As the world gains more control over the Covid-19 pandemic and begins to reopen, companies are evaluating their long-term plans, with many shifting toward a hybrid working model.
This new workplace environment compels us to rethink how we manage employees, onboard new hires, and build inclusive cultures.
People managers (PMs)—the managers who directly supervise a team—will have the biggest impact on culture in this hybrid workplace. In fact, many workers say that their direct manager has the greatest influence over whether they feel engaged and committed to the company’s mission, with 53% of workers reporting they left their job because of their manager as per a recent SHRM report.
To successfully navigate these changes, PMs need proper training and mentorship from HR personnel on how to best manage teams in a hybrid environment. There are several ways HR managers can help PMs and the organization at large build a positive workplace culture.
What is Positive Workplace Culture?
Positive workplace culture is the set of values, expectations, policies, and behaviors that contribute to the social and psychological environment of an organization.
The work culture of a company is defined by different factors like its mission, vision, and core values. These factors further define the ethics, behavior, and expectations within a team.
Why Is Positive Workplace Culture Important?
Good workplace culture can help your employees stay mentally healthy and build a stronger bond with their colleagues. It also impacts their productivity and overall performance at work.
As an HR professional, you can play a key role in building an ideal work environment for your employees. Apart from motivating them to perform better, you should also pay attention to their mental health so that they can achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Why is Positive Workplace Culture Important for Hybrid Workers?
Building a positive culture in a hybrid workplace isn’t easy. It’s difficult to get remote employees involved in the company’s activities and decisions, as they most likely won’t be present for office meetings or team-building events.
The problem is also more prominent for HR personnel, as they’re responsible for managing company culture and promoting a positive work environment. As companies slowly work to bring employees back into the office, it’s imperative that HR leaders create a positive culture for hybrid workers.
The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, especially those who have had to divide their time between working from home and in-office. If employees don’t feel supported and comfortable at work, they’ll be less productive, less involved, and more likely to leave.
Best Practices for a Hybrid Work Environment
Accommodate Workers That Prefer Coming Into the Office
Some people thrive working from home: they’re able to focus on what they need to do and don’t have many distractions. They can get their work done quickly and go about their day. A stay-at-home environment is perfect for them because there are fewer interruptions and they can work at a pace that works best for them.
But this isn’t the case with others. Some people enjoy sharing office space with their coworkers because it allows them to not only focus on their work but also discuss projects face-to-face with their colleagues.
The social aspect of an office is also really important for their mental health and happiness at work, which is why a hybrid workplace is so ideal for them. They like being able to take breaks with their coworkers, grab lunch together, or simply just talk about life outside of work while having the flexibility to work from home when it is convenient to them.
Give Workers a Purpose
Culture is all about shared values. The best way to cement values is to articulate the purpose of the organization—and make sure employees can see how their role is connected to that purpose.
HR needs to create opportunities for people to connect with one another, share ideas, and learn about new projects. This gives employees a feeling of belonging and gives them a chance to see how their individual contributions are part of something bigger.
Embrace and Celebrate Interruptions
If an employee is working from home, it is easy to understand when they are interrupted by family members or pets during video calls. It is also easy and fun to include these pieces of your coworkers’ lives in conversations during a Zoom or Teams call.
However, when employees are back in the office, there are fewer distractions and interruptions from coworkers’ kids or pets. This may leave those who have children at home feeling left out, especially when their coworkers don’t make an effort to ask about their family or pets despite previous interruptions.
To avoid this problem, HR professionals should encourage workers to embrace and even celebrate these interruptions. Invite pets to be the star of the video call for a moment or be welcoming to children and spouses who may inadvertently or accidentally be seen or heard on a call.
Hire Based on Skills
Hiring for a hybrid workplace is different from hiring for an office-based environment, but the good news is that it doesn’t require much of a learning curve. You can apply the same principles to the hiring process for both types of environments.
The key difference is that you can hire based on skills and fit, not location. When you may have previously hired someone in a certain city because they were nearby and available, now it is best to hire someone who has the skills you need and who can do their job well in either an office or remote setting.
By keeping your focus on skills and experience instead of location, you can create a more positive work culture by building a team of high-quality employees who are capable of doing great work, regardless of where they’re located.
Evaluate Your Policies
As you transition back into the workplace or continue working remotely, look closely at your policies and ask hard questions like: Do you need to re-open in-person on a particular day? Does everyone have to be online at the same time? Can the Zoom call be an email?
When you think about your existing policies and processes through that lens, you may find some areas where adjusting can make life easier for everyone while still getting the job done. For example, it is likely easier for employees if you require online meetings to be scheduled ahead of time instead of sending out last-minute notifications.
Determine if any change needs to be made in order for your workforce to feel comfortable and productive. The key here is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so find out what works best for each team member.
Encourage Open Discussions Involving Pandemic Challenges
Even in the best of times, HR can be a thankless job. But during COVID-19, HR staffers have had to navigate uncharted territory and do so with empathy and grace.
Just being honest about the uncertainties of the past year is one way to help build a positive culture in a hybrid workplace. When people feel acknowledged for their efforts, they are more likely to respond positively and help support the culture of your organization.
Be transparent with your employees about the challenges they’ve faced as well as how you have personally struggled through the past year. Being open about your own issues will inspire them to be more candid with you and foster a more positive work environment.
The Final Word
A hybrid workplace is not a fad—it’s the future. But what does this mean for HR personnel?
HR professionals work hard to build healthy and positive cultures in the workplace. In recent years, they have been given even more responsibility, often managing training programs, budgets, and employee relations.
However, with a hybrid workplace, some of the traditional ways companies build culture are no longer relevant. Many of the initiatives that were designed to increase positive morale in the office can’t be replicated for remote employees.
In order to keep up company morale, HR professionals must create new strategies designed for a hybrid office environment.
Bear in mind that it takes time and effort to build a strong company culture but you can get a headstart today by taking courses that will help you learn how to build a positive workplace culture.
The Supervisors and Workplace Culture Course as well as the New Managers and Fostering a Supportive Work Culture Course are good programs to start with if you would like to know how you can cultivate a supportive workplace culture to push your team members to work at their best.
If you have fully remote workers, this article will help you learn more about how you can engage and motivate your team to peak performance.