Maintaining company culture in a hybrid workforce

How to maintain company culture in a hybrid workplace.

It’s undeniable that the pandemic has made many of us realise that productivity doesn’t solely rely on the four walls of an office space. We’ve also seen the benefits that remote working delivers to our lives – from saving on travel expenses, to providing a better work/life balance.

Recent research found that four in every five (81%) UK SMEs have now embraced some form of remote or hybrid work culture. Which means companies are looking for ways to maintain their culture in a hybrid workplace, which means ensuring that their workers have the best of both worlds by enabling their teams to retain the benefits of working from home, while also giving them the choice to head back to the office should they want to.

This newfound flexibility is great for employees, but for business owners, it creates new challenges and unknowns. One of the most important challenges being: how do you retain your company culture in a hybrid workplace?

Here are three ways you can help foster a positive company culture with a team working both at home and in the office.

What is company culture?

A company's culture is its shared beliefs, practices, behaviours and values that ultimately make-up its working environment. Company culture influences the way workers communicate with each other, stakeholders, clients, suppliers and so on. Company culture can also be referred to as the 'working atmosphere' of an organisation, or the 'personality' of a company, in the sense that it often shapes workers' experiences. Company culture can also refer to its leadership style, how it motivates and engages employees, its approach to risk, decision-making, and behavioural norms.

It's no secret that a positive company culture can lead to increased staff productivity, higher staff retention and better job satisfaction. A negative culture can cause a toxic working environment that can be challenging, demanding and stressful. Creating a happy, healthy and supportive culture is important for any business.

Company culture, productivity and staff happiness when hybrid working

Offering a mix of remote and in-office arrangements can significantly impact staff wellbeing, happiness, productivity, and an organisation's culture. Putting a focus on flexibility and work-life balance can boost employee satisfaction with a hybrid model. Happy employees tend to be more productive, and with a hybrid working model, they can benefit from reduced commuting stress and the stressors and distractions of an office environment.

Effective communication and collaboration tools and technologies are important in helping to maintain company culture, bridging any physical distances. This is important to prevent feelings of isolation or work/life boundaries from becoming intertwined.

It may seem simple but ensuring that all employees experience the same ‘fun activities’ and ‘perks’ goes a long way in not only keeping the company spirit alive, but also ensuring that everyone feels that they are treated fairly. Those company lunches you put on once a month - consider offering those working from home the chance to also get involved by expensing a lunchtime treat they can buy locally.

Subject to local restrictions, start thinking about getting employees together again in small groups for fun team-building activities, if they feel comfortable doing so. A simple subsidised trip out to a pub terrace or a meetup in an outdoor area for games and food are good ways to start bringing your employees back together to catch up in a non-formal setting.

Ultimately, giving employees the flexibility to choose where they work from based on their personal schedule will not only help keep them happy and motivated, but you’ll be able to gain a competitive advantage as an employer by keeping your best talent on board.

Keep teams connected and communicating effectively

Communication is an essential aspect of teamwork and culture. It's vital to create an inclusive environment where your employees feel connected and heard, no matter where they're working. Recent Ipsos research showed that 52% of full-time workers used six or more business apps/programs to communicate each working week and wasted 62 working days per year toggling between them.

Consider integrating communication platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to help facilitate quick and easy discussions between team members.

All-hands company meetings are a staple of office working and during the shift to lockdown, many of us continued these (virtually) to keep everyone feeling connected. In a hybrid environment, there’s no reason this can’t continue – so long as you have the video conferencing platforms in place to connect those working from home with those in the office. Encouraging any speakers to turn on their cameras and address their colleagues like they would in the office is another good way to keep morale high and replicate the in-person experience.

If you have a remote-based team, or hybrid team that's working from home (or anywhere else in the world), you may want to consider Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral – a communications solution that adapts easily with your current infrastructure while integrating hundreds of business applications, so that the tools your employees need work together more seamlessly and effectively. Unifying communications with a tool like this can also make management simpler too, because there is only one supplier and one bill to deal with.

