Maintaining a strong, happy culture in hybrid workplaces

COVID has made hybrid working the new normal.

Instead of heading to work every day, we’re now splitting our week between home, the office and other third spaces such as cafes and co-working hubs. And it’s a reality employees have happily settled into.

In today’s tight market, if your company isn’t offering hybrid working, there’s a good chance quality candidates will overlook you in favour of somewhere that does. Because of this, providing it is a must.

But while flexible working is great for work-life balance, maintaining culture in hybrid workplaces can be challenging.


The hybrid working reality

 Here in Australia, we have the highest percentage of hybrid workers.

According to a recent PWC report, 48 per cent of Australian workers spent every day in the office pre-COVID. Now, this figure is only 4 per cent.

As well as allowing for a better work-life balance, some benefits of not coming into the office every day at an individual level include:

  • Saving money on travel
  • Spending more time with friends and family
  • Increased time to exercise
  • Reduced stress and burnout

On the flip side, the negatives of spending so much time out of the office include:

  • Increased communication difficulties
  • Poorer connection with colleagues and the company brand (e.g. your mission, vision and values)
  • Fewer collaboration opportunities
  • Reduced access to leaders and team

These downsides can adversely impact your culture. And without a strong company culture, employee engagement and performance suffer.


Is your culture suffering?

With people dispersed, it can be hard to keep track of how employees are feeling and whether hybrid working is killing your culture.

Here are some key signs we’ve identified that should raise concern:

  • Lack of trust, inclusivity or respect – Are managers concerned about productivity when people work from home, and so they’re micromanaging? Are hybrid workers being excluded from important meetings and decisions? Are those who come into the office seen as less committed and treated differently?
  • People are there to work and go home – When employees do come into the office, are you seeing lower engagement levels? Are people reluctant to participate in team activities like meetings or social events? Is there a general lack of fun in the office?
  • Limited communication – Are you seeing reduced social interactions, such as casual conversations and coffee breaks? Are employees less aware of what their colleagues are working on? Are managers experiencing less direct engagement than previously (e.g. cameras turned off on Zoom calls)?
  • Role confusion – Are you noticing increased misunderstandings over who is responsible for certain tasks or projects? Are employees unclear on who they’re reporting to? Are tasks falling through the cracks?
  • Inefficiencies and frequent mistakes – Is work getting duplicated? Are people missing deadlines or making errors more regularly? Are projects taking much longer than they should to be completed?


How to get hybrid working right

 If any of the issues and behaviours above sound familiar, it’s time to take action.

Hybrid working doesn’t have to cause cultural problems. You just need to embed the right strategy into your business.

Here are our top tips for maintaining culture in hybrid workplaces:

  • Have anchor days – Giving your team flexibility is great, but it’s not good if only one or two people are in the office at one time. Instead, have set anchor days where everyone is in the office to boost communication and collaboration. And make this expectation clear to your team.
  • Increase daily communication – Whether it’s a work-from-home (WFH) or in-office day, ensure all team members feel heard, valued and included. Establish clear communication tools, for example, email and instant messaging, use project management tools and embrace video catch-ups.
  • Encourage regular check-ins – Schedule frequent one-on-one meetings between team members and leaders to discuss progress, provide feedback, and address any concerns or issues. Plus, encourage individuals to check in with each other to reinforce communication and collaboration.
  • Create more collaboration spaces – People like to come to work to collaborate, preferring to do their ‘deep’ work at home without distraction. Because of this, think about your office layout. Favour collaboration zones, social spaces and team hubs over cubicles and formal workstations.
  • Prioritise training – By prioritising training for all team members, you can help ensure everyone has the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively in a hybrid environment. Cover responsibilities and expectations, technology, communication, collaboration and time management.
  • Celebrate successes – Whether your team uses Slack, Microsoft Teams or another platform, most have the capability to send praise or recognition. Simple acts to recognise great work from your team will encourage commitment to the positive culture you’re building. Whatever the call out, make sure it’s specific enough to ensure people know the exact behaviour or action you want them to repeat.


Create a connected hybrid culture

Hybrid working is a win for employees, but that win doesn’t have to be at the detriment of your company culture.

By employing the right hybrid working strategies, it’s possible to maintain a strong company culture and promote collaboration, motivation, productivity, and engagement among all team members, regardless of their location.


Get in touch if you’d like to know more about turning your culture in today’s hybrid working environment from surviving to thriving.

Meet the author: Stacey Kelly

Stacey brings extensive industry experience and knowledge, as well as the energy, passion and inspiration of a great leader. She previously held senior people/cultures roles in private and public organisations, including Hunter TAFE and Insurance Australia Group (IAG).

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