Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a move from in-house working to in-the-house working. As we gain some distance from 2020, we will likely look back on that year as the catalyst that radically accelerated hybrid working arrangements. Most employees have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and setting their own schedules, and studies show a majority of employees would like to continue working from home at least part of the week. If companies choose to move forward with a hybrid work model, care must be taken to ensure corporate culture doesn’t take a hit, and employees continue to experience engagement and motivation leading to collaboration and productivity.
What Is Culture?
An organization’s culture consists of the shared beliefs and values established by corporate leadership that are reinforced and represented in every action taken. Culture shapes employee beliefs and behaviors. Effective leadership firmly upholds the company’s culture and ensures the proper messaging to employees through their actions. Employees emulate the actions observed by leadership thereby perpetuating and strengthening a company’s culture. The importance of corporate culture to an organization’s success cannot be stressed enough.
When employees have a shared sense of the company’s belief system and purpose, great things happen such as increased retention, better productivity, revenue growth and enhanced corporate image. How to sustain corporate culture in a hybrid work model with employees in-house, at-the-house and all places in between has become a hot topic among HR professionals.
Traditions matter and help form the structure and foundation of who we are at home, at work and, generally, in society as a whole. Traditions bring us comfort and a sense of belonging and give us an opportunity to celebrate, remember and even say, “Thank you.” While they may need to be reengineered a bit, companies should absolutely keep their traditions alive in a hybrid work model. Milestone once celebrated in person, can be celebrated virtually. Volunteer initiatives can have an online and in-person aspect. Brown bag lunches and happy hours can be held via Zoom. It matters less how a tradition is observed than that it remains part of a company’s identity.
The most effective face-to-face manager could be struggling with remote management in a hybrid work model. Managers who relied on personal interaction in the workplace to gauge worker productivity may have difficulty trusting that those same employees are being productive from home.
Research shows interest in employee monitoring software, such as keystroke recorders and message monitors, sharply increased in April 2020 and have remained high. Using monitoring software implies company leadership doesn’t trust its employees which can lead to employee disengagement, the precursor to lower productivity. Monitoring remote employees can also been seen as a micromanagement tool, another counterproductive force. In a hybrid work model, companies must be deliberate about how they build and maintain trust with their employees. It is helpful to remember that transparency, a two-way openness between employees and management, builds trust.
Management should ensure employees are kept in the loop about corporate goings-on, whether big or small. Management should communicate with employees often and clearly, making no assumptions about information employees may or may not know. Employees should be kept informed of corporate decisions such as new hires (before the new hire’s start date), changes to benefits, new partnerships and the like. In terms of ensuring work gets done, the focus should be on results. Employees should be given the tools and support they need to do their work and left alone to make decisions and problem solve as much as possible.
Maintain Focus On Work-Life Balance
While certainly important pre-pandemic, work-life balance issues now have a new sense of urgency. Boundaries between work and family life have blurred significantly with employees feeling like they can never disconnect from work. Employees need to know companies have noticed and care about their workforce’s well-being. Work-life programs and initiatives in place pre-pandemic should certainly continue post-pandemic even in hybrid work environments.
If a company provided on-site emergency childcare pre-pandemic, why not offer emergency at-home childcare in a hybrid work environment? If a corporate gym was shuttered due to the pandemic, providing employees access to online exercise classes could be a good substitute. Companies should also remember messaging starts at the top and trickles down and throughout an organization. Employees appreciate a corporate culture in which the CEO prioritizes family, takes vacations and knows when to shut down the computer and turn off the phone for the day. Typically, the way in which corporate leadership demonstrates core values in their personal lives is indicative of how they demonstrate core values in the workplace.
Trusting employees to complete their work from a remote location doesn’t mean employees should be given unlimited “space” to work through issues and problems. Managers must be clear in their expectations and hold employees accountable for meeting goals and objectives. Accountability is essential to a strong corporate culture, because it shows that the company cares about how employees contribute to the success of the company.
Accountability also goes a long way towards ensuring fairness in the workplace, another tenet of a strong corporate culture. In a hybrid work model where employees are not in the office, they may not have a good sense of corporate goings-on including who is accomplishing what and who is being rewarded for accomplishments and held to account. In a hybrid work model, communication is paramount as a vehicle by which employees learn how work results in outcomes that are equitable for all.
Smart HR Can Help
Smart HR has helped numerous clients transition to a hybrid work model and can help you too. A Smart HR consultant can share with you what’s worked and hasn’t worked with other clients in an effort to make your transition a smooth one. Smart HR consultants are also well-versed in how to create and maintain a corporate culture in which employees feel valued, engaged and, therefore, productive resulting in a strong bottom line. Call today.