When Carli Malone started her new job in October 2021, she also entered a new style of employment: hybrid work. The global cybersecurity company she joined, Tanium, is based on the West Coast but has an office near Malone’s home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although many Tanium employees worked remotely even before the pandemic, Malone’s role as a workplace coordinator requires her to be in the office at least some of the time to support the local staff.
During Malone’s first week on the job, her manager flew from Los Angeles to Raleigh for a three-day in-person onboarding to help make her feel welcome and supported, and she also heard from new colleagues near and far. “Employees have reached out to meet in person, and those that may not be in the office called to meet on Zoom,” she says.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, as companies reopen their offices, nine out of 10 will be combining remote and onsite work in a hybrid model, giving employees like Malone flexibility to spend some of their time in the office and some of their time working from home. As companies navigate the logistics of who’s in the office when and for how long, human resources professionals and managers face a crucial challenge: How to maintain a strong, cohesive company culture when employees aren’t in the same physical space at any given time.
“As we’re reopening many of our offices, we have to realize that everyone is going to be in a different place and understand the challenges of each employee,” says Nicolina Marzicola, global head of HR, Commercial Organization and HR Operations.
When people work together in-person day in and day out, they build relationships just by sitting next to each other at all-company meetings or joining co-workers for a walk to get coffee. Those bonds help solidify a company’s culture — a key advantage in a competitive job market — and they’re a lot more difficult to form from a distance.
Adapting to these changes, while also uniting a diverse, dispersed workforce behind a shared purpose requires new strategies and a thoughtful approach. Here are some insights from human resources professionals working through these challenges now.
Explain and reinforce the desired culture throughout the organization
Even without effort, a workplace culture will develop on its own. But it might not be a positive one or one that supports an organization’s broader goals — particularly when it’s developing across disparate teams who aren’t all in the same place at the same time.
David Friedman, founder and CEO of CultureWise, which advises companies on how to build high-performing cultures, says that in order to create a strong culture that benefits employees, the organization, customers, and other stakeholders, leaders must know and clearly articulate the company’s culture to employees. But this isn’t just listing a set of values — they need to define the behaviors that show what culture looks like in practice.