Designing a hybrid work culture that will last

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
August 31, 2023
Two adults working from home and looking at their computers
Designing a hybrid work culture that will last
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
August 31, 2023

The world of work has changed, and the old ways of work aren’t working.

Creating a successful hybrid work culture is essential for organizations navigating the evolving landscape of work.

With a mix of in-person and remote employees, fostering a culture that embraces flexibility, collaboration, and effective communication is paramount. By prioritizing clear expectations, open communication channels, and inclusive practices, organizations can unlock the benefits of hybrid work, including increased productivity, talent attraction, and resilience.

In this blog, we will explore key strategies and best practices for structuring a sustainable and effective hybrid work culture that empowers employees and drives organizational success.

What is "hybrid work culture?"

Hybrid work culture refers to the set of values, norms, and practices that support and promote collaboration, productivity, and well-being in an organization that has a mix of in-person and remote employees. It is a way of working that combines the benefits of both in-person and remote work, allowing employees to have flexibility in where and how they work.

What do we mean by hybrid work?

Hybrid work refers to a work arrangement where employees have the flexibility to work both in the office and remotely. It allows employees to choose the most suitable work environment based on their needs, preferences, and the nature of their work.

What hybrid really means is a state of multi-modal work, where everyone has the tools and skills to collaborate effectively across each of the four modes:

  • In-person, synchronous
  • Remote, synchronous
  • Remote, asynchronous
  • In-person, asynchronous

Additionally, there is a fifth mode called mixed meetings, where some team members work in-person while others join remotely. Each mode has its own advantages and disadvantages, along with specific challenges that need to be addressed.

5 keys to building a healthy hybrid work culture

1. Adopt a digital-by-default mindset

Whether your team members are mostly in the office or not, adopting a digital-first approach is critical to success in a hybrid environment. What you need is a shared digital space that brings everyone in and empowers your teams (and team members) to collaborate, whether they’re in the same room, or halfway across the world.

With this approach, you’ll make sure that no ideas are lost, that everyone feels engaged and that they can participate in creating something new, and that you’ll have a shared record of your work that makes it easy to get aligned across teams, departments, or whole organizations.

2. Make communication clear and open

Clear and open communication is crucial in a hybrid work culture to ensure effective collaboration, alignment, and engagement among team members, regardless of their location.

Alignment and clarity

Clear communication helps ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding goals, expectations, and priorities. It helps avoid misunderstandings and promotes a shared understanding of the work being done.

  • Establish communication norms: Set clear expectations around response times, availability, and preferred communication methods. Establish guidelines for when to use synchronous (real-time) communication versus asynchronous (non-real-time) communication.
  • Provide training and support: Offer training and resources to help employees navigate and leverage communication tools effectively. This ensures that everyone is equipped with the necessary skills to communicate and collaborate in a hybrid work environment.

Collaboration and teamwork

Open communication fosters collaboration and teamwork by enabling employees to share ideas, provide feedback, and work together towards common objectives. It helps build trust and strengthens relationships among team members.

  • Use a variety of communication channels: Different channels serve different purposes (and it’s important not to try to fit a round peg into a square hole), so choose the appropriate one based on the nature of the communication.

Engagement and inclusion

In a hybrid work environment, it is essential to ensure that remote employees feel included and engaged. Clear and open communication helps remote workers stay connected, participate in discussions, and contribute to decision-making processes.

Make sure you take time with your team to reflect on performance, making space to analyze what’s working and what needs improvement. This will not only increase engagement, but also drive better outcomes for your team.

Learn more about building connection with reflection

3. Build in transparency and visibility across teams from Day One

Regardless of what mode of work you’re using (hybrid, in-person, remote), all high-performing teams are characterized by a culture of transparency and psychological safety.

Encourage open and honest communication by creating a safe space for sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback — it’s vital to be clear up front that team members won't be punished for having different viewpoints or expressing opinions that may not coincide with the group. Leaders should lead by example and actively seek input from all team members.

💡 Related: Psychological safety: a critical element for imagination work

4. Create opportunities for connection

To build team connection, you need to give people a chance to get to know (and trust) one another — and not just on a per-project basis. Be intentional about introducing new team members through onboarding and regular sessions that allow them to discuss things other than work.

There are many ways to do this, but one of the most common is by using icebreakers, which can be built into the natural flow of any meeting.

