How Company Culture Can Pull People Together When Working Apart

Pop quiz: What’s the status of your company culture right now? If you’re thinking everything’s just fine and there’s no need to worry, it’s time for a pulse check. As leaders, one of the most important tasks we should be undertaking right now is assessing current culture and, where necessary, redefining it and strengthening it so it will better meet the needs of the new hybrid workplace.

We all know maintaining a positive culture isn’t just good for employee morale. It’s also a major contributor to employee retention, company stability, ongoing productivity, and revenue growth.

But in this new hybrid workplace, defining culture is just one part of the equation. The second — and, arguably, more important — part is ensuring its adoption across multiple teams through various channels. Because what culture looked like 18 months ago is nothing compared to what it looks like now.

Pre- Vs. Post-Pandemic Culture

Pre-pandemic organizational culture was relatively easy to define and implement. Ensuring a collective set of expected behaviors, objectives and outcomes was simpler when everyone was in the office. Company directives could be achieved and culture strengthened through team meetings, off-sites, friendly connects and general dissemination of information.

As we’re now firmly entrenched in the summer of 2021, it’s clear that company culture has taken a major hit. It’s been eroded, weakened and diminished. What was once a robust tool for management has lost much of its impact. Why? Because in the hybrid workplace, it’s difficult for people to be part of something when they no longer get together on a regular basis. Teams can’t connect the same way they did before. Groups that were in place prior to the pandemic may no longer even exist.

Dynamics have changed. Priorities have shifted. It’s time for action.

Re-Establishing Vs. Redefining The Culture 

Now is the perfect opportunity for us as leaders to reassess our current culture. We need to decide if what we had is still viable and worth preserving. If so, we need to take steps to re-establish and further strengthen it.

Alternatively, we also need to determine if changes are in order. Is there a new purpose or vision for the company? Get clarity on how it will affect culture going forward. Tip: Be intentional about making changes. Your employees will resist initiatives that don’t have a perceived positive value or direct impact.

Cultivating Culture In A Hybrid Workplace

Fostering a strong, solid organizational culture in a hybrid workplace will take ingenuity, dedication and a certain amount of finesse. Leaders must connect with their teams to determine the best ways to not just work but build rapport as well. Here are a few areas to focus on when cultivating an organizational culture in a hybrid workplace:

Increasing accountability:

Before the pandemic hit, accountability was considered a key factor in helping build and maintain a strong culture. Through accountability, employees were reminded that what they were doing (i.e., their performance) was important and relevant to company success. It also provided opportunities to identify where performance was lacking and needed improvement. In a hybrid workplace, accountability will be even more critical than before. Tracking performance isn’t just an indicator of how hard people are working. It’s also a litmus test that lets management see the level of commitment to the company culture while serving as an indicator of where corrections or training may be needed.

Making sure there’s a shared purpose/transparency: 

It was easier to get buy-in from everyone when they were in the office. Now, leadership needs to be intentional with its messaging, making sure employees are aware of the importance of their individual work and how it contributes to the company’s overall health. At the same time, leadership must also be seen as being open, transparent and accessible.

Increasing employee engagement: 

With one-to-ones being augmented or even replaced outright with conference calls or video chats, taking steps to increase employee engagement will help ensure that the company culture is continually reinforced and strengthened. These are prime opportunities to perform quick checks on both individuals and teams to see how they’re feeling and if there are any issues that need flagging.

Avoiding team isolation: 

Those casual encounters at the water cooler or conversations over lunch are likely not happening as frequently as before. These activities helped break up team singularity so that group dynamics were expanded. In a hybrid workplace, people managers need to ensure teams aren’t working in isolation and are given both time and opportunity to connect with other members of the organization.

Developing soft skills: 

Soft skills should be encouraged, reinforced and, where necessary, further developed. These include important skills like communication, work ethic, time management, empathy, problem-solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution. Employees who exhibit many of these soft skills don’t just perform better, they also become essential members of a hybrid workforce.

Using technology to help keep culture strong: 

Technology isn’t secondary to your company anymore. It’s a vital pipeline, a conduit for culture because it’s the means needed to deliver information, messages, updates and programs. It’s front and center in the new hybrid workplace because it’s how people stay in touch, connected and informed.

Use Culture To Pull People Together When They Work Apart

What better tool than company culture to pull people together when they’re often working apart? As leaders, it’s the perfect time to actively seek out and identify new ways for people to connect and be part of the culture.

• Allow employees to help redefine the culture, if necessary, as this encourages both input and buy-in.

• Find ways that elements of the hybrid workplace can be used to build culture.

• Encourage more open-ended sharing and communication. Remember, not every meeting has to be focused on work, problems or performance.

While culture is often viewed collectively, it’s important to note that it’s also a matter of personal perspective for individual employees. It’s that personal connection that leaders must ensure is in place to cultivate a strong, viable and relevant company culture in the hybrid workplace.