How to differentiate your company culture in a hybrid work environment

A new research report by dGen, a German-based think tank, and Whereby entitled Remote Work in Europe 2030 predicts that in 2030, 27% of workers in major European cities will be remote. According to a U.S.-based PwC survey, 54% of managers are planning on keeping remote working as a standard policy. Companies are preparing for how they will bring their workforces back into the office, and how often.

While it doesn’t seem that many of us will be back in an office until sometime in 2021, the question is what it will look like when we do return. Numbers vary, but as few as 14% of workers report wanting to be in the office five days per week. Gaining and keeping an employee’s commitment is going to be a new type of challenge.

It seems pretty obvious right now that job seekers will prefer companies that offer flexibility and an opportunity for a large amount of home-based working. Days, times and locations that are decided by the employee will be the most attractive. But if this becomes — and stays — the norm, what can companies do to stand out and offer a great company culture? It’s relatively easy to maintain culture when everyone is at home, but it’s much harder when there is a hybrid workforce.

Flexibility and choice are at the heart of these decisions. Ultimately, they always have been, but we now understand that better, and the employers and HR departments that understand it well will do best in this new normal. Companies need to not be too prescriptive about who is in the office and when. Equally, having no office isn’t the right option for everyone. A lot of people like the social element of an office, and a company that has no home base may find itself struggling to recruit as much as one that enforces time in the office.

One key thing companies can do is to consider an employee’s home as an extension of their own office. This makes business sense when it comes to safety during a pandemic, but it could go much further. Training and protections for an employee’s family may ultimately increase safe behavior at work. Making sure employees have a comfortable and suitable workspace may reduce their number of sick days. We would ensure our workers have ergonomic seating in an office, so why not for a home office? Providing some funding for this is likely to improve employee satisfaction.

Considering an employee’s home situation will be important even in a hybrid model. The whole family should be seen as employees, as they have a front-row view of the work that is being done. Helping them feel involved and giving them a positive view of the company can help an employee feel more connected. This can extend to non-family housemates, too — if they are at a similar career stage, it will be easier for an employee to make a direct comparison between their company culture and yours.

Trivia nights, coffee meetings and happy hours were commonplace at the start of the year, but they are not as well-attended anymore. It can be tempting to cancel these kinds of events, but keeping them on the calendar, even in a virtual sense or with lower attendance, can still help employees feel involved and improve their perception of the company. Again, flexibility is essential. Giving employees the option to attend or a safer way to do so is key.

Onboarding and offboarding become even more important in a remote workforce. Setting up one-on-one meetings, encouraging virtual lunches or coffee chats, providing easy access to an organizational chart or a buddy system can all help. Once we are in a hybrid model, it will be easy to forget these things, assuming people will meet at some point. Ensuring that happens now may improve new employees’ connection to the company and help with attrition.

Monitoring performance has always been a concern with a remote workforce, and right now companies have an opportunity to get this really right or really wrong. Software that tracks activity, like some universities have put in place, is not likely to be popular. We’ve all been encouraged to be more understanding where performance is low this year. In the future hybrid workforce that consideration won’t necessarily apply, but managers and HR should still consider external circumstances more than before. Ensuring regular check-ins and appraisals will become a necessity and a real opportunity for companies to put employee well-being first. These priorities may have slipped in 2020, but as we go forward, employees will still care about their career progression. Making sure reviews happen and are tailored to getting the best out of each individual will be more important than ever.

The strategies that will help employers stand out as we find a new way of working are really tried and tested ideas. Headline-grabbing policies or technology won’t be a long-term solution. Embracing flexibility and compassion, along with increased communication, are going to be more effective. If ensuring employee satisfaction and retention is the goal, we really do have to embrace the human nature of HR.

Source : Karla Reffold (www.forbes.com) COO at Orpheus Cyber, Cyber Security Awards and American Cyber Awards Judge.