Pandemic restrictions caused an international surge in remote working. As conditions continue to ease, remote and on-site jobs have merged into a new model – hybrid working.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 52% of people working from home in some capacity said they completed work quicker. More than three quarters of respondents (78%) said working from home options gave them a better work-life balance.
But remote working has also presented fresh challenges for businesses. In-person working is still very much desired – but for social reasons, not presenteeism. 26% of employees said they enjoy designated office days as they miss face-to-face meetings with their teams.
Is the purpose of ‘the office’ still a place where standard tasks are completed? Or are businesses redefining this space as a hub for creativity and fostering a strong company culture?
Here are 4 ways to make hybrid working work for you – without negatively impacting your company culture.
Lizzie Benton is a Company Culture Coach. She recommends coming together as a team to decide what your office space now means.
‘What will your space be used for,’ She asks, ‘and how will that support your team going forward? Remote work may just be kept for deep-focussed work, while the office becomes a place to collaborate, connect and have more informal working.’
Choosing what you’re going to use your office for is important. But so is designing a space which can facilitate that purpose.
Guy Osmond, MD at Osmond Ergonomics suggests creating break-out spaces, informal seating and larger dining areas to spark creativity. ‘Banks of desks, grey walls, and strip lighting just won’t do.’ Says Guy, ‘We need flexible, fun spaces that spark the imagination, as well as quiet, contained areas. Acoustics are really important. Many more offices are investing in pods and dens to foster concentration and contemplation.’
Guy advises employers to use insights gained over the past two years to determine what works best for their people. ‘Rather than forcing them back, why not create a ‘Magnetic Office’?’ He suggests, ‘Attract them back by fostering interactions and enhancing productivity. It’s a monumental opportunity to be grasped.’
Shared values are the bedrock of company culture. Make sure that yours are up to date and reflect your new working model.
‘Hybrid working may mean you have to set new expectations for each other.’ Says Lizzie, ‘Coming together to write new rules for hybrid working enables everyone to have a voice. It also makes clear the expectations across the office and remote working.’
When aligning expectations with values, consider having a neutral third party facilitate the process.
Amanda Walls is Founder and Director at Cedarwood Digital. ‘We recently brought in an external specialist to help us build company values which resonated with the team.’ She explains, ‘During a two-day workshop, we created a “Values, Purpose and Vision” statement. This helped us to develop something everyone could work towards on a hybrid model.’
Kev Tilley is MD at Mortgageable UK. He says a clear set of values will help you make choices that align with your goals. ‘If one of your values is family-friendly,’ Kev states, ‘you might offer flexible working hours or telecommuting options that help employees balance their work and personal lives.’
Once you’ve defined your company values with your existing team, bring new members up to speed when they join.
Embryo Operations Manager Cicely Ward says they incorporate company values into all of their new staff inductions. ‘We go through them in detail so that from Day One, they know what it means to be part of our team and what we expect from the get-go.’
A lack of visibility can be worrying to remote workers – especially those who aren’t able to commute into the office as frequently as others.
Deanna Figurito is Founder at D-Fig Connects. ‘Keeping an open line of communication even when your employees are working from home is really important.’ Deanna states, ‘A great workplace provides the opportunity for growth. So find out what your employees want to learn and invest in virtual learning. Work places that offer this are likely to have a high retention of employees that stay with them for a long time.’
‘39% of employers are now focusing on upskilling existing staff to help combat the recruitment difficulties in the current labour market.’ Says Cicely, ‘Keep regular 1-1 reviews in place during remote working. This helps employers to understand employee needs and identify any skills gaps. It’s also key for businesses to succession-plan for the future.
‘Employees should feel like they’re always learning and growing in their roles.’ Says Kev. ‘Support professional development through continuing education and training opportunities. This helps create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated.
Nabila Salem, President at Revolent, has set up an initiative called ‘Buddy Up with the Board’. ‘This gives employees a chance to have a 15-minute one-to-one with any member of the Board.’ She explains, ‘People can seek career advice, share views on the business model and direction – or even talk about diversity, sustainability and wellbeing. So far, they’ve been a big hit!’
Regular, in-person catch ups are a vital part of hybrid working culture. Just be sure that whatever you have planned is engaging and allows for interacting as a team.
‘During the pandemic,’ Says Nabila, ‘we noticed that catch up calls or ‘coffees on Zoom’ lead to stilted, forced conversation. And, despite our best efforts, they didn’t really work. So, as an alternative, we asked our Employee Experience Team to organise challenges throughout the year that focus on genuinely bringing teams together.
Now, we have regular virtual games that allow for a bit of fun and friendly competition, as well as initiatives like Virtual Yoga Sessions. These are considerably more engaging, plus they allow us to end the week on a high—while still supporting mental well-being throughout the company.’
‘Every quarter we run company-wide ‘town hall’ meetings that cover our financial targets, highlights for the quarter, new staff, project completions and any other business.’ Cicely shares, ‘The team really benefits from understanding the wider picture of the business and the direction the company is heading. This is always followed up by a social event in Manchester to celebrate!’
‘We started a monthly all-company day where the whole team comes into the office for a day of training, collaboration and fun.’ Says Veronica Hannon, MD at Transform Communications. ‘We encourage team members from across the company to lead training.
We make the most of having the team together in one place – whether through a long team walk, BBQ, afternoon tea or quiz, or a mix of them all! We also invite any incoming team members into the office for Company Day before they officially start with us, so that they can meet the rest of the team in a relaxed environment.’
Creating and protecting a strong company culture is essential to success. When implemented mindfully, hybrid working can give your business the upper hand at attracting and retaining talent. It will also give you the opportunity to create an office space that fosters creativity – without compromising on the productivity that remote working can bring.
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