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How to Create Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

October 01, 2021 Employee Experience
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Workplace culture is a critical element of a successful business. That culture is a reflection of the work environment and affects how current and potential employees view the business and its leaders. Yet, in the hybrid working environment that blends remote and in-office work, the way that employees see culture and the way organizations build it is changing. 

Culture doesn't go away when offices are emptier, wrote Spotify HR executive Katarina Berg and professor and ManpowerGroup executive Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in a recent article in Harvard Business Review, but “it’s harder for organizations to connect with people and connect them through a homogeneous cultural experience.” With employees scattered across multiple locations, creating that unified experience has become a challenge.

Given that challenge, we asked experts to weigh in with their best ways to create a culture in the hybrid workplace.

What Is Company Culture?

Broadly speaking, a company’s culture is the attitudes, behaviors and values of an organization and its employees. Culture isn’t necessarily fixed and can continue to evolve and change as the company grows. It also plays a significant role in the relationships between employers and employees and how satisfied employees are at their jobs. 

“We define culture as something that encompasses the values, expectations and practices that guide employees’ daily actions,” said Leslie Tarnacki, general manager and senior vice president of human resources at Livonia, Mich.-based WorkForce Software.  

Culture is also highly variable from company to company. For some companies, culture may center around high performance, while it may involve a more laid-back attitude at others. At her company, Tarnacki said the goal is to maintain a healthy work-life balance while celebrating accomplishments, and provide a platform that encourages communication and transparency. 

When organizations want to actively build company culture, they usually do so through team-building activities, ongoing meetings and in-office small talk. Even in a remote or hybrid office environment, many of these things are still possible, even if they need to be done virtually. 

Related Article: Are Your Culture-Building Initiatives Actually Hurting Your Culture?

Tips for Creating Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

Here are some tips for creating a culture when some employees are in an office, and others are remote. 

Create Culture Goals

Organizations need something to aim for if they’re going to actively create a company culture. Company leaders should outline the goals and vision for where they want the company to go, providing a roadmap for themselves and employees, and a guide to refer to if it seems like culture isn’t headed the direction they want. 

Focus on Collaboration

Effective collaboration is an essential for any hybrid workplace, and focusing on how people work together to solve problems and reach objectives can help foster a positive culture. “Our culture emphasizes sharing knowledge and collaborating on problems, and we’ve found our team members are more successful when they’re working with others they care about,” said Seth Dobbs, chief technology officer at Chicago-based marketing technology firm Bounteous. By collaborating and striving towards the same goals, team members can also build purpose and belonging. 

Plan Group Events

Whether you choose to have virtual events or meet every few months at an office location, host group events to bring people together. “We also have specific events within our individual teams to help create a sense of community, from small gatherings like happy hours and educational opportunities like office hours and knowledge shares,” Dobbs said. The type of event isn’t as important as whether or not everyone participates, and it helps build team culture. 

Related Article: Workplace Culture Eats Tech for Breakfast

Have Fun

Having fun is another way to foster company culture. Relaxing activities help employees build connections without striving to remain productive at every turn. Zhong Xu, CEO and founder at Belgium-based Deliverect, provides a few examples: “This could be an online Zumba class, a fun music battle, weekly check-ins with employees, or in-person team bonding exercise. These activities go a long way in keeping employees motivated and in good spirits.” 

Do Regular Checkups

“If employees are struggling, it will usually mean a portion of the business, if not the entire entity, is also suffering,” Tarnacki said. For that reason, company leaders must do regular checkups on employee well-being. She recommended that HR leaders find ways to measure positivity levels and adjust as needed if employees don’t seem to be feeling their best, as those negative feelings can harm productivity and, ultimately, the business. 

Focus on Health and Wellness

Along with checking up on employees, company leaders should also promote the health and wellness of employees. Provide access to resources and tools to help employees manage stress or deal with personal issues that might impact their job performance. Creating an environment where employees feel that leadership listens to their concerns can go a long way in building a positive culture. 

At its root, culture building in a hybrid workplace isn't all the different from how it's done in an office environment. The key is to find the appropriate tools to foster that culture and continually checking in and assessing to keep everyone moving in the same direction. 

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