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  • Writer's pictureSinéad Egan

Keeping Culture Strong in a Hybrid Working Environment

A man smiling and sitting in front of a laptop computer at his home.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid work environments are the new norm for many organisations. While the flexibility and autonomy offered by hybrid work models are celebrated , they also present new challenges, particularly in maintaining and evolving organisational culture. In this blog, we explore why leaders are advocating for a return to the office, and strategies for creating healthy and aligned hybrid cultures.

Why the pushback to the office?

A empty modern office with a white table and hite roll chairs. Behind the desk are clear office cubicles in the background.

Recently there seems to be an increase in company leaders advocating for a return to the office, often citing concerns about productivity, collaboration, and maintaining organisational culture. However, we know many companies successfully maintain productivity, collaboration, and strong organisational cultures with hybrid and even remote workforces. It is most likely that underlying some of these concerns, there may be a fear of losing control and visibility over remote employees. Some leaders may perceive remote work as a threat to traditional hierarchical structures and fear a decline in employee accountability and performance. 

So, while culture is often cited as a reason for returning to the office, it's crucial to question whether this is merely an excuse to regain control over employees' work environments and if enough has been done to make hybrid work successful. Culture is embedded through shared values, norms, and beliefs, which does not necessarily have to happen in an office or workplace. It is also critical that before dismissing hybrid work models, leaders assess if the organisation has done enough to evolve how they engage and motivate employees in this new environment. Leaders should ask if enough effort has been invested in supporting line managers to manage hybrid teams, and in keeping employees connected to the organisation, the strategy, and their teams. 

Rethinking culture in hybrid workforces

A team of people having a conversation in their office.

In hybrid work environments, organisations must rethink some of the norms and rituals they had that centred around the office and relied heavily on physical proximity and face-to-face interactions. Remote and hybrid work models necessitate a shift towards more inclusive and adaptable cultural practices that transcend physical boundaries. Leaders must recognise that culture is not solely determined by office dynamics but is rather a reflection of shared values, behaviours, and experiences that can be cultivated in both virtual and physical spaces.

Organisations that are successful in building or preserving strong cultures in hybrid environments are those that prioritise flexibility, trust, and communication, empowering employees to work collaboratively and autonomously regardless of their physical location. Creating a healthy and aligned hybrid culture requires intentional effort and investment from organisational leaders. 

Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Ensure your values are guiding behaviour: Clearly articulate the organisation's core values and behaviours that align with the hybrid work environment. Ensure that these values emphasise collaboration, inclusivity, and flexibility to accommodate diverse work styles and preferences.

  2. Communicate effectively: Foster open and transparent communication channels to bridge the gap between remote and in-office employees. Encourage regular check-ins, virtual town halls, and collaborative platforms to facilitate dialogue and information sharing across the organisation. Ensure team meetings happen, whether in person or online, and that they combine information sharing, work management, and social interaction. Rotate meeting times and formats to accommodate different time zones and work schedules. 

  3. Empower line managers: Provide training and support for managers to effectively engage their teams in hybrid settings. Empower them to lead by example, promote autonomy, and prioritise employee wellbeing and work-life balance.

  4. Do schedule some in-person events: Schedule events such as a company update, party, or strategy day to facilitate social interactions and relationship building amongst all employees.

  5. Recognition and Appreciation: Implement hybrid-friendly recognition programs to celebrate achievements and contributions across virtual and physical workspaces. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition and feedback to foster a culture of appreciation and support.

By rethinking traditional notions of culture, embracing flexibility, and embedding hybrid-friendly rituals, organisations can create healthy and aligned cultures that foster engagement, and resilience in the era of remote and hybrid work. 


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