Is Hybrid Work Messing Up Your Culture?

Jan 23, 2023

Are you currently contemplating whether your team should work remotely, hybrid, or be in the office all the time?

In a recent Gallup study, 91% of workers say they prefer hybrid work; to work some days in the office and some days from home. 90% say they are as productive working remotely as being in the office. However, only 15% of the managers agree.

75% of executives say that they want their people back in the office. 64% of workers say they will consider quitting if being forced back into the office full-time.


Don't confuse "being on the office" with "culture".

The executives' main argument for having the employees in the office is "the negative impact remote work has on culture." But according to Gallup's recent findings, presented in the article Don't confuse "being in the office" with "culture," that argument doesn't hold water. 

With culture being "the way you do things," shaped by the team's collective mindsets and behaviors, the strength of a company culture is typically determined by how aligned and connected people are feeling to their organization. 

Gallup's research show that hybrid workers — among all types of employees — are the ones who are feeling most connected to their organization. In fact, 23% of hybrid workers strongly agree that they feel connected to their organization, compared with 20% of employees overall. You can read about the Gallup study HERE.

However, in another study, done by ADP research, 70% of in-office workers say they feel a strong connection to their organization, compared with 64% of the remote workers. You can read more ADP's Global Workplace study HERE.

This is obviously not a straightforward issue. The only thing that is certain is that hybrid work has come to stay, that it will be an interesting challenge for years to come, and that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to approach it.

Having helped companies build thriving, successful, hybridwork cultures for 2 decades, I know it can be done. But I also know that it requires focus, effort, and deliberate design.


Designing Hybrid Work Cultures

To give you a few examples; when I was Chief Culture Officer in the videoconference company TANDBERG in the early 2000s (a decade before hybrid work was even talked about) we deliberately designed a “video culture” so everyone should feel included, regardless of where they worked from. Simple things like having a video link in all meeting invites, encouraging people to spontaneously reach out on video (as if they would walk into each other's office,) having a tradition for virtual coffee and lunch meetings, and creating informal hang-out-places by installing video screens by the coffee machines in the offices, were things that worked really well for us.

In my years as Culture Strategist in Cisco, a company that has had a remote/hybrid work model for over 25 years, we trained leaders and teams in how to communicate, collaborate, and build trusting relationships virtually and how to build strong team cultures across geographies, local cultures and time zones. Cisco, a world leader in its industry, has been awarded The World's Best Workplace for a number of years, with 96% of the employees saying it's a great place to work.

In other words; when done right, technology can be a powerful culture enabler – regardless of where people are physically located. It is not where people work that determines the strength of a culture. It is how they feel about their work, their colleagues, and the company they work for. And how their managers feel about them.

And there lies the hybrid work culture, and leadership, opportunity for 2023 – and beyond.

"It's not faith in technology. It's faith in people." (Steve Jobs)

I wish you success, wherever you will be working from.