How to Build and Maintain a Hybrid Work Culture

September 21, 2023

Company culture is still king, even in a hybrid workplace. Here’s how you can continue to foster strong employee connections when your workforce isn’t on-site.
Blog Post

Is your organization doing a bit of soul-searching?

“Should we call workers back into the office, continue remote work, or adapt to a hybrid work model?”

If you are, you’re not alone. Some high-profile employers have called workers back into the office. And one of the reasons cited is the perceived negative effect remote work has on culture.

But are these concerns unfounded? Can you still foster a healthy company culture in a remote or hybrid workplace?

Thankfully, the answer is “yes." You can have your cake and eat it too. Enjoy the work-life balance of a flexible workplace and the productivity and engagement boons of a strong company culture.

But you do have to evolve your approach to fit this post-pandemic virtual era.

How do you do that? Let’s pull back the curtain.

Key Takeaways

  • A healthy company culture is an important productivity driver, but many organizations are struggling to sustain culture in a hybrid or remote environment.
  • Communication challenges and a lack of team-building opportunities are the primary roadblocks to building culture in a hybrid workplace.
  • HR pros should focus on purpose, learning, balance, equity, and communication to drive culture virtually.
  • The right HR tech is paramount to execute culture-building tactics and foster connectedness among employees.

What is a Hybrid Work Culture?

Hybrid work refers to the combination of in-person and remote working environments that became popular in the wake of the 2020 COVID pandemic.

Hybrid work culture, then, is the shared goals and values of an organization’s workforce, whether they’re on- or off-site, facilitated by the company’s policies and practices.

With 87% of Americans choosing hybrid work when given the option and 58% working remotely at least once a week, hybrid work culture is a necessity for attracting and retaining top talent.

Why You Still Need to Focus on Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

You can’t overstate the benefits of a healthy company culture.

76% of employees say that culture is important for them to be effective at work. Culture has a material impact on your bottom line, too — companies with high-trust cultures are more profitable.

Historically, organizations relied on in-person interactions to build company culture. But, in this post-pandemic hybrid world, many are struggling to sustain culture without the benefits of working on-site. Some organizations have called workers back to the office to reverse the “disruption” caused by COVID-era remote work policies.

But this isn’t a silver bullet. Gartner found that “in-office mandates drove connectedness sharply down.” Conversely, over half of workers with more flexible work environments (i.e. hybrid or remote arrangements) reported a high degree of connectedness.

Culture isn’t tied to where your workers are physically located. It’s rooted in the way we act and work together. Your organization can, and should, still reap the benefits of a strong company culture, even in a hybrid arrangement.

Before we dive into the solutions, let’s unpack the headwinds of developing a strong hybrid work culture.

The Challenges of Building Hybrid Work Culture

Building or sustaining culture in a hybrid work environment is not without its challenges. Here are a few things to consider.

Lack of communication

Everyone who’s worked in an office knows the value of water-cooler conversations or informal chats in the hall. You never know when someone will connect the dots and inspire the idea you’ve been looking for. It’s difficult to duplicate these moments when working remotely.

A lack of in-person conversations also widens communication gaps between on-site and remote employees. There can be a feeling of ‘missing out” for those working from home. Poor communication also leads to a lack of transparency and misunderstandings.

Decreased inclusion and team building

With people out of the office more frequently, you might find it difficult to promote camaraderie.

For example, if Fridays are when you buy lunch for everyone, some hybrid members may perpetually miss out. You could arrange for food delivery or give all employees working remotely on Fridays a gift card to a food delivery service. But, frankly, it lacks the human touch of gathering around the table to share food.

Fixed hybrid schedules can also make it difficult for teambuilding. During the pandemic, many companies tried to host staff parties or happy hours over video chat with mixed results.

There's no easy answer. But, at the end of the day, hybrid working simply requires more intentional effort and a sustained, strategic approach to employee engagement.

Managers must be held accountable to stay on top of individual assignments and job performance. Regular meetings and catch-ups should be the norm. Otherwise, you risk employees slipping into isolation and complacency.

How to Build & Sustain Company Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

For those tasked with building a hybrid work culture, the natural question is, “Where do I start?”  

It goes beyond moving the existing in-office company culture to a virtual setting. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to start from scratch. Consider all the facets of the employee experience to create something new. 

Today’s employees want the perks of being on-site with the flexibility of remote work. That means they’re looking for the purposeful connections and professional development they get in the office, as well as the option to work from their preferred location during asynchronous hours.  

More than anything, employees want a consistent experience regardless of where and when they’re working. 

Focus on Purpose when Connecting

Our need to connect — whether for work or personal reasons — has increased over the past few years as many of us have been isolated in our homes.

The catch? The connection workers are craving now has evolved from simply needing to see friendly faces to wanting to come together with a larger goal in mind.

“I’m not connecting like I was in April 2020 just for the sake of seeing someone else,” said HR pro Kate Grimaldi, in Paylocity’s webinar. “I’m connecting with purpose.”

And that purpose can be anything from being a resource for each other to contributing to the co-creation of an engaged work culture.

Now that workers are used to untethered environments, organizations should use all-in-one HR technology that helps advance the employee experience. Look for a tech suite with these qualities and features:

  • Community-focused. Most businesses need communication tools, but you should find the ones that emphasize community. Use platforms that allow you to easily reach employees wherever they are, whether in person or at home, and facilitate employee engagement with each other and the organization.
  • Peer recognition. Countless studies have highlighted the importance of social connections at work. Peer recognition tools enable this process by fostering connections and encouraging workers to acknowledge the peers they work with and celebrate each other anytime, from anywhere.
  • Multiple communication mediums. Organizations need a way to connect face-to-face, regardless of location and time. Synchronous and asynchronous video tools empower employees, managers, and leadership to create personalized messages, put names to faces, and level up engagement, performance, and learning.

