Hybrid working and maintaining company culture

As businesses transition back to the workplace from a year or more of remote working, employees are looking for more flexible working practices and employers are responding.

This is an exciting time for employees, as employers increasingly empower them to personalize and customize how and where they work best
Source: MIT Sloan Management Review May 2021

Attraction and retention of the best talent is always crucial to business success and employers are looking for workplace solutions that meet the changing needs of the workforce.

What are employees looking for?

Hybrid working and maintaining company culture

Source: JLL Shaping Human Experience 2021 – global research

Studies have shown that following the pandemic interest has grown in a more flexible work pattern. Flexible and remote working, or hybrid working, is now a benefit that many candidates will be expecting and will affect their decision on whether to accept a new role.

77% Of office workers have said an office located more conveniently is a must for their next job

Source — The Rise of Suburbia Instant Group and Hickey research 2021

For employers, flexible and remote work allows them to expand their recruitment over a far wider area giving them access to a much greater pool of talent.

What is the Hub and Spoke’ model?

Hub and Spoke’ is not a new concept but has gained interest over the last year. Whilst many businesses would like to encourage teams back to the office for more creative, collaborative work, they recognise that working practices have changed. The Hub and Spoke’ model’ offers the flexibility and choice that many employees now prefer.

Central HQ diagram2

A Hub’ is the more traditional, corporate HQ in a city centre location. Previously this would have housed the full team, who would commute into the city to conduct most of their work activity. However, it is likely that the role of this central office will shrink as more people are given the option to work remotely. The Hub’ will become more of a clubhouse – for collaboration, connection and company events. Traditional desking in the Hub is likely to be replaced by more flexible meeting space, meeting pods and private space for focused work.

Corporate HQ’s will shrink by up to 40% in the coming year

Source — The Rise of Suburbia Instant Group and Hickey research 2021

Spokes’ will provide an alternative to those team members who still wish to spend at least part of their time in an office environment whilst avoiding lengthy commutes. These are likely to be smaller suburban offices, dedicated co-working spaces and co-working spaces within hotels or community spaces e.g. sports clubs, libraries. Employees will expect these to have hot-desking, breakout space and will welcome facilities like showers and cycle storage.

Co-working space cafe

What about working from home?

With many employees having spent a considerable amount of time working from home already, it might seem simpler just to have the option of a central office or home working. However, whilst there are many pros to working from home not everyone has found this satisfactory on a full-time basis.

Benefits

  • Saving money as there’s no commute or spending on lunch, coffees etc
  • Time saved on commuting is spent with family, exercising and hobbies
  • Flexibility of working hours gives better work/​life balance
  • Increased communication with team and managers as everyone is online
  • More productive at work as there are less distractions

Challenges

  • Not having appropriate equipment and workstation set up which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders
  • Lack of a secure and fast internet connection — especially in rural areas
  • Social isolation
  • Missing the buzz” of the office and informal chats
  • Difficulty switching off from work
  • Perceived financial costs associated with increased use of electricity and heating at home
  • Caring responsibilities at home

Source: New Frontiers for Smarter Working Work and Workplace post COVID-19 is research conducted by the Scottish Futures Trust 2021 on the working from home experience.

Smaller out of town office space

A Spoke’ offers a solution to the challenges of working from home, distractions and unsuitable workspace etc and the benefits of avoiding long commutes to the office. By providing a number of options, team members will be able to find the working environment that works best for them and the work they are doing.

How does this affect company culture?

During a webinar we conducted on this topic, we asked attendees to respond to an online poll on the main challenge for businesses employing this model.

Hub and spoke

Maintaining company culture was considered to be the number one concern when considering a dispersed portfolio. McKinsey reports that companies with strong culture achieve three times higher total return to shareholders than others, making it a significant factor in decision making. Company culture is shaped by common behaviours and underlying values which is arguably easier to instil when everyone occupies the same space. It can be especially difficult for new recruits to feel part of something bigger when not spending time with colleagues and mentors. And, where smaller teams regularly work from a company spoke’, sub-cultures develop that could be a barrier to overall communication.

How to manage company culture with hybrid working

Organizations will undoubtedly require a mix of practices that enable efficient, inclusive engagement while at the same time preserving aspects of synchronous and in-person activities that strengthen culture.
HBR WFH Doesn’t Have to Dilute Your Corporate Culture Feb 2021

As companies adapt to this new way of working there are steps that can be taken to reinforce company culture and ensure new hires feel included in the organisation.

Meeting and event space workplace

The following were recommended in a recent article by Forbes magazine: — 

  1. Shared Purpose – Ensuring that team members understand not only how their work is connected to the team’s but also to the overarching goals of the organisation.
  1. Accountability – Remind people that their work matters by setting KPIs and showing them how this contributes to the aims and targets of the organisation.
  1. Fairness – ensuring that remote workers don’t feel penalised or are missing out on the advantages of spending more time in the main office
  1. Conflict – managing healthy disagreement rather than allowing differences to fester and not be addressed because people aren’t regularly interacting in person
  1. Visibility and Accountability – Leaders should check in with team members regularly and pair teams and team members on collaborative tasks to develop relationships
  1. Transparency – without the impromptu spontaneous chats of the office it’s more difficult for a disparate team to pick up on office news. Use regular check-ins or technology to keep everyone up to date
  1. Social Capital – especially difficult for new members of the team is building up social capital. How to get things done and who to ask. Provide lots of opportunities for virtual internal networking to include the ideas of new team members.
  1. Place – ensuring that when teams are together, they have suitable collaborative, flexible space to work in for the task at hand.
  1. In-Person Establish protocols of key times that everyone should be in the office for a Town Hall meeting or regular social event for some in-person time to reinforce relationships.

Conclusion

What this suggests is that we already have the tools we need to build a company culture no matter where our teams are based. Since we believe that flexible/​hybrid working is the future of work for many, then those who act now to establish a strong culture will have an advantage.

Our furniture consultancy service can help you find office furniture solutions for wherever your team are based. Email hello@yourbureau.com for more information.