It takes years of investment by leaders to cultivate a healthy workplace culture – the markers of which are strategy, structure and contribution to strong bottom-line performance. However, with the future of work changing and leading to limited operations in physical workspaces, workplace culture takes on a whole new meaning.
With many employees working remotely and only some on location, talent managers are now faced with task to recalibrate the many variables that make up a unifying workplace culture. There is a hidden fear that the new hybrid work model will erode this culture. When in fact, it is all about supporting people to get the right balance of how they prefer to operate that works for them to be as productive as possible. So finding ways to drive engagement and instill a sense of purpose among the workforce should be a priority.
Reshaping culture in a partial or a completely hybrid workplace does not have to be a mammoth task. Keeping the workforce’s needs and lived experiences at the center of management decisions is the first step. Then come the four unassuming, but significant changes that leaders should make to ensure culture becomes a catalyst for success in the new normal –
- Be intentional about communication – Although the need for connection remains paramount, with the newly blurred distinctions between work and home life, digitally colonizing people’s homes is not an option. Create guidelines around how you communicate, how often you communicate and think about ways in which you can avoid the ‘Zoom fatigue’ from kicking in.
- Keep traditions alive – What were the non-work elements that made employees feel like they were a part of ONE team? Everything that once drove formal and informal culture in the physical workplace needs to be reformatted to ensure inclusivity and connection between the physical and virtual workforces. This includes team-building activities, wellness sessions, happy hours and milestone celebrations, that allow members of a team to preserve social attachments with each other.
- Maintain focus on work/life balance – Even prior to the pandemic’s disruption, work/life balance was a yardstick by which workplace culture was assessed by employees as well as employers. Rightly so, because culture is about the people you work with and what they bring to work each day – and work/life balance is a big part of that. This makes it critical to instill a sense of empathy to personal demands and protect the workforce against burnout as they settle into hybrid routines.
- Don’t forget D&I – Everyone has had different experiences of working during the lockdown, and these experiences will be brought to the workplace, both physically and virtually. So the focus should be to make all voices heard in new hybrid ways of working and ensure people from all walks of life feel like they belong. Pivoting policies, ensuring equal access to technology for all employees, and digitizing the work of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are some ways in which companies can maintain a shared collaborative and cultural mindset even with a staggered workforce.
Getting workplace culture right can be advantageous all around. The shared experience of adapting to the same extraordinary circumstances makes culture more important than ever. And thoughts can only translate to action with constant reflection, deliberation and collaboration to thrive in this new reality.