The hybrid office is a reimagining of work that combines aspects of remote work with limited in-office collaboration. A hybrid office approach, sometimes called a flex-work approach, can be summed up with the basic idea that work is not so much a place as it is an activity.
Given that remote work has proven cheaper and seemingly just as productive over the course of the mandated office-closure period, employers are adopting the hybrid model to cut costs and keep employees safe and happy. Smaller offices and coworking spaces are being rented, while larger offices are renovating to offer fewer employees more amenities. Most employees are building out their home office setups for the long haul, knowing they can work from home for the majority of their schedule.
As we learned during the first few months of working fully remote, it can be difficult to maintain company culture while socially distanced. Much of company culture is built around the small interactions and exciting events that happen naturally in the office; without that space it’s easy to let these moments slip through your fingers!
With the rise of this new form of working and work spaces, office managers and people managers must find new ways to develop company culture. Having limited in person office time opens up a world of new possibilities that you should be taking advantage of.
Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Build a culture of flexibility and wellness
At the end of the day, people are adopting the hybrid model because working remotely has become such an effective and comfortable lifestyle for so many people. The culture of your office place should respect that by giving people lots of flexibility in when and how they come into the office. Whether they are excited to be back in as much as possible or are hoping they never have to come back in again, you will ultimately make people happiest by accommodating both people’s wishes.
This will require a balancing act, and a rearranging of priorities. But the payoff is that you can support a wider variety of working styles, and thus support a more diverse team! Creating a culture that works to this end should be a high priority for managers.
Read more: How the Hybrid Office Will Change Work
Seamlessly connect physical and virtual spaces
In a hybrid or flex office, you must be able to connect teams that might be working in many different locations at once. This means combining the connective power of digital tools like video chat with in-office spaces such as the conference room. No matter where people are, there needs to be an easy way to connect to everyone else.
This means rethinking office spaces to always include video recording and digital displays (read webcams and TVs). Every conference room or breakout room should be able to capture everyone present for meetings via video conferencing. The same goes for individual workstations, and WFH setups. Make it comfortable for people to participate, no matter where they are.
Engage and enmesh new employees from day one
New employees who do their onboarding in a remote environment might have a bit of a tougher time connecting with their new team members, and grasping the company culture at large. You’ll need to plan for this by making sure their onboarding involves a ton of chances to do fun and social things with coworkers. This is doubly true if they happen to be fully remote!
If you can, get new hires into the office early to connect with others and create a tangible connection to your brand. If this isn’t possible, organize lots of social activities that can be completed using digital conferencing software. We love virtual happy hours, but you can get even more creative with game nights, watch-alongs and more.
Reimagine employee engagement with a mixture of strategies
With the additional spaces and opportunities that a physical office provides, you’ll be able to bolster employee engagement strategies beyond virtual activities.
Use time in the office to do the kinds of team building activities that are more difficult over the computer. For example, if people only come into your office once or twice a month, make sure to schedule not just collaborative events, but social ones into those days. You can mix days like this in with regular virtual social events too— people are going to have more fun during a virtual happy hour if they’ve met in person at least once.
Think outside the box when it comes to physical meetups
Organizations taking the hybrid office approach may decide to downsize to a physical space that wouldn’t be big enough to hold the entire team at once. This poses a problem for holiday parties, all team meetings and more. The solution? Think outside the box (the office).
Rather than getting together for all hands events in the office, consider taking events offsite. This can be as simple as a BBQ in the park, or as complicated as renting a ballroom for a company wide meeting. Larger, and new spaces can make meeting in person more exciting— imagine your next company meeting at the beach!
Create informal social spaces accessible to everyone
Connect your team with lots of time and space to have the small, less-structured interactions that help develop relationships and build company culture. To connect hybrid office organizations, this means blending the traditional water cooler with all sorts of dedicated virtual spaces.
Things like fun slack channels are a good place to start. Lunch meeting rooms have proven popular too— just create virtual daily meetings that people can drop in on! If your workplace can set it up, consider making eating spaces in the physical space capable of connecting to those meetings.
Use gifting to connect people who are far apart
The easiest way to get a strong company culture going? Give people some common touchpoints to feel proud of their team! It might seem small, but rallying around a team gift like a custom hat is actually a great opportunity to develop a sense of shared culture.
From everyday items like custom mugs, t-shirts and mousepads, all the way to luxury products like AirPods and Theragun massagers, we can put gifts into the hands of your team that will inspire them to give their all and trust the people around them.
The best part is, Swag.com can help you manage gifts, onboarding kits and more from one free to use platform. Reach you remote employees with our distribution system, and never have to deal with shipping again.
Read more: Welcome Back to Work Gifts and Swag
What exactly your company culture will look like in a hybrid office is ultimately up to you. It will require time and experimentation to develop, but we’re confident that there is always a way to bring people together.
What will you do to boost company culture in your office? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!