Maintaining Work Culture in Hybrid Work Environments
As workplaces have shifted to a blend of remote, hybrid, and onsite work over the past year, executive-level decision-makers have begun to notice some trends. Chief among them? Employee engagement can be difficult when workers don’t regularly see each other at a physical office location. If you have evolved into a remote or even hybrid work environment in the past year, your employees are likely noticing a difference in workplace culture. The data is clear: 87% of business leaders expect to offer more workplace flexibility post-pandemic. While every company has unique needs, adopting a hybrid remote and onsite work model may be the best fit for your organization. However, if you’re committing long-term to this massive shift in work style, employees will likely expect accompanying culture changes. As noted in Forbes: “people want to feel a connection to company purpose, a sense of community and support for their productivity.” This is increasingly difficult to achieve when employees are all working in different locations. Maintaining strong and rich company culture is essential to growing your business, as company culture is directly linked to employee performance and retention. If you’re hoping to evolve your organization’s methods of employee retention and build a culture that can survive in a hybrid workplace, read our tips below.
As with most things, change is inevitable. Workplace flexibility - establishing, offering, and managing it - is one of the leading reasons employees join and stay with a company. However, the desire to be a part of a team and feel as if your work is contributing to the overall success of the organization doesn’t go away when you’re working from home. An editor from Forbes writes, “Leaders will need to be intentional about articulating purpose, discussing the big picture of the overall goals, and ensuring people feel their work is uniquely connected and necessary to the success of the organization. ”Understanding the why behind your work can make all the difference when it comes to experiencing career fulfillment. This is a huge part of employee retention, and it’s important for it to be built into your company culture. Try starting a quarterly company newsletter, publicly appreciating employees’ successes, and sending regular communication from management articulating the company mission and how you’ve been achieving it.
Rethink Your “Open Door Policy”
Having an open-door policy when there isn’t a physical door to walk through can throw employees for a loop. Instead, put the responsibility of communication on those in leadership positions. Creating a forum for workers to express concerns is paramount in a hybrid model. If teams are based in the same city, try to schedule a few days a month where teams can intersect in person to catch up. If not, try to reserve a few hours a week for Office Hours where employees can ask for a 15-minute check-in. Conflict can be more easily swept under the metaphorical rug when it’s not happening outside your door. If issues arise involving a remote worker, it may not be brought to light unless managers take time to check in. Leaving workplace conflicts unaddressed can lead to a rise in worker turnover rate and bad attitudes from other team members. Check out our blog on supporting your team’s mental health for some excellent tips.
Invest in Perks
Gone are the days where startups with ping-pong tables in the breakroom attract the best candidates. In a hybrid model, workers won’t be able to utilize your in-office perks as frequently as they used to - so, instead, invest in tools for your at-home workers. As an investment in project quality, and as a gesture of appreciation for their work, employers should take an interest in ensuring their workforce has everything they need to be productive in their remote locations. Some companies, like Shopify, are giving their employees $1,000 each to outfit their home offices in their own way. Smaller companies can also make an impact by purchasing items like noise-canceling headphones for hybrid employees, chipping in for their phone bills or in-home WiFi, or sending meal/coffee vouchers to thank them for their hard work. Conducting an anonymous survey of your workforce can deliver results that will better inform decisions on what perks are most desired by your staff and which are more applicable to the type of work your business does. For example, if employees are looking for more health-related perks, try offering subscriptions to mental health apps like Calm or BetterHelp to show you’re invested in the mental well-being of your workforce. Or, if workers express interest in staying active and maintaining fitness levels, try offering class passes to virtual yoga sessions, company-sponsored gym memberships, or even holding a team-wide morning dance event to boost energy!
Socialize: Think Beyond the Zoom Happy Hour
Happy employees are loyal employees, and employees that like each other are more productive. One survey found that 66% of employees said their relationships with their colleagues were one of the top reasons they decided to stay with or leave a company. Having someone to bounce ideas off of improves decision-making and creativity. Regular virtual team-building activities have been shown to increase morale and overall efforts to build corporate culture outside of physical offices. At the start of lockdown, Zoom happy hours were the norm. As time went on, they began to feel repetitive, leading to a decline in attendance. Keeping employees interested in seeing each other and socializing is vital to boosting positive relationships amongst workers. Casual socialization is part of building working relationships, and team-building doesn’t have to be monotonous. Instead of a regular Zoom happy hour, try a virtual escape room or a virtual scavenger hunt! Inserting light, playful competition increases the desire to participate in team-wide activities and leads to stronger bonds between colleagues. And, as research shows, when workers feel a connection to their colleagues, their loyalty to the company and its values is strengthened. Other ideas? Scheduling volunteer opportunities (either in-person or virtually), encouraging employees to send virtual notes of gratitude to other teammates, celebrating special events in creative ways, allowing for informal socialization time at the start of meetings, building a buddy system for onboarding, or investing in company retreats!
With so much change taking place in corporate cultures around the world, it can be easy to overlook critical aspects of how to retain excellent talent. When businesses place emphasis on the importance of meeting employee expectations and fostering positive workplace relationships, workers will be happier, feel more supported, and will be less likely to jump ship. Focusing on establishing and maintaining a healthy work culture, no matter where employees are located, is a worthwhile goal, one that all successful businesses should strive for.