Can Hybrid Work Improve Company Culture?

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At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies moved their teams out of the traditional workspace, transitioning to remote work and online collaboration. Ever since, business and HR leaders have wrestled with the tension between work-from-home perks, including greater flexibility and lower overhead, with potential downsides. Foremost among those downsides? The assumption that remote work stifles company culture.

But what if that assumption has been erroneous all along? According to recent data from Gallup, the hybrid work model might not be the culture-killer it’s long been thought to be. What the Gallup data reveals is that remote workers actually feel a bit more connected to their workplace culture than peers who have returned to the traditional office setting. “Twenty-three percent of U.S. hybrid workers strongly agree that they feel connected to their organization, compared with 20 percent of employees overall,” Gallup summarizes.

A Critical Question

To be sure, this data represents something of a paradigm shift. Business leaders have long assumed, and not unreasonably, that having employees share a physical space together is crucial for sustaining culture. Shared values and team cohesion are thought to be more tenuous when pursued via Slack chats, Zoom calls, and emails.

This isn’t just an academic question, either. Whether employees feel connected to their company culture is a big deal, with real-world consequences. As Gallup notes, employees who feel strongly connected to their culture are 3.7 times more likely to be engaged with their work; 5.2 percent more likely to recommend their organization as a good place to work; 55 percent less likely to be seeking new employment, and 68 percent less likely to be burned out.

The bottom line? Culture matters… and if culture is flourishing among remote workers, that’s something employers and HR leaders should note.

Hybrid Work and Company Culture

That raises a question: Why would a remote or hybrid work environment contribute to better company culture?

One conclusion is that the physical office space was never as critical to culture-building as employers may have assumed. If the Gallup data is to be believed, in-person interaction isn’t all that critical to creating a sense of connectedness.

Meanwhile, the remote workspace is being treated with a high level of intentionality. “Hybrid workplaces have been forced to make in-office experiences more meaningful and substantial,” Gallup explains. “In addition, hybrid workers feel more supported in their wellbeing. They are more likely to feel that their organization cares about them, which makes them feel more connected to the values, mission, and purpose of the organization.”

The bottom line? The shift to a remote work environment is actually a boon for most workers, not only providing them with more flexibility, but also creating a space where their needs and their engagement are actively prioritized. In this way, remote workspaces are building culture and connectedness in a way that traditional offices often don’t.

Creating Culture in Your Hybrid Workspace

If your company has struggled to build a coherent culture, remote work may actually be something you want to pursue. A couple resources we highly recommend are Remote WorkCulture By Design and Unprecedented. We’d love to tell you more about the task of culture-building in a remote work environment. Contact WhiteWater Consulting whenever you’re ready to chat

Updated: December 14th, 2022

About The Author

Chuck Cooper

Call Me When… The greatest asset a company has is its people. We stand ready to serve when you have questions or needs regarding a comprehensive HR strategy, employee engagement and company culture.