One thing that has become evident during the massive experimentation of working from home triggered by the pandemic is scepticism about a full return to the old ways of working. At the same time, some companies have even announced that all employees must return to the office. However, others are starting to consider and move to a hybrid work environment, with 66% of global decision-makers considering redesigning physical workspaces.
Preparing the right tools is essential, but more profound cultural changes are needed to sustain hybrid work. 30% of leaders say maintaining a corporate culture is a big challenge for managing a hybrid workforce.
An on-site company's work culture is unsuitable for a mixed work environment. Companies need to adjust or overhaul the work culture. So when applied, work culture can help employees improve.
Although the substance of work culture depends on company regulations, you can implement these six practical ways!
1. Prepare a digital HQ
When companies talk about working remotely after the pandemic, many things need to be prepared, such as creating a source of truth. Not an office as the default mode reinstalled to make remote work possible, but a digital office. A purpose-built space where all employees can collaborate wherever they are.
Bhavin Shah, CEO of Moveworks, dubs this space the 'digital HQ.' More than just a convenience store, it's a one-stop shop for everything. Everything an employee needs, including technical support, internal documents or a summary of last week's meeting, is there. Remote workers will be confused about finding their needed materials without a digital HQ.
For a digital HQ to be effective, all employees and office management must treat it as a single source of truth. Even though it looks formal, employees are free to chat casually or send memes. Any work-related insights or decisions from the discussion must be recorded in the digital HQ to provide visibility.
To help your employees adapt, encourage them to take your culture remote first. This mindset shift does require patience, but the results are satisfying.
2. Treat all employees as equal and valid
Try to position remote work as something the company supports, not something the company allows. This is an important distinction, as remote workers face an uphill battle.
Historically, some managers rated employees in the office as having higher performance. They give promotions and bigger pay raises. If this is the case in a company with a hybrid style, remote employees may feel pressured to come to the office more often.
Managers need to focus on results rather than individual actions to minimise bias. Those who work remotely and in the office must have the same responsibilities and opportunities.
3. Maximise remote team-building activities
In a May 2020 survey of remote workers in six countries, Microsoft found that 52% felt valued or included as remote contributors to meetings. This happens because now everyone is in the same virtual space. As one respondent said, "Now that everyone's on Teams, we're all on equal footing."
When some employees return to the office, the company risks falling into the old habit (of leaving remote workers). While a digital base will keep teams connected, making this base live, and work takes deliberate effort.
Managers need to reconsider direct team-building activities. Even though you can gather all employees for a party outside the office, remote workers still shouldn't be pressured to come. Online team-building activities can be a way out so that every employee can participate wherever they are.
4. Establish a remote communication structure
Hybrid culture needs to have a clear communication structure. This structure needs to prioritise the concept of working remotely so that communication at the physical and virtual workplaces becomes smooth. Smooth communication also indicates that all information can be accessed and disseminated quickly.
Here's a simple way to build a remote communication structure:
- Create hybrid communication ground rules
- Organise regular meetings and checks
- Using adequate collaboration tools
- Provide additional IT support
- Pay attention to individual needs
- Support relationship building among employees
5. Establish ways to set boundaries
One of the benefits of remote working is that it allows people to become masters of their own time and schedule. You are also free to avoid traffic jams and drama in office life. Work culture in a hybrid environment must pay attention to both mixed teams, on-site and offsite. Office employees should also be free to manage their time and schedule. This will make them feel equal opportunity.
While free to manage time, companies need to set boundaries. In some cases, the limit of possibility has disappeared, but believe me, the limit still exists. For example, ensuring collaboration occurs before lunch and brainstorming in the morning. These boundaries will help the team take control of their day.
When confused about finding the proper boundaries, try some of these:
- Define your boundaries
- Reflect on others' boundaries
- Develop a sense of community by identifying agreed core values
6. Foster social connections and collaborations
Lastly, connection and collaboration are essential for building a solid corporate culture. Employees crave access to learning opportunities through social interaction, and companies can do so through mutual mentoring and brainstorming. The mentor will connect with employees and help them grow a professional network.
Compared to online courses, company tutoring has more benefits. For one thing, organisations can attract and retain the best talent due to personal and professional development.
A study at the University of Southern California identified that mentoring programs create more social bonds between employees. They will learn more from each other and engage with their work.
The future of work is not a remote vs face-to-face issue. It's a matter of how to build a solid corporate culture in a hybrid workplace.
Despite the different types of work environments, the way to build a robust corporate culture looks similar, both focusing on company goals and respecting employees. Companies can give choices about how they want to work, and strive to make offsite and on-site workplaces fair and inclusive. They also need to change how employees think about the office and recognise employees.
As always, make sure to communicate with the team. Gather feedback from them, including how they view their workplace. This will give the company insight into how to focus the attention and resources of the office.