Hybrid Workplace: Building Culture In The New Work Model
By Crystal Perel M.A., Kara Laine M.A. - May 03, 2021
For more than a year, organizations have been grappling with the paradigm shift in how and where work gets accomplished. With the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” shining brighter because of the great strides made in vaccine distribution in the past months, a new question has presented itself:
Now that life is increasingly looking like it will return to some semblance of normal within the upcoming months, how should organizations handle the return to work?
Recent workforce polling suggests a strong desire to retain some level of remote work given the broad success many industries have had adapting to a virtual-work model. However, uncertainty exists among a swath of senior leaders who are trying to determine what impact a large remote workforce will have on promoting a strong organizational culture.
What is a hybrid workplace? A hybrid workplace allows multiple modes of work settings—fully onsite, fully remote, or some combination of both. Decisions regarding which employees are eligible for which work setting type depends on multiple factors, such as role requirements, employee preference, and business needs.
As organizations shift to the hybrid workplace model, successfully forging a strong culture and community that serves in-office and remote employees will be a pressing challenge. Below are three key considerations for ensuring the work environment is optimized to support the new hybrid workplace.
1. Ensure Organization-Wide Equity
In any work environment, but particularly in a hybrid work environment, perceptions of fairness and organizational justice are paramount. Leaders must be intentional in ensuring the “out of sight, out of mind” adage does not become a reality for workers—whether it happens consciously or not.
Managers should work to create a level playing field for all employees, especially around areas important to the employee experience, such as career progression decisions, mentoring opportunities, and performance evaluations. Ultimately, ensuring equitable treatment through words and behaviors allows for a greater sense of confidence in leadership and the organization. Making this effort shows that employees’ best interests are at the forefront, regardless of work setting.
2. Nurture Connections for Remote Employees
Employees have a positive experience when they feel they belong and have an emotional connection to their teams and the organization as a whole. However, research suggests it is more difficult to build meaningful relationships virtually versus face-to-face. As work settings continue to trend toward a more flexible, hybrid environment, it will be necessary to ensure employees feel connected.
To create an environment that fosters connection, be intentional about:
- Engaging virtual attendees during on-site meetings. One organization prints pictures of virtual attendees and “gives them a seat at the table,” so those in the room are reminded to be inclusive.
- Replicating the organic networking that happens face-to-face for your virtual workers. Consider coffee hours or informal channels on communication platforms (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jabber, etc.).
3. Set Clear Collaboration and Communication Expectations
Due to the flexibility of a hybrid environment, it’s wise to set norms and expectations regarding how team members should collaborate with each other and across departments. Communicating early and often with employees about hybrid work policies, even if they are not 100% firmed up, will help ease anxiety and stress as employees make their way in this new normal. Once norms are set, leaders can periodically evaluate the health of the team by comparing observed behaviors to norm expectations and addressing any misalignments.
Some points to provide clarity around include:
- What should be the frequency of communication?
- Which technology is appropriate for certain types of communications? (e.g., to cut down on emails, Perceptyx uses Slack for file sharing and short conversations)
- What expectations are there around responsiveness? Should responses be expected by the end of the day, within 24 hours, or by the end of the week?
- How frequently should we connect for 1:1s or team social activities?
As organizations continue to evolve to support a hybrid workplace, it is incumbent upon leaders to ensure employees are supported in a way that enables their success. The best practices outlined in this article will help leaders navigate this unprecedented shift in how people work.
If you’d like more guidance on how to better understand your workforce—and use that information to drive your company’s performance—get in touch. Perceptyx is always here to be a trusted partner on this journey and help you see the way forward.