Tips For Building Culture In A Hybrid Workplace
A few months ago, I surprised myself. After promoting one of our strongest employees to a senior account director position, I reflected back on her experience—she was hired over the phone during the pandemic, didn’t meet her direct manager in person for six months and has been fully remote ever since. It answered some questions I was unsure about: Can we effectively onboard employees in a remote world? How will it affect upward mobility? And more specifically, can someone who works from home really be impactful enough to get a promotion?
The answer is yes.
Business leaders often talk about the importance of innovation and creativity, but when it comes to the topic of working remotely, the innovation suddenly disappears. Many companies have forced everyone back into the office, citing a lack of communication and collaboration without those classic “watercooler” moments. I’ve even read several articles that suggest the only way to get promoted is to be physically present in the office, stating that remote employees will not receive a fair evaluation of their performance. To me, this thinking is stuck in the past, while remote work is our future.
Leaning Into A Hybrid Culture
Instead of forcing employees back into the office, I believe business owners should take accountability and be more creative in building a culture that meets the needs of their workforce. By listening to the needs of your employees, you can create more flexible solutions for employees looking to engage from afar. Rather than reluctantly allowing remote work, you can lean into the “problem” by meeting talent where they are (literally). With employees in Arkansas, New York, Colorado and beyond, we’ve built a highly productive and highly collaborative team without focusing on our own backyard. Employees are grateful for the flexibility, and it shows in their work.
To facilitate collaboration, we provide our teams with a certain psychological safety by offering a variety of tools and resources to support a more virtual workplace. While working from home at least some of the time is popular and preferred by most of the current workforce, it doesn’t change the challenges that arise when nobody is working in the same room. If not solved, those same challenges can then evolve into cracks in your culture—where people can feel disconnected and productivity can suffer.
Here are some tips on how to build culture within a hybrid model:
1. Be Purposeful With In-Person Events
Instead of requiring a certain number of days in the office, think creatively about ways to bring people together in person—such as workshops, social events, or annual reviews with clients. For our out-of-state team members, we also like to schedule annual “agency days” and invest in bringing our entire team together for in-person culture building. While culture days can sometimes evoke some eye rolls, you’d be surprised how excited remote employees are to simply spend a couple of days together.
2. Put Collaboration On The Schedule
It’s true that remote workplaces often struggle to re-create the impromptu, organic moments of collaboration that come with two employees running into each other in the office kitchen. And while it might sound a little clunky, it’s important to schedule time to have real dialogue about projects—especially during the brainstorming phase. While technology allows us to stay in contact on several different communication platforms, a 15-minute call can save you days of back-and-forth messaging.
3. Use A Variety Of Collaboration Tools
Speaking of those communication platforms, you need those too. Different team members may have different preferences when it comes to productivity and collaboration software. Speaking up on a large video conference call is an extremely specific skill, and one that your most brilliant employees might not have. Having a variety of collaboration tools ensures that all great ideas have an opportunity to prosper.
4. Invest In Innovation
Some could argue that the world of remote work is still in its infancy stage, and technology is still catching up. Which is why it’s important to invest in innovative tools that help you support remote employees. We started investing in burgeoning tools like 360 smart cameras and multidirectional microphones to create a hybrid, immersive experience that allows us to host larger in-person meetings while still including those who are not physically in the room.
The True Metric Of Success
Ultimately, the metric of success should not be the number of people present in the office, but rather the value of your employees’ impact coupled with their satisfaction with their experience. Sure, we’re all learning on the fly, but the goal remains simple—seek creative solutions and support the growth and development of your team members, even if they’re working from home.
This MODintelechy authored editorial originally appeared in Forbes Agency Council