  • Schedule regular check-ins and 1-1 meetings, in addition to bringing the whole team together: Regularly scheduled team meetings and one-on-one check-ins are essential for maintaining alignment, providing updates, and addressing any challenges or concerns. These meetings should be inclusive of both in-person and remote employees.
  • Make it visual: Whenever possible, encourage the use of video conferencing (like Microsoft Teams) for meetings to enhance visual cues and non-verbal communication. This helps foster a sense of connection and engagement among team members. Visual collaboration is also proven to improve communication and memory retention, since the brain processes visuals faster than words.
  • Change the way (and the ‘why’) your team meets: Meetings in the hybrid world need to be reimagined — it can’t just be a unidirectional flow of information to a passive audience. By giving teams visual tools to leverage within the context of each meeting, you’re empowering everyone to contribute and create.
💡 Related: Why check-ins should be part of your team meeting culture

4. Foster a collaborative, cross-functional approach

Another key to building a strong hybrid culture is to avoid silos, be they team- or information-based. Looking for ways to connect across teams and departments (like all-hands meetings and team-building events) is important for building trust and making knowledge-sharing habitual instead of incidental.

  • Document and share information: Ensure important information, decisions, and updates are documented and shared with the team. This helps remote employees stay informed and reduces the risk of miscommunication or information gaps.

The bottom line: Hybrid should look like in-person, just more intentional to bridge the gaps.

Benefits of designing an intentional hybrid culture

Fostering a forward-thinking hybrid work culture can lead to a more engaged and productive workforce, attract top talent, and contribute to the long-term success and sustainability of an organization.

Teams feel empowered and energized

By building a hybrid work culture focused first and foremost on getting the job done (rather than where you are), you empower everyone on your team to engage, meaning better and more thought-out ideas — and ultimately products.

A more diverse and inclusive workplace

Hybrid work makes it possible to a broad array of people to get involved, regardless of physical location. Additionally, hybrid work allows employees to work in environments that suit their needs, promoting inclusivity for individuals with disabilities or caregiving responsibilities. This flexibility fosters a culture that values diversity and empowers employees to bring their authentic selves to work, ultimately leading to a more inclusive and innovative work environment.

Increased collaboration across teams

Hybrid work can foster a culture of autonomy and trust, which can lead to higher levels of productivity and collaboration. By leveraging a combination of in-person and remote work, organizations can tap into the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous communication. In-person interactions facilitate spontaneous brainstorming sessions, team building, and relationship building, while remote work allows for focused, uninterrupted work and provides flexibility for employees to manage their time effectively.

Enhanced employee experience and satisfaction

Talent attraction and retention: Offering hybrid work options can be a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. It allows organizations to tap into a larger talent pool by removing geographical constraints and accommodating diverse work preferences.

Allows for increased flexibility and autonomy of employees

Flexibility and work-life balance: Hybrid work allows employees to have more control over their work schedule and location, enabling them to better balance their personal and professional lives. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Business continuity and resilience: A hybrid work culture can enhance an organization's ability to adapt and respond to unexpected events, such as natural disasters or public health crises. By having remote work capabilities in place, organizations can ensure business continuity and minimize disruptions.

Cost savings and sustainability

Hybrid work can reduce costs associated with office space, commuting, and other overhead expenses. It also contributes to sustainability efforts by reducing carbon emissions from commuting and office energy consumption.

Culture doesn't happen by accident, especially for distributed workplaces

You’re not going to accidentally happen upon a successful hybrid work culture. It has to be intentional and approached from the ground up. Using the building blocks and the context above, you can create a culture of work focused on outcomes, rather than location.

What’s that saying about old habits?

We’re living through a moment right now. There’s a renewed cry for RTO as managers seek to re-establish the old ways of working, despite the fact that (as we all know), much of the old approach to work wasn’t that great. Why would we repeat that, now of all times?

We have the power and the platforms to be able to recreate the world of work for hybrid and distributed teams — the secret sauce is the way we approach it. By focusing on connection and trust from the outset, you can get the best of both worlds in a new hybrid (or, as we like to say, multi-modal) model by doing what makes the most sense depending on the context — now just reverting to the old habits.

Sign up for a free Mural account today and start working visually with your team, and you’ll begin to unlock one of the most powerful, collaborative (and effective) approaches to teamwork yet.

Remember — it’s not about where; it’s about how.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.