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Bridging the Virtual Divide: The Importance of Building a Hybrid Culture and 5 Ways to Get Started

September 18, 2023

By: Alaina Sims

When it comes to hybrid work environments, I’ve seen (and worked in) most all variations. When I first started at Omnia as an analyst, our team was able to earn telecommuting privileges, working from home for up to three days a week. Years later, I became a fully remote employee, working totally from home, while most of my colleagues worked in the office. After the impact of Covid, Omnia decided to adopt a fully remote business model, so now everyone at the company works from home.

The hybrid work experience that has been the “old normal” to me for years has become new terrain that many businesses are learning to traverse. The option to work remotely presents many benefits, including less time spent commuting and greater work-life balance for employees as well as decreased overhead costs and improved retention rates for employers. However, when coworkers aren’t in the same proximity consistently, it can present some challenges in cultivating feelings of connectedness to the organization and to each other. But it is those very challenges that make it even more important to prioritize building a unified, thriving culture.

Hybrid workplaces may present some unique challenges to building a company culture, but they are not insurmountable. Alexia Cambon, a research director at Gartner says, “Instead of viewing hybrid work as a disruption to the cultural experience, leaders should see it as an opportunity to build culture differently.” With that in mind, here are 5 ideas for growing your company culture in a hybrid environment.

1. Prioritize communication

Communication is a critical component for building any business culture. When all employees are made aware of the direction and values of the organization and kept updated on its happenings, their buy-in and commitment increases. Conversely, when people hear about important company information secondhand or long after the fact, it makes them feel left out and disengaged.

Regular, transparent communication becomes even more crucial within a hybrid workplace. You may not be able to get all employees together in a physical conference room to discuss the latest KPIs, but you can schedule monthly or quarterly virtual meetings to give everyone updates about the organization.

Employees may work not only in different locations but also in different time zones or have different work schedules, so asynchronous methods of communication like email and messaging apps can also help ensure that everyone stays current on the latest plans and initiatives.

2. Encourage and facilitate collaboration

One of the drawbacks of employees not working in the same office is the lack of unplanned meetings in the hallway and impromptu conversations around the coffee maker that often spark great ideas. While working in different places may not be as conducive to spontaneity, collaboration is still possible — and necessary — for colleagues who aren’t always in the office together.

The variety of tools and apps available to help people collaborate is abundant, so put technology to work for your employees and your business! Video meetings, even with the camera off, can be a helpful tool to brainstorm ideas and plan projects. Task/project-management tools, document sharing platforms, discussion boards, and other apps make it easier for colleagues to work together, even if they are physically apart.

And don’t forget the power of a good, old-fashioned phone call!

3. Make time for downtime

The above-mentioned hallway and watercooler conversations help grow camaraderie among colleagues, but that does not have to stop in a hybrid workplace. Set weekly or monthly virtual meetings where employees can voluntarily get together and catch up with each other — no discussions about work allowed! A small investment of company time can reap big dividends by making employees feel more connected to each other and, therefore, the organization at large.

4. Be intentional with in-person events

Offer employees a few chances throughout the year to get together and see each other face to face. Consider designating a charity or community initiative to support, and set aside a day when employees can volunteer alongside one another. Or have everyone meet at a zipline course for a day of teambuilding. Whether through in-person all-company meetings or a communal day of recreation, providing opportunities for everyone to be together can facilitate bonding and rejuvenate feelings of togetherness.

5. Offer support

There is no shortage of headlines about business leaders who are skeptical about how remote work impacts their companies, but adjusting to a hybrid work model can be a challenge for some employees too. While most people who are offered flexible work arrangements will take them, they may benefit from guidance on effective methods for working productively and staying engaged in a hybrid environment.

Not merely signing paperwork and setting up equipment, effective onboarding offers companies the chance to review their work processes, values, and mission while also providing the training that establishes the foundation for new hire success. And yes, it can be done successfully even remotely!

Remote mentoring can be a valuable way to give new and tenured employees both a connection to a fellow colleague and guidance for staying engaged and productive while working in a fully or partially remote job. Incorporating virtual coworking sessions can also provide opportunities for the mentee to ask questions as they come up and mimic the feel of working together in person.

Behavioral assessments offer another avenue for supporting your employees in a hybrid workplace. Understanding a person’s natural traits and characteristics gives leadership insights on how that individual may excel working in a hybrid role as well as where they might have difficulties. Omnia’s Professional Development assessment gives our clients the option of selecting a remote work environment, and the report discusses the employee’s strengths and challenges in navigating a remote position while also offering management and motivational strategies.

Our Professional Development report is just one of the ways Omnia helps our clients hire right the first time and retain productive, motivated employees. Whatever your business environment, Omnia wants to be your trusted partner to help your business and employees thrive!


Alaina Sims

Alaina first joined Omnia in 2003 as an analyst and was sold on its mission from the start. So much so that, after a move and brief time away, she came back in 2013 and now works as the Senior Manager of Profile Analysis and Workflow. She writes and edits various Omnia products and is the resident “follow-upper” to help keep the department running smoothly. She is grateful for a role that marries her love of data analysis and the written word in a way that enables her to help clients find (and keep) productive, fulfilled employees.

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