Hybrid working is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, as workplace cultural discussions have significantly changed in the past year and a half since the pandemic hit. But what actually is hybrid work culture? How do you create a successful hybrid work culture?
It is a specifically defined mixture of ‘in-office’ work and ‘working from home’. This could be ultra-specific (for example, you must work from the office on Monday, Wednesday and Friday), or it could be relatively fluid where it allows employees to make their own minds up on how they implement hybrid work.
Having a positive and effective working culture becomes more complex when utilising a hybrid approach, as it requires you to consider two different working dynamics and the complexity surrounding building a culture while colleagues are not in the office to ‘feel’ the culture of the business.
Here are some tips for implementing a successful business culture within a hybrid working environment. These ideas can help you create a successful hybrid work culture.
Eliminate any Fear, Anxiety or Doubt
A significant challenge of working environments today, regardless of whether they are a hybrid set-up or not, is keeping employees’ confidence up. Studies have shown that self-doubt and anxiety have skyrocketed in the workplace in recent years. This is only exacerbated when introducing working-from-home. Those individuals who felt doubt about their role within the company before, are likely to feel worse when sheltered from any support within the office when surrounded by a physical team.
A key to employing an effective culture while implementing the hybrid approach is to make sure that everyone has everything they need to overcome any fear, anxiety, or doubt about their role.
It can be easy for employees to feel as though they have been left out of conversations when not physically in the office, and it can also make certain social projects more challenging, which can emphasise individuals’ anxiety within the role.
This means that the experience employees have in the office, they should also experience while working from home. This means that the tools and technology utilised in the office, for the most part, should also be available in their home. Obviously, there are some limitations in this regard, but if it can be implemented effectively, it certainly makes the transition from office to home environment better when it comes to creating consistency within the work culture.
The attitude taken by management here should be one of consistent improvement over time, and listening to employees to find out exactly what they need. This could be as simple as making sure every employee has a laptop which they can bring to and from the office, rather than just a desktop in the office and asking them to utilise their home computer at home (if they even have one).
Perhaps they’re in dire need of a printer at home? Or they have no access to a comfortable desk chair when working from home. Make the experience between the office and home as consistent as possible.
Commit to communication
A challenge of the hybrid model and working from home, in general, is that people easily forget how to communicate with colleagues properly. It can be incredibly easy for leaders to appear as though they are micromanaging their staff who are working from home.
The key skills here are going to be effective communication via email and regular (preferably video) calls to colleagues. This could involve taking a writing class to make sure emails going forward project the right message.
However, this isn’t just a concern for management. Colleagues of all levels should apply this. It can be easy for emails to be misunderstood for ‘demands’ rather than queries via email if not worded in the correct way. This can lead to a relatively negative culture where individuals feel as though they are being managed by people who are not even their managers.
Understanding individuals is always important when it comes to communication. There will be employees who prefer working from home, and others who hate it. You will also have employees who are more introverted and less likely to want to attend any ‘virtual’ social events to maintain a level of comradery in the workplace. Try and look towards these individuals and understand exactly what would make them happy and implement communication channels that suit their communication styles.
Avoid disputes where possible – but also manage them
Disputes happen; it is a natural course of life and business. The sign of healthy working culture is that when disputes do happen, the involved individuals can mediate and resolve the dispute effectively and maturely, rather than creating a toxic work environment that can spread to even those not involved in the original dispute.
It is always best to encourage 1-on-1 discussions with employees if any disputes do begin to occur. This is always preferable in person on one of the days where both individuals are attending the office. An obstacle to working from home is that messages and emails can easily be misunderstood or exaggerated by individuals, which can cause disputes to escalate and boil over.
If in-person discussion is not possible, then a video call is always more effective for eliminating disputes than a direct message via Teams or an email. This allows individuals to see each other and empathise with the other individual more when you can see their face and body language.
Implement effective and consistent workflows
Similar in that the work environment should be as consistent as possible between home and the office, so should the workflows which are in place. What does this mean? Well, any processes which are completed within the office, should be the same when at home. There shouldn’t be corners cut or alterations to regular processes purely because nobody is in the office.
For example, if quarterly meetings were a consistent presence within the office, these should still be held via Zoom/Teams/etc. when people are working from home. Unfortunately, it can be inherently easier to let habits and processes slip when it is less convenient to do so from a home-working environment. However, keeping those processes consistent allows individuals to build an effective working culture from their home.