A woman works from home

A hybrid workplace is here to stay, but how can we keep our culture alive?

December 8, 2022 | By Vanessa Wilson, Vitil People Solutions

We have been operating remotely for the last few years and most SMEs in Perth are trying to bring their workforce back to the office, however not everyone wants to come back.

One of the biggest fears leaders have at the moment, according to Aaron McEwan FAHRI, Vice President of Research and Advisory at Gartner, is how to keep a tight grip on culture in a hybrid environment.

It is not about productivity as that has remained steady, its about a loss of culture when you are not together. Gartners surveyed nearly 7000 global employees into hybrid cultures. But McEwan says this fear might be ill-informed. Not because it’s untrue, but because it’s missing the bigger picture:

"We’ve got to rethink culture. What’s the point of it? What’s it designed to do? And we need to start recognising that there’s a disconnect between the way [employers] see culture and the way employees see culture. That’s going to come to a head sometime soon."

McEwan’s suggestion is that culture is simply evolving. Forcing people back into the office when they don’t want to, is not necessarily the answer. People have enjoyed flexibility, more time with less driving, reduced expenses with the cost of fuel high. Furthermore, employees have managed their schedules around the family and been able to work without interruptions and noise from open plan offices.

The evidence suggests that there has not been a drop in productivity and there is greater work-life balance, fewer sick days and higher engagement with autonomy and trust. So, what is the benefit to working in the office full time?

"One of the reasons I think culture might be out is because this magical thing happened during COVID where we reconnected with our own [personal] communities – our families, our pets, our gardens, our interests and hobbies. When work isn’t at the centre of your life, you can find purpose and connection elsewhere."

A new type of culture

All this doesn’t mean human resource professionals and business leaders can wipe their hands clean of the responsibility to deliver on many of the things that culture currently does, such as a sense of community, belonging and psychological safety. It just means culture needs to evolve.

"Culture is now experienced in much smaller ecosystems. It’s experienced in teams, and it was experienced in relationships. Subcultures got us through the pandemic."

Connection looks more like this:

  • I identify with the culture
  • I care about the culture
  • I belong within the culture

Blaming remote working for the loss of connection is counterintuitive. The data shows that the more flexibility you have, the more connected your team feels. WA leaders need to change their long-held beliefs on working from an office. Team members feel seen and valued, even if they’re working away from the office therefore, we need to diffuse culture into the work people do, rather than the space they dwell in, and facilitate social connections.

This is just the next iteration of work, and we need to rethink how we redesign work for optimal efficiency. Therefore, the future of work is to hire leaders with a hybrid mindset, who can communicate in both flexible virtual situations and face-to-face.

HR professionals have a key role to play in helping leaders:

  1. Think outside the box when it comes to redesigning culture; and
  2. Encouraging leaders to let go of some of the control that’s causing their current cultures to stagnate.
Vitil Outsourced Human Resources Consultants

Vitil People Solutions is a boutique HR consulting firm based across Perth and Australia, who offer flexible, reliable and affordable outsourced human resource support, people solutions and recruitment services, where your team is the key focus. Our experienced professionals can objectively assess your environment and help with change implementation.

Contact us to discuss tailoring HR solutions to your business needs.

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