What does a seamless hybrid corporate culture look like?

Apple recently made headlines about its back-to-office policy. According to a note from CEO Tim Cooke, it is crucial that staff spend at least three days in the office a week, to preserve the “the in-person collaboration that is so central to our culture”.

Cooke has faced backlash over the tenure, with employees saying he could “stifling diversity and well-being”. Their view is consistent with employees able to work remotely around the world, including nine out of 10 like to have a degree of flexibility to work remotely if needed.

Corporate culture is constantly changing to reflect the people who make up the organization at any given time, and therefore cannot be effectively mandated from the top down. Companies would therefore benefit from thinking about how they can build a hybrid company culture that all employees can benefit from, whether they are remote or in the office.

As the company changes, so does its culture.
A corporate culture arises from what people see, feel and hear when they are at work. Behaviors and actions that are commonplace in an organization organically feed into a company’s culture. These may be guided to some degree by the values ​​of the organization, but are also shaped by the personal values ​​and life experiences of the employees.

The corporate culture is therefore not explicitly defined. Instead, it is often implied by various factors such as dress code, office layout, hours of operation, benefits, how the team celebrates success or deals with failure and , above all, the way people communicate with each other.

As the workplace becomes more flexible, a number of new characteristics have been added to the list of aspects that define a company culture. Digital transformation has resulted in the onboarding of waves of new talent, as well as new digital approaches to talent management. Organizations increasingly favor flatter structures and more autonomous ways of working, resulting in a less hierarchical corporate culture. Consumers and employees are scrutinizing the moral positions of organizations as diversity and sustainability increasingly feature on the social agenda. And, of course, hybrid work can also be added to this list.

Hybrid working is just one of many changes that organizations have experienced in recent years. Successful companies will always experience changes in their corporate culture based on changing behaviors and trends – it’s all part of growing. Organizations that don’t follow are likely to be left behind.

Establishing a corporate culture adapted to a hybrid environment
The culture of hybrid organizations will inevitably be different from the culture of office-oriented organizations. There are unique challenges associated with employees being located in different places, such as communication cadences and styles, reduced organic interaction, and different barriers to engagement. But, these challenges are certainly not impossible to solve.

Building a corporate culture in a hybrid environment starts with build confidence in the workforce. Even though people work from different locations and managers can’t always physically see them working, that doesn’t mean the team is inefficient. Managers should aim to foster a sense of common purpose and trust, applying empathy and listening skills to establish that their team is effective, despite geographic distance.

In addition to these unique aspects of hybrid culture, there are certainly core elements of a positive company culture that remain important across all work models. At present, according to MIT Sloan Management Review, employees prioritize elements such as respect, integrity, learning and development in their organization’s culture. These aspects can be offered regardless of where an employee works, but companies need to think about how they should fit into a hybrid environment. For example, a hybrid business should consider new approaches to learning and development that effectively leverage technology. Establishing a hybrid company culture is about ensuring that every employee has a positive work experience, regardless of their geographic location.

Integrate coaching to generate positive experiences
When taking steps to incorporate these aspects that could benefit a hybrid culture, organizations can consider engaging in workplace coaching. Coaches can work with coachees to examine their current work culture and open meaningful dialogue between leaders and employees. It is important to remember that every employee contributes to the overall culture of an organization and therefore every employee can benefit from coaching, from beginner to CEO.

Fostering a positive work culture in a hybrid environment is about accepting the wants and needs of employees alongside those of the business. Company culture no longer revolves around in-person collaboration, as workers are now able to collaborate effectively in new and innovative ways despite distance. The current corporate culture methodology is more of a reflective, inclusive, and thoughtful approach to how we provide and receive communication – organizational traits that certainly go beyond the walls of an office building.

Norma A. Roth