Strike Balance in Scheduling, Office Usage, and Locations

As the effects of the pandemic spread, the need for flexibility with hours, schedules, and office locations did too.

While few organizations transitioned to their new models seamlessly, those that did were the ones who made it an ongoing process. They asked their workforces what they wanted, seeing what stuck, and evaluating the data.

The results? Most companies that leaned into flexible initiatives are still experiencing productivity and meeting business goals by embracing this adaptability.

“We’ve seen productivity grow from the people who are given this opportunity to work from anywhere,” said senior director of operations at KNA Solutions, John Nicholson, in Paylocity’s webinar.

After living in a remote-working world, it should come as no surprise that technology is what facilitates this balance. Employees need a way to collaborate with coworkers while not at the office, and they need access to the organization’s systems at their convenience.

Video conferencing and messaging tools probably come to mind here, but more robust scheduling technology also simplifies shift switching, while mobile HR apps let employees change their schedules on the go.

Indeed, mobile-friendly, all-in-one HR and payroll solutions with consumer-driven functionality have enabled today’s organizations to meet workers where they are while keeping them connected, engaged, learning, and growing.

Embrace Technology to Evolve Learning and Development

Amid these tectonic workforce shifts, one critical question many organizations have found themselves asking is, “How do we make programs impactful for employee development and learning?”

Employees seek a flexible learning experience that meets their needs and fits into their workflow. Whether that’s watching a quick video before wrapping up for the day or leveraging virtual check-ins for those who need more one-on-one time.

“We’re doing engagement check-ins and learning and development sessions. Because we can’t physically see everyone, we’re really making a stretch to ensure that they still know that we’re here and that wherever they’re working from, they’re being embraced,” said Nicholson.

To keep L&D a priority in a hybrid world, offer your workers flexibility and prioritize communication.

Provide Flexible Learning Opportunities

While we’re starting to see both managers and direct reports work well in a distributed world, effectively managing a remote team is still challenging for both new and seasoned managers. Organizations can ensure employees are still developing by:

  • Building a repository of tailored, bite-sized, mobile microlearning content for workers in every department, at every level
  • Providing content generated by subject matter experts within the organization
  • Accessing out-of-the-box resources on health and wellness, working remotely, workplace inclusion, and more
  • Offering training in self-service portals or mobile apps

Keep Communication Frequent and Ongoing

Additionally, today’s HR and payroll solutions make it more feasible than ever for managers and direct reports to stay on the same page through tactics like:

  • Have development conversations through one-on-one mentorship opportunities
  • Create and check in on goals
  • Participate in their development through self-appraisals
  • Facilitate ongoing, goals-driven conversations as part of employee evaluation using tools like Journals for performance management
  • Give employees a record of their tasks, goals, and accomplishments

Through modern, user-friendly technology, organizations can engage their remote and in-office workers and significantly improve the employee experience.

Ensure Equitable In-Person and Remote Experiences

One of the toughest nuts to crack has been balancing employees’ desire for flexibility while keeping them connected with others in the organization.

While most organizations took an office-first approach to culture before the pandemic, many — including Paylocity — now streamline critical processes like training and onboarding to create a modern experience for every new employee.

Paylocity, for example, used their employee survey tool to ask people for their preferences and found most wanted a hybrid approach to work.

A few other resources that facilitate organizational agility include:

  • Onboarding tools that simplify collecting new-hire information while introducing new employees to people and groups that set them up for success in the organization.
  • Employee self-service portals that make it easy for new hires and seasoned employees to access and update their information 24/7.
  • New-hire check-ins and employee surveys that help further streamline onboarding and keep turnover low by uncovering areas of improvement in the hiring and onboarding process.
  • Learning management systems that make it easy to check in during important new-hire milestones.

Other employee experience tools, like Paylocity’s Community and Premium Video, enable workers in different locations to experience the connection they crave while enjoying the independence they want.

Maintain Constant Communication with Employees

Communication challenges can be mitigated with modern technology. And you don’t necessarily need to sign up for a unified communications platform. Simple apps like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams let you create formal and informal communication channels.

Use these tools to schedule video conferences and 1-to-1 video chats to maintain a level of personal connection. 61% of employees find virtual meetings more engaging than face-to-face meetings.

Paylocity’s peer-to-peer recognition tool allows team members to interact and promote each other regardless of location. Project management apps and payroll software can also facilitate a successful hybrid workplace.

Make in-person events unique and memorable. Go big and make sure everyone is included! When hosting meetings, have everyone sign in from their desktop. This way, on-site and remote team members will be on an equal footing.

Lastly, make sure to maintain context when using written communication. It’s a great way to stay in touch but also a great way to create problems.

One study found that 36% of respondents were too aggressive in their texts. Feel free to keep things informal so employees know it’s a human being on the other end of the conversation!

How HR Software Can Help to Create Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

Over the past few years, organizations have relied on HR technology to move initiatives forward. However, to succeed today’s HR professionals and organizational leaders must lean into iterative processes as we continue to learn what today’s workers want.

Thanks to comprehensive HR and payroll solutions, we can move closer to achieving these goals and continuing to build company culture at home and in the office.

Learn more about how to prepare your organization for what’s over the next horizon by downloading your free copy of The Future of HCM Now: 6 Ways to Future-Proof Today with HR and Payroll Solutions.

And why not request a Paylocity demo and see how our software can help skyrocket your employee engagement?


Eliminate the Guesswork on Employee Engagement

How can you tell if your employees are engaged? The right data. Create a culture of connection and collaboration with actionable insights to improve engagement, increase productivity, and reduce turnover. Quantify your cost savings and find out how you can get the most out of your HR and payroll investment with Employee Experience.

Employee Experience