The five cultural pillars essential to a successful hybrid workforce

- June 30, 2022 4 MIN READ

With the shift to a more flexible working environment for many businesses, comes an inevitable change in the culture of the workplace. Scott Stein, author of Leadership Hacks: Clever shortcuts to boost your impact and results, shares the five essential cultural pillars that must underpin any hybrid working setup.

We want more flexible work with the ability to go into the office or work from home. PWC’s Future of Work report showed 90 per cent of people want some form of hybrid or remote workplace.

The trick for many companies is finding the right strategy to keep people performing, and still be able to retain a positive team culture.

Here are five key cultural pillars that are important in making this shift toward a more flexible hybrid workplace.

Cultural Pillar #1:  Trust

It is easy to trust a colleague when you can see them working right next to you in the office, but when working remotely, this is a bit more challenging.

One of the biggest reasons why remote work was not common before the pandemic was the challenge that many leaders had in trusting that their people would actually do work from home, rather than get side-tracked.

Trust enables communication, teamwork, commitment and productivity to occur across an organisation. Without trust, things break down and people stop working collaboratively. In a high-trust culture, staff are not afraid to speak the truth and are open to feedback from others, regardless if they are in person or remote. They are also proactive at sharing information in a consistent way that builds trusting relationships.

hybrid work is here to stay

Cultural Pillar #2:  Expectations

Without clarifying expectations and targets, it can be challenging for staff to know what is expected of them. For many leaders, having staff regularly working remotely means they will need to find new ways to improve their communication of what they expect, or they risk falling into the pattern of constantly asking for updates and being seen as micromanaging their people.

Both leaders and staff need to clarify their expectations of each other regularly. This includes communicating timeframes for completing projects, and providing feedback when these timeframes are unrealistic given current workload.

Cultural Pillar #3:  Accountability

Accountability is simply who is responsible for what, and by when. Regardless of the traditional organisation chart, people need to find a way to hold themselves accountable and know who to go to for other accountable tasks.

A hybrid and remote workplace can make this more challenging as it can be more difficult to see who is completing which tasks. This often occurs when one department is waiting on another department for information, activity or results.

When you have a culture of accountability, people work together to find solutions for problems, regardless of their title or position. They deliver results because they don’t want to let others down, and also hold others responsible for their actions in a supportive way if they are in the office or working remotely.

Man on video call working remotely

Cultural Pillar #4:  Accessibility

Traditionally when working in the office, you are expected to be accessible to others – it is easy to see if you are working at your desk or not. The challenge with a hybrid workspace is that we are accessible 24/7.

During the pandemic many staff felt exhausted because digital communication continued non-stop, without any ability to switch off. The challenge around accessibility is how it affects work-life balance.

When working in a hybrid workplace with remote staff, accessibility needs to be clarified. Without clarification, unrealistic expectations could occur, which may lead to trouble retaining top talent who do not want to have to respond to emails coming at all hours of the evening.

Cultural Pillar #5:  Community

When we work side by side with someone else, we get to know them at a deeper level because we are observing their behaviour and can see (and experience) when they are happy, excited, frustrated or fatigued. The benefit of being around them physically in an office is that we often have the chance to interact with them whilst they are going through these emotions, which binds us together even more as a community.

For people working remotely, this can create a challenge and the feeling of being isolated from the others collectively working in the office environment. The Steelcase Global Report showed that isolation ranked the highest issue among those surveyed when working remotely.

Whilst a hybrid workplace will not have people working on their own the entire time, organisations will need to find ways to build a sense of belonging.

With staff wanting the flexibility of a hybrid workforce, it will be up to business leaders to find a way to develop and strengthen a unified culture that allows staff to be both productive and happy.

By focusing on these key areas, you have a better chance of developing a successful hybrid culture.

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