you trust them.
8. Prioritise mental health
On the one hand, VCs have meant we see into each other’s homes and lives, we have become more familiar and open. On the other hand, we are far more detached having been remote for so long. A survey of 25,000 people by the ONS cited Around 1 in 5 (21%) adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021.
When walking around the office you’d get a sense of how people were. With planned calls from home, people can be prepared and more formal. HBR focuses on the skill of asking follow up questions and encouraging open communication about mental health.
The workplace has to be supportive and without stigma. It can be helped by having mental health champions or mentors for extra support.
Ensuring everyone has the same understanding of the company culture in a hybrid workforce will be difficult but important. It will take thought and work to get it right. Done well, a good culture will see high staff retention, revenue growth and innovation. You will know if your hybrid workplace culture is working by reviewing these factors.