While meetings are important, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Too many meetings can be counterproductive and lead to video calling fatigue. Keep experimenting to find the right balance for your workforce to ensure meetings remain an effective form of communication and not an unnecessary distraction.

Finally, as we continue to adapt to hybrid working, encourage your employees to share their experiences. Whether through 1:1 catch-ups, team calls, or even anonymous online polls and surveys, gather and listen to feedback on a regular basis to ensure current setups are working for everyone.

The best tech tools for a remote work culture

To make the most of flexible working, employees should feel that they can work as productively and effectively from home as they do in the office.

Technology is a big part of creating a workplace that’s both flexible and enjoyable. At a basic level, supplying your workforce with the same quality of equipment they’d expect in the office goes a long way – from a monitor, keyboard and mouse, to bigger items such as an office chair and desk. But to fully enable your workforce to feel comfortable in their hybrid working environments, employees need reliable access to the tools and processes that they need to do their jobs properly.

That’s where a central cloud collaboration platform comes in. With systems such as Microsoft SharePoint, Slack and Asana, for example, enabling collaboration online has never been easier. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet, Word document or PowerPoint presentation, these systems can allow your employees to work on the same document in real-time, fuelling collaboration between teams.

Crucially, working this way also helps to keep track of version control, maintain quality and administration. Remember to also ensure that your employees are in the know about the latest in cybersecurity, so they can work efficiently from anywhere, while not putting the business at risk.

Here are some helpful collaboration tools that help to make hybrid working a breeze while maintaining a productive company culture.

RingCentral allows you to stay connected with colleagues and customers from anywhere with a broadband connection by bringing together all your communication tools in one place (voice calls, instant messaging, fax, online meetings)

Slack is a messaging platform that works in real time to enable quick communication and collaboration. Teams can use it to connect with each other and share information seamlessly.

Microsoft Teams
Teams works within the Microsoft 365 suite, and integrates chat, file sharing and video conferencing to keep everyone connected.

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that enables virtual meetings and webinars. It's a must for any hybrid working environment, connecting those who are working remotely with those in the office.

Asana is a tool that helps you keep track of project progress, collaborations, and tasks that are assigned to teams.

Trello is a project management tool that works like a to-do list. It uses cards to organise tasks, assign work and create deadlines, ensuring that all with access to a board can keep track of a project's progress.

Google Workspace
Google Workspace is a suite of cloud-based applications including Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, and Google Meet. Any hybrid or remote-based team will find all the tools they need to collaborate and work together from any location.
Monday helps teams track, manage and plan projects together, promoting transparency and accountability.

How to improve a workplace culture when remote working

By introducing some of the strategies below, you can continue to create a positive and inclusive remote workplace culture when members of your team are out of the office.

Clear communication
Ensure there are effective collaboration tools, messaging platforms and video conferencing apps that everyone can access to keep connected and to keep morale high.

Have regular video meetings
Video meetings help to encourage face-to-face communication, so have casual conversations, team meetings, check-ins and so on via video meeting to ensure that everyone is engaged and to create personal connections. You can also have virtual coffee-catchups to help people socialise with each other.

Promote team-building activities
To create stronger interpersonal relationships, organise team-building activities like quizzes, trivia games, online fitness challenges and other virtual games.

Celebrate achievements
Use emojis in message boards, have virtual announcements, or send a small gift in the post to someone working remotely – it all makes workers feel appreciated.

Offer flexible working hours
Flexibility with working hours acknowledges that employees have other commitments and enables them to have a better work/life balance (for example, the flexibility to pick their kids up from school). Trust your team to manage their own time, which creates a more inclusive culture.

Prioritise employee wellbeing
Give employees gentle reminders to not over-work, prioritise mental health support, and ensure that workers feel supported.

Promote open feedback
Check-in frequently with team members to get their opinions on workflows, procedures, successes and challenges.

Reinforce your company values
Communicate your company's values clearly and ensure staff know what is expected of them in terms of remote work practices.

For more information on how to maintain company culture in a hybrid workplace, and to discover our free business support helpline, speak to one of our Business Advisers by phone, contact form or web chat.

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