As office employees return to the office, the hybrid model of working continues to gain popularity across the country. Employees are seeking to spend some of their time working in the office and some time working from home. This leaves company leadership with a unique challenge: How does one build and maintain the company culture while maintaining communication in a hybrid workplace?
The Challenges of a Hybrid Model
Communication on the micro and macro levels can be difficult in a hybrid workplace. Whether it be running a larger meeting with half of the attendees in the room and half on a video conference, or a 1:1 meeting with a direct report – hybrid work can make it harder to read employees. This creates gaps in being able to affectively understand the needs of your employee(s) and addressing them proactively.
The hybrid model also leaves less opportunity for impromptu streams of thought, ideations, and creativity. Gone are the days of a chat in the hallway or lunchroom leading to an exciting new idea.
For company leadership, it is more important than ever to build out the needed communications models to ensure employees are being heard and supported in the ways they need, while also being able to collaborate with their colleagues in meaningful ways.
In addition to employee communications, the hybrid model can impact the ability to create equity amongst employees and the opportunity for diversity of thought, people, and processes. These practices are critical to building a strong corporate culture.
From a business perspective, the hybrid model can create gaps in maintaining institutional knowledge among employees. It can also be more difficult to continue business momentum and swings as quickly as possible.
Building the Bridge
Building the company culture in a hybrid model can be thought of like building a bridge. The arch-style bridge is one of the most ancient designs used present day.
The design is relied on because of its natural strength. However, it must be built from both sides and opposite ends of the banks. The goal is meeting in the middle for the ultimate strength of the bridge and completion must be met.
To build the company culture in a hybrid model, while also focusing on the business goals of the company, it cannot all fall on the leadership. The employees must do their part to help build the bridge of communication. When the employees and leadership meet in the middle, it creates the ultimate strength and prosperity.
Empower Employees to Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace
When companies had to move to fully remote staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new trust across the board was created. To make a hybrid model work, it is vital that leadership continues to foster and maintain that trust.
Employees have different preferences about everything relating to where they work, how they conduct their work, and how they communicate. This is no different from the times when all people were together in an office. There were those who were quiet and worked alone well, while others were always meeting people to collaborate, talk, and interact.
Management should be intentional in empowering employees to do their best work and bring their best ideas to the workplace, whether they’re in the office, at home, or a little bit of both. It’s important to create a culture of inclusion and belonging for everyone. Consider requiring everyone come in 1-2 days per week, or periodically for specific meetings, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to connect and share ideas.
Finally, resist the temptation to fall into old habits of how operations worked pre-COVID just because it’s all we knew. Remote and Hybrid work is not a new concept. Think of the traveling salesman. They worked remote and on-the-road for years. Why is remote different now because it’s a larger percentage of people?
Use the example of executives and traveling members of the teams to teach those working remotely best tips and practices for keeping organized and in touch with the organization.
Build the Right Infrastructure to Help Business Thrive
In addition to empowering employees and building the right culture, companies need to continue to build the right infrastructure for hybrid work.
The hybrid model may require your company to redefine your workplace – lean into it. Identify what technologies are needed to implement or build in order to communicate, share data, and function across employee groups and departments. Leadership should continuously explore the latest trends regarding people collaboration, data security, and alternative communication.
Shifting to a hybrid model is also a good opportunity to rethink the employee benefits you offer. What employees want continues to evolve. Continue to evaluate what you offer and what your employees want – and make sure they align.
To keep employees focused on a united goal across the hybrid model, make sure employees are educated as to how the business makes money and what the larger company and department goals are. This helps solidify the vision and value employees contribute to the company and enhances that all are working together towards a common goal.
Last, develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be tracked to ensure work is being completed and optimized. This will give employees a gauge of what they should be working towards and the feeling of success when they meet or exceed the KPI. For leadership, it gives a simple way to track work being completed.
The hybrid model has become popular for employees across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, and as more and more companies move in that direction, it is important that both the business and employees work towards building the bridge to create a strong culture and productive workplace.