Sep 19 2022

When It Comes to Hybrid Workplaces, Culture Matters More Than Tech

Having the right solutions in place is critical to supporting collaboration, but leaders must build hybrid culture intentionally.

Most businesses today support hybrid work environments, and that requires putting the right technology in place to ensure employees are productive and collaborative.

The good news on that front is that the tech that exists today is better than ever.

For example, collaboration technology providers recognized more than a year ago that the work world would eventually shift from all-remote to hybrid, and they have taken big steps forward in building solutions that support hybrid meetings.

At the same time, IT departments have been working overtime to stand up solutions that support not only hybrid meetings but entire hybrid workplaces. They’ve accelerated plans to adopt zero-trust security, developed hot-desking plans to accommodate workers in smaller offices and made sure staff have access to all the right endpoints wherever they need them.

Still, all that tech is only part of the equation — and not even the most important part. If there’s a secret ingredient to success in the hybrid work era, it’s corporate culture, not hardware or software. Leaders must work to make sure everyone in the organization feels included and connected, and they should strive to repair any sense of disconnection.

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What Is a Hybrid Work Culture?

What does it mean for a company to have a culture that’s purpose-built for a hybrid work world? It starts with leadership. As Gartner notes in a recent report, good hybrid work leaders must be “authentic, empathetic and adaptive to individual employees.”

Of course, those leadership qualities are vital in any environment, but hybrid work sharpens their importance because it forces businesses to compensate for the loss of in-person work, which functioned as a kind of cultural lubricant within many organizations.

“With employees working in distributed environments more often, executive leaders worry their organizations’ cultures will become fragmented and weaker, leading to lower levels of engagement, performance and innovation,” says Elisabeth Joyce, a vice president in Gartner’s human resources practice. Gartner notes that 76 percent of employees say “organizational culture is important for them to be effective in their jobs,” but in the past, many companies took culture for granted.

EXPLORE: Uncover ways to build diversity and inclusion into hybrid work.

How to Build a Healthy Culture in a Hybrid Environment

Gartner recommends strengthening connectedness in three ways: through the work itself, by making employees aware of the value of what they do and helping them shape their own work experiences; through “emotional proximity” by creating “moments that matter,” when employees are most likely to feel seen by others in the organization; and through smaller experiences, where teams of employees are empowered to create their own mini cultures.

However you do it, remember that a healthy corporate culture isn’t just a statement of values; it’s a series of actions taken by leadership to ensure people are embracing those values in their work every day.

In the absence of physical proximity, how is your organization fostering connectedness? What is it doing to ensure everyone is working together toward a common goal?

If you answered those questions by pointing to your new collaboration platform or a conference room recently equipped with the latest hard-ware, then you may be missing the point.

The available technology for supporting hybrid work is outstanding, but it works best in a culture designed to thrive in the modern world.

Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

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