Gemma Banks
Gemma Banks 12 May 2022

Cultivating Culture in a Hybrid Working Environment

Just two years ago, few people had heard of hybrid working – where employees spend part of their time in the workplace and part elsewhere (usually at home). Yet, despite its popularity, one question always comes up in conversations about hybrid working: What will become of organisational culture? 

Now, more than two in five employers (41%) have adopted the model, while 83% of workers say they prefer it.

Business leaders are concerned that, with members of their workforce in different places at different times, organisational culture will be eroded. And they’re right to be worried.

Organisational culture – or the personality of the organisation – impacts its ability to attract and retain great people, which in turn influences business success. Leaders need to protect and nurture their organisation’s culture, but should they see hybrid working as a threat to this?

For me - the answer is a firm ‘no’. I’m fortunate enough to work for Klaviyo, an organisation that transitioned to a hybrid working model following the pandemic with 40% of the organisation working remotely. As a single parent of a five-year-old little girl, this is a life-changing shift. I now feel far more in control of my life and able to meet career and caring commitments, because I can undertake these in tandem. 

For personal reasons, I’m a huge advocate of hybrid working, but I can also hand-on-heart say that it has not diminished Klaviyo’s culture. I believe that there are three reasons for this:

Culture Comes From the Top 

Leaders play an intrinsic role in setting the tone of an organisation. If leaders are unreasonable or short with people, you can be sure that this behaviour will flow down through the organisation.

I’m lucky to work for a founder who is passionate about his business, but also his people. He respects everyone as individuals, and this makes people feel much more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

This is really important in a hybrid setting, where it’s virtually impossible to keep your work and home lives separate. My little girl often features on work zoom calls – sometimes plaiting my hair – and no one bats an eye-lid. They know I’m a mum and a Marketing Director, and I’m more than capable of doing both jobs at once.  

Culture isn’t Left up to Chance

At many organisations, culture is left to develop organically. New recruits join, and gradually they become familiar with the way things are done and the ethos of the company. There are two problems with this approach.

First, it’s easy for a poor culture to develop. Second, it doesn’t translate very well to a hybrid working environment. New recruits can really struggle to gauge organisational culture or act in line with this when they’re not in the same space as colleagues.

This hasn’t been a problem for Klaviyo because we don’t leave culture up to chance. Every new Klaviyo goes on a two week training course, where they’re introduced to the company and its values – and where they get a real feel for the culture. This means that Klaviyo can start enacting this from day one – whether at home or in the workplace. 

Culture is Constantly Embedded

For me, the final key to maintaining company culture is to remind people of it regularly. Organisations need to find fun, creative ways to do this. At Klaviyo, we’ve launched virtual team building sessions that align with our values.

Colleagues will get to know each other while thinking about our values and how to bring them to life in their everyday work. We also make sure to hold regular lunches and gatherings to connect with one another and celebrate everyone’s hard work. Since we’ve been remote for the past two years, it’s more important than ever to connect with each other and foster a sense of community.  

However, embedding culture isn’t all about big events. Little things are just as important. We often play music at the beginning of meetings, just to get people in a good mood and feeling the creative spirit. Things like this can really help people understand the personality of their organisation, no matter where they’re based. 

The transition to hybrid working will not be an easy one for every organisation, particularly those that are used to having everyone together in a physical workspace. However, leaders shouldn’t use culture – or concerns over the loss of culture – as a reason not to try.

Speaking from experience, hybrid working can have a huge, positive impact on people’s lives and, if organisations are deliberate about maintaining their culture, this certainly doesn’t have to suffer.

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