As originally published in Legal Reader July 14, 2021
Top 5 Unexpected Culture-Killers for Post-COVID Hybrid Work
by Heinan Landa | Optimal Networks, Inc.
We’re nearly there.
In just a few months, almost all organizations will allow their employees to return to their offices after over a year of working from home. And even at that point, almost no organizations will have 100% of their teams in the same physical space five days a week.
Based on all indications, neither employers nor employees will abandon remote work altogether: Less than 1 in 5 business owners intends to return to pre-pandemic office conditions, and the majority of U.S. workers want to maintain some regular telework schedule going forward.
Most likely, we’ll all settle into a hybrid work environment where a portion of our team is in the office and a portion is working remotely on any given day. After a full year of working almost exclusively from our separate homes, this will be yet another disruption for our organizations to endure.
The good news is that this go-around we have time to prepare.
Mistakes made; lessons learned
Years ago, my company expanded to bring a couple out-of-state employees aboard for the first time.
We brought them into the office for their first week for orientation, training, and our traditional Friday Breakfast cooked fresh by their new teammates in our office kitchen. Then we sent them home, confident that they had been successfully imprinted with our award-winning corporate culture which would continue to be magically transmitted to them over the airwaves.
If you guessed that both of these folks later quit, you’d be correct.
What we learned, the hard way, is that our corporate culture was deeply rooted in our physical office, and the routines and traditions we had built there. This is true for a lot of us, which is what made a sudden quarantine even more challenging from an engagement perspective. And when that’s the case, it is extremely easy for workforces to splinter into perceived groups of “us” and “them.”
In a hybrid work environment, the risk of developing such internal factions is high: You’ll have your permanent remote workers, those who are in the office every so often, those who are in the office frequently, and those who will be in the office day in and day out.
Each of these groups will necessarily experience our companies differently—this is simply the reality of hybrid work. The trouble creeps in when these “different” experiences become imbalanced, impersonal, or inequitable.
Based on the lessons from our past mistakes, and based on thirty years of serving the technology needs of law firms and associations, we’ve since uncovered a number of subtle culture-killers that, if left unchecked, can do serious damage to employee engagement and retention.
I’ll walk you through them below, along with how thoughtful policy and technology solutions can help flip a weakness into a strength.