How to rebuild culture at the hybrid workplace

‘’Normal' left the office last March, when we all went home'

How to rebuild culture at the hybrid workplace

Company cultures will have to be rebuilt post-pandemic but it’s up to leaders and HR people to lead that effort, especially in a hybrid workplace model, according to one of the main speakers for the upcoming HR Leaders Summit Canada online event.

“Building the hybrid model of the future is not to just divide up days and do everything at home that you’ve done at the office or vice versa; that’s just moving furniture around, that’s just a game of musical chairs,” says Meghan Stettler, director of the O.C. Tanner Institute in Salt Lake City. “It’s really about designing a space that maximizes the best of both worlds.”

Meghan Stettler

Stettler will be speaking on how to rebuild that unique culture in a hybrid working world at the event to be held Oct. 19 beginning at 9:40 a.m. She shared some of her talking points with Canadian HR Reporter, many of which came from the recent 2022 Global Culture Report release by the workplace consultancy.

“We asked employees what was easier to do from home and what was harder to do from home, and they told us that it was harder for them to do things like collaborate, advance their career and make those vital social and emotional connections from a distance – they really wanted the office for that,” says Stettler.

For those employees who will be working sometimes from home and sometimes in the office, it’s important to consider the key differences of both perspectives.

“When they’re in the office, think of it as the ultimate cultural incubator and maximize those opportunities for them to collaborate and brainstorm together, to be mentored and advance their career, to be visible in that space and to make those vital social and emotional connections.”

And while the same employees are at home, according to Stettler, that is the best time for “do more creative and deep thinking to meet deadlines from home.”

Balance is key

For HR people and leaders, balancing the needs of employees and the business imperative will be key, says Stettler.

“We can all agree that employees work best within frameworks and guidelines that everyone agrees upon but we also need to adjust for added personalization, and flexibility,” she says.

“Some people working remotely, it has been the best thing in the world; for others, it’s been a challenge, either dealing with added stress from family, kids or pets, and others dealing with loneliness and isolation. And so being able to add that personal touch and saying, ‘Hey, do you need more office time? Or do you need less office time? Or how do we maximize the best possible outcomes for your role, for your responsibilities and for your personal life?’”

As well, setting clear work-time expectations and working guidelines is important to help preserve employee wellbeing that will result in an increase in many management benchmarks.

“Someone said, ‘Hey, I can’t even log off at 9:30 or 10 at night because I feel that pressure to remain on at all times,’ and so when organizations set clear expectations about the availability when working remotely, we see some great increases in engagement, like a 96-per-cent increase in engagement, a 121-per-cent increase in leadership score, and a 52-per-cent increase in wellbeing,” says Stettler.

Wheel of culture

There are six aspects of culture that matter most to employees, she says, and each one plays an important role as “talent magnets for their power to attract, connect and retain talent.”

Begin by connecting to the company’s purpose, which matters more and more to new generations just entering the workforce, she says.

“We’ve seen that, especially this year, that role of purpose in helping people remain connected to what they do at work and how they’re delivering on not only the organization’s mission but as we look at our younger generations, they have to have a deep sense of purpose and meaning right in their work and so purpose has played a big role this year.”

Then, ensure that employees have both opportunity to grow and develop and follow that with success, she says.

Up next? “Feelings of gratitude and appreciation of being seen, heard and valued,” says Stettler, and with this comes “wellbeing – not just physical health, but overall social, emotional, financial, and psychological safety.”

The last spoke on the culture wheel is establishing “a connection to leadership and your leader; if you feel connected to your leader, you have a champion in your corner who is going to connect you to these other various talent magnets,” says Stettler.

The six areas will be important to consider in returning the connection to the workplace culture that has “wreaked havoc,” she says. 

“When you look at all that we have experienced across society – whether that has been social distancing and isolation, political polarization, misinformation, racial tensions –  all of these have put us at odds with each other and kept us at a distance from an organizational perspective. ‘Normal’ left the office last March, when we all went home; frontline workers were separated from remote workers; budgets tightened; many companies experienced a series of furloughs and layoffs; and it produced an every-person-for-themselves attitude.”

Meanwhile, better leadership is sorely needed according to one survey, while employee experience is becoming even more important, according to experts.

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