Skip to main content

Hybrid Work: 6 Secrets to Purposeful Collaboration & Equitable Experiences

Developing your Company Culture: 4 Key Principles 

Join us for a 4-part series that explores developing your company culture and taking your organization to the next level.

  1. A Culture of Impactful Leadership
  2. Continuous Development – The Path to Employee Engagement & Retention
  3. 5 Simple Steps to Foster Inclusion & Diversity
  4. 6 Secrets to Purposeful Collaboration & Equitable Experiences

Part 4: Hybrid Work – 6 Secrets to Purposeful Collaboration & Equitable Experiences

With some employees at home, some at the office, and some a hybrid of the two – creating and fostering a company culture that feels genuine can be elusive. And in the aftermath of the pandemic, and several years into widespread remote work, this hybrid lifestyle is a reality that’s here to stay.

There are many positives to the hybrid work environment. Employees have embraced the flexibility of working remotely and leaning into a schedule that allows them to maximize their personal schedule, productivity, and energy. But there are also challenges: Zoom fatigue, the mental exhaustion from back-to-back meetings on screens all day, and the dissipation of company culture are a few of the big concerns. Working from home makes it hard for employees to feel connected to the bigger picture, team, and company.

With hybrid work being the new normal, how do we maximize the effectiveness of this model & use it to our advantage?

  1. Make the Office a Magnet, Not a Mandate

Fear has driven some companies to mandate employees’ return to the office. But why make your employees pay for the cost and time of a commute if they’re going to be doing the same work from the office as their house?

What could your company offer that makes the office a magnet? It could be offering free lunches, opportunities for collaboration, or a welcoming, comfortable work environment.

The key is to make returning to the office – even for a few days a week – enticing to your employees.

  1. Foster Purposeful Collaboration

At HealthEdge, we are consciously fostering a culture of purposeful collaboration – where if employees are invited to come to the office, we provide a solid WHY behind that request. This could be creating connections, brainstorming/solving problems, celebrating, socializing, and/or building relationships. We want to encourage employes to get together when it makes sense – to solve a business need or to gather to form stronger bonds & relationships.

We also host ‘Collaboration Weeks.’ These purposeful weeks are designed to bring people local to the office together. The week includes community service, social activities, panel discussions, and more. They’re designed to get our people together to interact through different events. However, it’s critical to make remote employees feel included as well. We offer all the sessions virtually so any employee can join. The experiences of on-site, hybrid, and remote employees must be equitable.

  1. Educate & Empower your Managers

Senior leaders are in the best position to both define and role model the desired company culture and connect employees to that culture. However, managers are in the best position to help connect their teams to the work and to why what they’re doing is important – linking back to the purpose of the company.

Educate your managers on:

  • How to have successful remote meetings
  • How to have successful 1:1 meetings
  • How to assess performance in the hybrid world

Empower your managers to develop the right schedule & collaboration strategy for their teams. Rather than an Executive leader making a bold statement like, everyone must be at the office 3 days a week! Empower your managers, who know the composition of their teams & the individual members, to determine what the hybrid work model looks like to make the strongest connections and reap the highest levels of productivity.

  1. Minimize Remote Meeting Fatigue

Staring at a screen all day, switching from meeting to meeting, is draining and has proven to be mentally exhausting for employees. Encourage your employees to turn their screens off and walk around during meetings where they just need to listen. Make it a norm for employees to block time off on their calendar for lunch and breaks in the morning/afternoon. With remote work, it’s easy to spend a whole day glued to your screen and desk chair – a surefire recipe for burnout and disengagement. Actively tell your employees to take breaks and get away from their screens. Without this active encouragement, it’s easy for remote employees to fall into the trap of feeling guilty when they aren’t immediately available via Slack/email. Managers can play a huge role here by role modeling this behavior.

Companies can also provide equipment/stipends that encourage movement throughout the day. This could include things like standing desks or under-desk walking pads. Companies can also encourage walking challenges with fun prizes to get employees moving.

  1. Establish Meeting/Deep Work Norms

When you work in an office next to your neighbor, you can see when they have their headphones on and are deep in work. However, when you’re working remotely, you can’t see that – all you can experience is an unanswered Slack and wondering why your coworker isn’t responding.

Furthermore, when you work in an office, you get up from your desk and go to a meeting room. Then you get up and walk around after the meeting. When you work remotely, it’s easy to go from back-to-back meetings and never get up from your desk.

This is why it’s critical for managers to establish deep work, response, and meeting norms for their team. For example:

  • Deep work: managers can actively support their employees to set the time and space for deep work each day/week. This can be as simple as encouraging employees to set their status as away so they have the time and space to focus. Managers could also establish deep work blocks of time – such as a 3-hour window on Wednesday mornings with no meetings.
  • Response times: Managers can support their employees by setting expectations for response times for email and Slack/teams messages.
  • Meeting norms: Managers can mandate that meetings be a maximum of 25 or 55 minutes, so employees have a chance to get up and move around throughout the day.
  1. Lean into Synchronous/Asynchronous Work

Synchronous work is normal – we talk, we meet, we Slack – all in real time. But with remote work, there’s the opportunity for asynchronous work, which enables team members to work when and how they’re most productive.

For this to be successful, managers need to be empowered to establish the cultural norms for their team. These cultural “rules” can include how the team can expect to work together in an asynchronous fashion. For example, Slack response time expectations. The “rules” could include:

  • When to use Slack versus email
  • When Slack is to be checked (every time it dings or at set times like morning, noon, and end of day)
  • What to put in Slack versus email

The Future of Hybrid Work

With remote and hybrid work, employees, especially highly performing ones, have more choice of employers than ever. Creating a hybrid culture of purposeful collaboration, equitable experiences, and flexibility is critical to engaging and retaining employees long term.

Learn more about life at HealthEdge here.

About the Author

Heather Bender brings over 25 years experience to HealthEdge. She joins us from iRobot, where she served as Vice President of Talent. In that role, she was responsible for leading the efforts to elevate and renew the company’s talent strategies and culture as iRobot transformed to a consumer technology company. Heather was responsible for the global HR Business Partner teams, Talent Management, Organizational Development, Learning and Development and Diversity & Inclusion programs. Prior to iRobot, Heather held HR Business Partner roles at Nokia, working the transition of the mobile phone business to Microsoft, and then moved to HERE Technologies, a privately-held location services software business spun out by Nokia. At HERE she led the global HR Business Partner organization, ran global HR operations, and assisted with building out a new set of learning, leadership and talent programs. Heather lives in Hollis, NH, with her husband, Andrew and three children. With two in college, they are moving towards being empty nesters and travel as much as possible.

Profile Photo of Heather Bender