Building a strong culture in a hybrid workforce
Stephen Heathcote, CEO, PrimeGlobal speaks to firms who are positively embracing the challenge of hybrid working, looking at ways to break old cultural habits and implementing new styles that will suit a new breed of employee
Since the pandemic, many organisations are embracing hybrid working and allowing their employees to have a more flexible way of working. In a recent survey by IWG, a global provider of office workspace solutions, 88% of job hunters said hybrid working was as important as financial benefits when looking for a new job. Companies who don’t offer hybrid working options are going to struggle to find the best candidates for their positions. But how do organisations embrace this hybrid way of working whilst also building a strong culture which is accessible and engages employees both in the office and working from home?
Culture is created by people, not bricks and mortar
Culture isn’t created by having a physical office or a logo behind the reception desk, it is created by people and the leaders of an organisation.
A flexible hybrid working model has a positive impact on culture by giving employees autonomy and trusting them to organise their own working day which results in a highly motivated workforce.
Recognising a flexible approach to employee working arrangements is high on the agenda for US firm Katz Sapper Miller (KSM) which has led to a productive and engaged workforce.
KSM’s work-from-home philosophy empowers their employees to work remotely, whether on occasion, a few times a week, or on a full-time basis. Today, many of their employees work a hybrid schedule, which provides both the flexibility that comes with working remotely – from home or elsewhere – and the benefits of working in the office, including collaboration and camaraderie.
CEO & President
KSM’s CEO & President Tim Cook shares “Our remote work philosophy is built on trust and three principles our employees have committed to – being productive, effective, and connected, no matter where they’re working.”
Multi-channel approach to internal communications
Good communication is key to building a strong culture, sharing values and encouraging collaboration. Effective internal communications across a hybrid workforce require more thought as ideas that work excellently for a predominantly office-based workforce may need to be adapted for a working from home scenario.
Joanknecht, a firm based in the Netherlands, uses a mix of channels to keep their teams informed, whether working at home or in the office. Joanknecht’s Head of Marketing, Marlies Vervoordeldonk explains “To keep everyone updated about the firm’s progress, a weekly email is sent every Monday morning at 7am with company news about clients, employees, collaboration, and results. We also have WhatsApp groups to share updates like team celebrations and more informal news.”
Head of Marketing
In a similar way and to help facilitate connections between remote-based employees and those working in offices, KSM has also established a resource group for fully remote employees focused on creating opportunities to connect and engage with colleagues across the firm through learning opportunities, social events, and recognition.
Joanknecht also recognises the importance of providing opportunities for employees to come together in-person away from their usual work environment. These away days enable employees to focus on connecting as a team and absorbing the collective culture. “Recognising and rewarding staff is a cornerstone of our culture, we aim to celebrate achievements together, within teams or as a whole company, like our annual summer barbeque party. Our whole team is especially looking forward to our firm trip to Ibiza next year because of the company’s 75th anniversary” adds Vervoordeldonk.
Re-imaging the office for a new way of working
The office experience also plays an important role in a firm’s culture for hybrid workers, as when employees do come to the office, the physical environment can help them feel engaged and part of the organisation.
With this in mind, office space design is being adapted for the new hybrid workforce. Most hybrid workers go to the office two or three days a week, so it’s important when they are there, that the workplace experience is a positive one. Companies are redesigning their physical offices to include collaborative team working spaces, hot desks, social spaces, and wellbeing areas.
In response to the shift in working trends brought about by Covid-19, UK firm Carpenter Box refurbished their office which now offers a "hybrid-model perception that office space should be maximised for conversation and collaboration opportunities".
Alan Edwards, Managing Partner at Carpenter Box explains that their three-story building, has been fully revamped with the wellbeing of the firm’s 200 office employees “at the heart of the design”. Key features include important ‘break out’ zones with banquette seating and acoustic rafts to support social engagement and collaboration.
Edwards added: “The pandemic has changed the world of work as we know it. So, we decided to take our learnings from this experience to reconfigure a positive workplace environment suited to the needs of modern-day life.
“It was important to us to create a space that reflects our people-centric culture that employees can look forward to visiting, and we couldn’t be happier with the finished result.”
Joanknecht also realise in-office experiences are important for their hybrid employees. Putting a focus on the workplace experience for their 130-strong team at their head office is a key focus for them as they recognise these face-to-face opportunities are important for their employees. The firm runs monthly birthday celebrations, all-company social events, and fresh and healthy lunches to allow employees to spend time together.
Hybrid working is here to stay so leaders need to adapt their ways of working and look at different ways of embedding their company culture with their hybrid workforce, whether through different ways of communicating or making the physical office experience more engaging.