Workplace culture is something being talked about far more frequently in recent years. As companies find it more and more challenging to attract and retain the best talent on the market, culture is becoming more of a deciding factor than ever.
Over half of UK employees value flexibility from their employer over salary, and a survey by Qualtrics showed that 80% of millennials say a culture the emphasises personal growth is more important than a higher salary when choosing a new role.
Workplace culture can have a positive or negative effect on things like employee engagement, retention, hiring the best talent, staff wellbeing and mental health, and more.
And when we think of workplace culture, we probably have a set of ideas as to what we’re referring to, and how to build it. But as ways of working shift to become more flexible, in some cases fully remote, the ways in which leaders look to create a positive working culture will also need to shift.
Workplace Culture is changing
In the past, much of our workplace culture has revolved around physical interaction, water-cooler moments, coffee breaks that have accidentally led to fruitful brainstorming sessions, the ad hoc drinks after work, or the ‘can I just grab you for a sec’ type of discussions. But what happens when those physical encounters aren't possible anymore?
Building a positive workplace culture when everyone is working in the same physical location is relatively straightforward. But as people being working in different locations, to different schedules, working out how to keep communication and collaboration inclusive can get tricky.
Here are some tips to help make sure your culture doesn’t go south as hybrid working becomes the norm:
1) Avoid ‘us and them'
In all honesty, not everyone in a facilities management setting can work from home. Some are needed on site, and others are needed in the office, at least some of the time. But with some of your team needing to be back in the office and others continuing to operate remotely, it could be easy to slip into patterns that create factions. You might need to work harder at the beginning of the process to make sure that inclusivity is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Make sure your team can access any team meetings or stand ups virtually and try not to deliver company news or updates outside of these planned meetings attended by the whole team. You could also plan regular touchpoints for the whole team – monthly or quarterly events that encourage people to get together.
2) Don’t allow unconscious bias to creep in
There will naturally be a difference in levels of visibility between those working in the office and those working remotely. It’s really important that doesn’t lead to an unconscious bias which allows office-based employees to progress more easily or quickly than those working from home.
A way to keep this fair is to make sure every employee has a personal development plan, with actions and outcomes attached to it. Every employee, remote or office based deserves the opportunity to progress, and career growth is a huge factor for many people when moving roles. Putting a formal process in place to track and measure personal development will help you to track trends and notice any patterns of remote workers falling behind in their career development.
3) Don't fall into the trust trap
Enabling a positive company culture with people working from home starts with trust. You’ve hired good people, who do their job. Don’t drive them away by micromanaging them because they’re based at home.
A good way of combatting this is to measure people on their outputs rather than their inputs. Set the expectations at the outset, and then let your team work however it suits them within those parameters.
4) Keep on collaborating
One of the most rewarding things about being present in the workplace, especially for younger staff members, is the opportunity for learning from the experience in the office. If more experienced staff members are choosing to work remotely, be aware that the team may lose out due to their absence.
Many employers are combatting this my changing the nature of their office space. Instead of using offices as places to keep staff chained to their computers all day, make your office space a place for collaboration and creativity. If you’re enabling people to work remotely, keep space available for those people to come together to meet in a different and more innovative way. Have spaces set aside for creation and ideation.
Remember the 70/30/10 theory of learning – 70% of learning occurs on the job, 20% occurs through interacting with others and 10% comes from formal training. Unless you want to lose out on an important part of staff development, it’s important that those interactions are still facilitated in some form.
It's not just about ping pong...
Though a ping pong table and fresh coffee is a nice perk, culture isn’t about little add ons. Culture is about the values that an organisation has, and lives. You build great culture through trusting your employees, giving them responsibility, and supporting them to succeed. Great culture comes through building loyalty by helping to develop careers. It's built by trusting people to know how to deliver their outcomes in a way that allows them the best work/life balance.
Workplace culture is an increasingly important part of the decision making process for employees. It has an effect on where top talent chooses to work and where they choose to build a long term career. So considering flexibility and how to build a nurturing community within hybrid models of working isn’t something you can put off much longer!