Three ways to revive corporate culture in a hybrid world

Ellie Evans explains the key pillars on which to successfully build and sustain a hybrid work culture – from strong values through to authentic employee recognition

As many as 69 per cent of business leaders are said to have felt their pre-pandemic corporate culture is what carried their business through such turbulent times, according to a PwC global survey. The return to the office means a fresh focus on hybrid working models alongside regaining and enhancing the culture that has been so important for both wellbeing and business success.

Investing in a healthy culture can set your business head and shoulders above the rest, allowing you to retain and attract top talent globally. The importance of corporate culture doesn’t stop at the workforce – 2021 research by Breathe HR has also estimated the cost of poor working culture to the UK economy to be £20.2bn. With the pandemic testing this culture, firms with a strong sense of identity were able to draw on this as the lockdown months stretched on. 

Teamwork makes the dream work

Working remotely has come with its challenges, from poor WiFi connection to doorbells ringing during important meetings. But what has been the most evident gap of culture since the office doors shut are those missing coffee break catch-ups with colleagues across the company, usually keeping morale and wellbeing at a high.

When a workforce has a common goal, operations run far smoother and produce the best possible outcomes. Creativity, teamwork, decision making, and innovation are all enhanced by a strong workplace culture – and with many workforces returning to the office under a hybrid scheme, now is the time for companies to get their culture on point.

The ‘new normal’ is here to stay

During the pandemic, we invested a large amount of time and effort into enhancing the ways culture can be maintained, minimising the potential disconnect between colleagues. Over the past two years, we’ve been nurturing and redefining our strong culture for our 2,000 employees across four locations in the UK, ensuring the culture meets the current needs of the workforce.

With the world of work having changed so drastically and hybrid working increasingly becoming the new normal, there’s never been a better time to revise pre-pandemic culture and identify what worked well and what new needs are to be met. 

Here are three key ingredients for successful long-term development of a strong business culture and colleague connection:

Learning which values to uphold and which new ones to implement

Having strongly embedded values that your organisation lives by, reinforced by a set of core behaviours and ways of working, are the foundations of a strong corporate culture. These establish who we are and what we’re like to deal with.

In times of crisis, a team’s raw culture becomes exposed. Certainly during those initial few months of lockdown, we saw our values – united, creative, authentic and ambitious – shine through. Those businesses that simply pay lip service to cultural values are likely to have struggled more throughout this challenging period.

As we navigate new ways of working, it is important to bear in mind that every interaction with your team is an opportunity to reinforce these values and these common behaviours should be driven from the top down. Yet businesses should not be afraid to change long-standing values if they are no longer fit for purpose, relevant, or accurately reflect your colleague population. 

Learn how to make ‘water cooler moments’ work

Lockdown taught us that a culture is more than just an office building, as we witnessed new online communities and support groups popping up. While culture is not simply a building, it does help to create those all-important connections and a sense of belonging. It is therefore vital that businesses now encourage colleagues to use the office space effectively, re-establishing valuable connections and workplace contacts. The ‘water cooler’ moments we all missed during the lockdowns are back and it is beneficial for colleagues to understand how best to now use their space and perhaps create or engineer networking opportunities.

When redefining how office space is used, it also presents an opportunity to clarify expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t be afraid to treat this phase as a ‘test and learn’ process – there’s always room for innovation and improvement. It might not be right the first time, but through listening to colleagues and taking on board feedback, it should allow you to quickly achieve success in the new hybrid working environment.

Inclusivity is key to making the workforce feel comfortable and valued

People who feel appreciated and valued by the company they work for deliver better results. It is therefore more important than ever that businesses take the time to reward and recognise colleagues for their contributions. Even a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

Make sure the ways in which you approach recognition are adapted for hybrid working. These moments can now also be taken as opportunities for colleagues to come together and celebrate success. This will once again help increase colleague connections while also boosting the passion for a shared purpose. 

It is important to acknowledge how challenging this year has been for people for a whole host of reasons, and any company that fails to show empathy is simply getting it wrong. Regularly checking in on colleagues and reminding people of the wellbeing services available could make a major difference. One of our core values is being authentic: this is more important than ever right now in the way companies engage with both colleagues and customers. 

Rebuild and redefine workplace culture and watch the results roll in 

With the pandemic having such a profound effect on company culture, it has highlighted the importance of recognising potential workplace challenges at the earliest possible stage. From this, companies can clearly identify issues and find ways to mitigate them, including by paving the way for every colleague to feel comfortable raising any issues they may have. 

Having an inclusive culture where the entire workforce feels valued and knows they can comfortably raise a query can make all the difference when it comes to losing, retaining, and attracting talent. 

Ellie Evans is people and communications director at BGL Insurance