In 2021, creating a hybrid culture at your company is a necessity. Hybrid schedules and hybrid workplaces have been buzzwords in recent years that signify the slow embrace of more flexible policies, but as we now approach the return to office anda post-COVID-19 world, hybrid culture has proven to be less of a trend and more of a base-line essential quality of organizations intent on keeping up with the ever-changing needs of their employees.

As we progress closer to the return to office after over a year of remote work and millions of employees around the world working from home, companies both big and small are taking a long, hard look at everything from their workplace policies and guidelines to their infrastructure and software in order to best support their hybrid employees. New research shows that 89% of European companies will adopt a hybrid work model, prompting the need for changes to the physical office environment and workplace culture as organizations transition during the return to office.

This transition is due in large part to the preferences of the employees themselves. With 1 in 2 employees saying they won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19 and 80% of employees saying that they expect to work from home at least 3 times a week moving forward, it is becoming clear that to not create a hybrid culture could mean losing your top talent to companies that do.

While hybrid culture can’t be embedded in your company overnight, the work to create a truly hybrid workplace environment has already begun and for organizations who may feel unprepared for this shift, there is an abundance of tools and resources available to assist you on your journey to creating a more flexible workplace. Let’s take a closer look at how you can begin implementing a more hybrid culture at your company.

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What does hybrid working look like?

Simply put, hybrid work is any combination of remote and in-person work. Companies with hybrid cultures allow their employees to work on hybrid schedules— where they work remotely some of the time and on-site at other times— as well as have rewired their offices to better support these hybrid workstyles. On paper, hybrid work is a clear-cut approach to melding all of the best qualities of both remote and in-person work. However, the realities of hybrid work are much more nuanced than simply meshing these two styles.

When crafting your approach to embedding a hybrid sense of work into your company culture, it’s important to remember that no two companies can (or should) approach hybrid work in the same way. Depending on your company's specific priorities, employee preferences, and limitations, hybrid work can look and feel like any number of things. The nature of hybrid work is inherently customizable, embracing this factor will allow for you to create more natural and sustainable hybrid workplace policies at your organization than if you were to say, only implement hybrid changes that you’ve seen at work at other companies. 

15Five's Secret to Hybrid Culture

Hybrid culture is not one size fits all. Take 15Five’s approach for example. When employee management and performance company 15Five began embracing a more flexible workplace culture, the decision to embrace hybrid work was obvious— and necessary when you consider that the 15Five team is distributed across headquarters in three different states, in addition to having remote employees in six countries.

The path to creating a sustainable hybrid culture wasn’t straightforward, and instead it required them to overcome some preconceived notions about hybrid work in order to keep their focus on the culture. When we talked to Shane Metcalf, co-founder and Chief Culture Officer of 15Five, he explained that people used to perceive distributed teams as “culturally weak.” Their team took that idea and flipped it on its head, defining one of the first hybrid cultures out there.

So, how exactly did the 15Five team manage to gracefully establish a hybrid culture? According to Metcalf, they became “hyper-focused” on the culture to make all team members feel connected, despite only meeting in person a few times a year.

Metcalf was also quick to remind us that the strength of your hybrid culture lies in how well you support your hybrid employees. After all, the root of hybrid culture is collaboration. If a company were to begin implementing hybrid policies without keeping the lived experiences of their hybrid workers in mind then they wouldn’t be collaborative policies. 

15Five had an interesting approach to keeping their eye on the needs of their employees, “One of the first things you need to factor into the hybrid team culture equation is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Those needs include physiology and safety, and then the third need is a sense of belonging. One of the great dangers of remote work is that people might not feel involved in or attached to the company, and there are some simple solutions to that risk,” said Metcalf. “We can't always do this, but once a year, we bring everybody together from around the world.”

Managing & Supporting Hybrid Teams

A primary component of hybrid culture is how well a company supports their hybrid teams. No hybrid employee is an island unto themselves— no matter how far away they are from their teammates. And for hybrid employees who are on the newer side of hybrid or remote work, being a high-functioning hybrid teammate may come with a learning curve and require more hands-on attention than a company is used to giving. 

To ensure that the needs of your hybrid employees and teams are met, create an open line of dialogue from team leaders to leadership teams. Upholding communication standards is necessary for any type of company, but the more distributed your teams are, the more essential it is to make sure every member of your team feels heard. The moment an employee feels lost and unsupported is the moment their work performance begins to suffer. The other component of support that hybrid teams require is technical support, mainly— being outfitted with all of the necessary tech tools and training to support their flexible workstyles.

There are two sides of supporting hybrid teams with tech: supplying them with the tools they need to work remotely and rewiring your office spaces to better support on-site hybrid work. When working remote, the software and hardware that hybrid team members require includes:

  • Video conferencing platform
  • Smart video camera
  • Speaker and microphone
  • Messaging app
  • Document sharing software
  • Project management software

On the days when hybrid employees are working from the office, their technology needs don’t change. However, there are many ways you can revamp and refurbish your office space to create workspaces designed to optimize hybrid work. Some of the ways you can rewire your office space to support hybrid teams include:

  • Creating tech rental stations so employees don’t have to lug all of their equipment with them on days that they work from the office.
  • Constructing streaming rooms and huddle rooms equipped with video conferencing software for small hybrid team meetings.
  • Redesigning your conference rooms to better support hybrid meetings, like swapping your long rectangular meeting room table out for a circular one to create a more inclusive conference room atmosphere.
  • Design meeting rooms with hybrid collaboration in mind, like by including smart whiteboards and smart video cameras
  • Install video conferencing phone booths for impromptu 1:1 virtual meetings between on-site and remote teammates
  • Redesigning your communal spaces to include more flexible furniture options, so teams of all sizes feel supported when they meet in person
  • The use of occupancy sensors to monitor where the available workspaces are in your office, to make it easier for hybrid employees to find open space on days where they work from the office

Hybrid Teambuilding Best Practices

The art of hybrid teambuilding comes naturally for some companies, but organizations new to hybrid work may find themselves struggling to piece together the perfect, most effective hybrid teams. Then, once you have formed your super groups of hybrid workers, how do you keep them connected with your company culture when they are distributed? To ensure no hybrid employee goes unaffected, keep these hybrid teambuilding best practices in mind when managing hybrid teams:

  • Create opportunities for casual connection, such as hybrid team happy hours on Fridays to celebrate the end of another successful work week or hybrid team coffee catchups on Monday mornings to bring everyone up to speed on expectations for the week ahead.
  • Create shared experiences that can be done anywhere. For example, hybrid teams can participate in community initiatives independently then come together virtually to share their experiences with each other.
  • Remember to celebrate hybrid team success through virtual celebrations, boxed events, or even themed days to foster camaraderie.
  • For distributed hybrid teams where no two employees live in the same communities, take turns doing “hometown tours” where each employee sends staples of their neighborhood to their teammates— like local craft beer, coffee beans from a local brewer, or even the recipe of a popular regional dish— and they all meet virtually to share in the experience.

The secret to building a hybrid culture at your company that prioritizes the needs of your employees, while establishing a collaborative and trust-based environment is simple— listen to your hybrid employees. When crafting your hybrid company culture is approached as a joint effort that benefits every member of your organization, you will all benefit. For our complete guide to establishing a sustainable hybrid culture, here are Tools for Navigating the Return to Office.

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