It’s hard enough for enterprise leaders to agree on best practices around hybrid workforce management, and on the other side of the equation, employees are expressing a similar lack of consensus. Consider the following research findings, for instance:

  • Nearly three out of four workers hope to retain pandemic-era workforce flexibility on a permanent basis going forward.
  • More than two out of three of those very same workers say they’re looking forward to more face-to-face collaboration with coworkers in the future.

As employers work through these and other challenges and disconnects, establishing a highly engaging culture will be more important than ever. Just start with the following five recommendations.

1. clear guidelines matter

First things first: Successfully pivoting to a hybrid working arrangement on a permanent basis is going to require a shift in mindset across all levels of the org chart. From there, of course, the real challenge becomes alignment — specifically, making sure everyone not only buys in but is on the same page moving forward. That’s also the only way to establish the right culture for success in a hybrid work environment.

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Informational sessions for employees, along with new training for management, are two easy first steps you can take to help get everyone on your team in alignment. (Just be sure to think through the types of training, educational initiatives or programming your people will find the most valuable.) Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to take a hard look at your company’s policies, too. Ask yourself which ones make sense to keep — and which you might be better off scrapping — in the interest of cultural alignment.

2. think carefully about (re)design

Transitioning to a hybrid workplace is fundamentally an exercise in decentralization, one which could reduce real estate costs for companies by as much as 30 percent. Just one caveat: With the shift to hybrid working arrangements, collaboration actually becomes more important, not less. Despite a 44 percent increase in the use of online collaboration tools during the pandemic, for example, 67 percent of workers say they want more opportunities for face-to-face collaboration. How can hybrid leaders help deliver it?

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New working arrangements call for newly redesigned office spaces, simply for starters. Instead of focusing on individual offices, look to create shared, collaborative spaces — meeting rooms that are intentionally designed to host a mix of virtual and onsite participants, for example. This will help lay the groundwork for a culture in which virtual and onsite employees feel like equals. Meanwhile, don’t forget that onsite health and safety measures remain extremely important, too.

3. empathic leadership is key

Let’s face it: You’re in uncharted water here. And since no one knows better than you the uncertainty that comes along with broad-based changes in working conditions, you should treat your employees accordingly. Bear in mind that many may be juggling other responsibilities in parallel, whether that means caring for aging parents or their children. Leaders need to serve as role models for organizational culture, in other words.

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Two things — feedback and flexibility — are going to be make-or-break factors for organizations transitioning to fully hybrid models. As to the former, consider not only introducing new channels, but also leveraging new forums (think: pulse surveys, employee forums) for giving and receiving feedback. As to the latter, it’s imperative that leaders recognize the importance of work/life balance, given that the majority of employees right now say they’re willing to leave their current jobs for less desirable roles that offer greater flexibility.

4. inclusivity becomes all-important

What does “inclusivity” mean when you’re managing a team that combines remote and onsite resources? For one, that everyone’s experience should be consistent, regardless of their working arrangement which is easier said than done. Without the reinforcing effects of physical collocation, how can you ensure your organizational culture doesn’t change in ways you didn’t intend?

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This is an area where many companies are struggling right now, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, creating synchronized communication channels, alongside meeting spaces designed to host a mix of remote and onsite employees, can go a long way. Meanwhile, introducing more robust employee recognition programs might be an effective workaround — after all, studies show that these programs can also make your workforce more engaged by a factor of two or higher. The biggest takeaway, though, is that the more contact and engagement you have with employees, the more you can actively shape your company’s culture.

5. de-bias performance evaluations

Adjacent to the challenge of inclusivity is the issue of potential bias in performance monitoring, evaluations and reporting — an issue that many leaders overlook initially. Yet there are signs that remote workers are less likely to receive promotions than their onsite peers. Obviously, for hybrid working arrangements to succeed on a permanent basis, asymmetries like this will need to be accounted for and corrected. Otherwise, your organization risks developing a near-toxic culture.

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Fostering trust between employees and managers is an important first step toward building a successful workplace culture, but you’ll need to create formalized processes, too. That’s the only way to ensure the fairness of performance evaluations — and prevent remote work from acquiring stigma. Keep in mind that just because you can’t literally “see” the productivity of your remote employees that doesn’t mean they aren’t working. Quite the contrary, in fact: six in 10 remote workers report being more productive than they expected to be.

Finally, if managing a hybrid workforce is leading to cultural challenges like these at your organization, you don’t have to go it alone. Instead, get in touch with Randstad to learn how we can solve your end-to-end talent pain points.