From office design and remote working to new ways of interacting, relating, and doing, the way we work is changing. Companies of all shapes and sizes around the world are called to navigate this changing environment, adapting workplaces and fostering new kinds of communication and employee dynamics. Among the key issues they’re called to address is the question of how to shape, build and maintain strong company culture.
As businesses continue to adapt to the new hybrid work model, company culture is one of the main issues facing HR and executive leaders. Many are concerned that their organization’s culture will be severely affected or change in a hybrid world and are not sure how to maintain their cultural principles when employees don’t consistently work together in one place. With many employees working remotely, executive leaders worry that their organization’s culture will become weaker, leading to lower levels of engagement, performance, and innovation.
According to a recent report by Gensler, 70% of HR leaders were confident, before the pandemic, that they knew the culture their organization needed to drive business performance. However, only 30% were confident that their desired culture was evident in their actual culture. In other words, leaders could effectively communicate to their people what they wanted the culture to be but weren’t confident about creating an environment that reflected the desired culture.
Despite fears that remote and hybrid work would weaken organizational culture, most employees see the large-scale shift to flexible work as a positive development for the culture of their organization. The results of a recent Steelcase global research showed that almost 76% of newly remote and hybrid employees report a positive perception of the workplace. Similarly, 64% of hybrid and 66% of remote employees say that their organization’s culture has a positive impact on their job, compared to just 52% of on-site employees. This, however, requires plenty of work. Organizational culture needs to be clear and strong enough to attract and retain top talent, drive performance, and meet business objectives. It’s also very important that leaders understand how the new environments—virtual, office and home—in which people are now sharing their working time, influence the way people behave.
Looking at how to create strong company culture, the kind that underpins success, executive teams must consider what their business strategy is and identify the two or three things that need to drive success. There isn’t a single right or wrong culture, but there are things that leaders must demand so far as how their teams work together that will drive business success.
The trick to making company culture work positively for the organization lies in making employees feel connected to it regardless of whether they are distributed or collocated. A large part of this has to do with creating workplaces, virtual or physical, that nurture this sense of being connected. Physical workplaces in particular can serve as invaluable tools in building future culture connectedness, through clever and forward-thinking office space planning and design that supports positive behaviors and ways of working together.
The way we work and the way we inhabit and utilize our workplaces is constantly changing, but the essence of the matter remains the same, summarized in just ten words by Winston Churchill, following the destruction of the Commons Chamber during the Blitz in 1943: “We shape our buildings,” Churchill said, “and afterwards our buildings shape us.”