The future of work is on everyone’s mind—and one theme that we’ve seen pop up time and again is re-establishing organisational culture. The things we were usually so reliant on to amplify culture are no longer available to us, so we need a fresh approach to better fit the hybrid future of work!
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing amongst our customers right now is a mutual feeling of disconnect—not just from workplace culture but from our coworkers too.
And not taking action to combat those problems can have a negative (and long term!) effect on inclusivity and belonging; so we absolutely need to put the right steps in place.
To help you create a culture that works with your new and improved ways of working and find that connection again, we’re sharing the most common themes and trends we’re seeing in our community right now—alongside some recommended strategies and top tips to help get you on the right track.
What is the future of work characterised by?
We’ve been in crisis management mode for some time now; leaders had to revert to focusing on the utilities that make sure employees have the resources they need to be able to work remotely, leaving less space to concentrate on more human-led practices which bring fulfilment and meaning.
And that’s just not a sustainable approach for the future of work. Once the more practical things linked to remote and hybrid working—like home working setups and collaborative tech or spaces—are ironed out, we need to drive forward those more human-centric elements of work.
Everyone is questioning their old ways of working and whether they have a place in their future of work, so much so that many people will look for a new role when they don’t get their working preferences from their current employer. We want more remote working for flexibility and offices for collaboration; but with that comes a handful of challenges.
So, here are the three key concerns—particularly around culture in remote and hybrid teams—that myself and the People Science team at Hive have been hearing a lot of from our community of HR practitioners:
a. Many don’t understand or feel the presence of culture
There are a handful of levels to this one within hybrid teams. Think about your newest team members, who might struggle to find their feet because there’s no real or clear culture in play. Then, you have long-standing employees who miss what the culture was pre-pandemic. The issue? There’s no clear distinction between what was and what we’re aiming to create as we try to figure out what culture means to us in the future of work.
b. Inclusion and belonging have taken a hit
Many people are only really connecting with their coworkers about work issues, because we’re missing out on spur of the moment conversations that help to build better relationships and all of the other social aspects that come with sharing a communal workspace. It disrupts our ability to make and maintain friendships because it takes away our ability to organically and authentically bond—a vital part of any strong culture.
c. Boundaries between work and life are blurred
The lack of physical barrier between home and office has resulted in more and more of us working longer hours than ever before, resulting in “always-on” concerns. It’s not a sustainable approach for our wellbeing and productivity. That global experience of all-work and no-play has shone a light on the importance of work-life balance, wellbeing and mental health support.
So, what can I do about it?
We’re transitioning into a recovery phase, so this is the perfect time to define what your desired hybrid culture is.
We need to start by assessing whether our current practices—which most likely originated when we were all in survival mode—are still fit for purpose or whether need to be evolved to make sure they are cultivating connectivity and inclusivity.
Our collective sense of purpose and belonging has taken a hit. So, we need to focus on what we’ve learnt about employee engagement this past year, and make sure everything we do is underpinned by what gives us meaning and fulfilment.
Now, let’s dig into how you can do that…
How do you prepare for the future of work?
The future of work is hybrid, flexible and purposeful. But what that means to every organisation or individual—and how you prepare for it—will be totally different. And, if organisations don’t pivot everything from culture to policies they’re missing an ocean of opportunity.
Let’s use Team Hive as an example:
Prior to the pandemic, our culture was very office-centric. We always had the flexibility to work from home or allow people to travel, but our team were all based in Newcastle and using the office most days.
Now, we have team members based across the country from London to Newcastle, one member who returned home to Australia to work (meet Tim!), and one who has been able to travel home to India for six weeks to get married (meet John!). We widened the recruitment search, too, and we’ve been able to bring expertise into our team that we might have been missing out on before because we haven’t limited our recruitment to those local to our HQ.
We’ve learned a lot from our own teams as well as our amazing customers over the past year. So, here are some of our hybrid working best practices and top tips:
1. Repurpose your meetings
In our People Science team meetings, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are focused purely on work so we’ve been able to make them more strategic, more productive, and more beneficial for everyone.
Then we have our Wednesday & Friday meetings, which are more social and we use them to catch up in a much more informal way and recreate the smaller day-to-day interactions that we all miss out on—like what we’re having for our dinner or what we’re getting up to at the weekend!
To get started with repurposing your meetings, ask your team:
- Are your current meetings too long?
- Are they productive?
- Are they absolutely necessary?
And, to be inclusive, make sure all meetings are done at a time when everyone is available regardless of their location of choice.
2. Have regular team check-ins
Manager check-ins have received a lot of credit recently; they’re so important in managing wellbeing, engagement, productivity… you name it. But regular check-ins across teams and levels are just as important.
Utilise communication channels to encourage more sociable conversations—we have a chat thread for dogs, one for bad jokes, one for books… the list goes on! We’ve always got a conversation starter or two, and since they’re public, anyone can join in with the fun as and when they want.
3. Expand your recruitment
Really open up your recruitment and consider allowing people to work fully remote. A lot of culture, including development and collaboration, are so deeply rooted in an office environment that it can seem like a daunting shift to make, but there are so many benefits to remote working.
Like we mentioned earlier, thanks to remote working we’ve hired new team members who bring a new area of expertise into Hive. While that’s great for us, it’s also great for our customers who now get face-to-face (or more like screen-to-screen!) time with members of the team who specialise in specific areas of engagement and experience, meaning we’re offering the best service we can.
4. Look out for your leaders, too
Managers and leaders have been a huge support system for everyone this past year, but it’s not unseen for them to be overlooked during periods of uncertainty and organisational change.
They need to feel confident enough to be able to support people in an effective way, so whether that means upskilling their soft skills or ensuring they’re being checked in on themselves, make sure to keep an eye on them. A lot of their energy goes into making sure other people are okay, and they deserve the same to make sure they’re happy, engaged, and just all-round doing okay!
People are more invested in a future they help to create
While leaders are trying to establish organisational culture in a hybrid world, it’s important to recognise changes on an individual level.
We’ve all had the collective experience of a pandemic, but not every experience has been universal; there are so many demographic factors that come into play that affect our personal experiences and the lessons we’ve learned throughout.
That’s why bringing in the collective ideas and insights of your people will help to define what culture really means to your organisation, all while motivating people to act out behaviours that align with that culture every day.
Psychological contracts have changed—the pandemic has made many of us reassess our own personal values, requirements, and what our expectations are of an employer of choice.
Plus, there are things some of us have gained that we’re reluctant to give up, like the extra time we’ve gained with family and friends thanks to things like a lack of commute which frees up our evenings.
Those are the types of important messages emerging that we have to pay attention to.
And the only way to really understand how to create an employee experience that benefits everyone is to listen; employee voice is key to understanding both individual and organisational needs and how to correctly act on them.
So, what future of work trends are you seeing in your organisation right now? There’s no one-size-fits-all, so whether you’re looking to:
- Understand the key drivers of engagement,
- Create a hybrid working model that suits your people,
- Or simply check in on how people are feeling right now…
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