Where Does Culture Live?
We talk to many HR professionals and business leaders who are concerned about not being able to create culture when they don’t have their workforce in a physical office full time. But this raises the question - where does culture live? And can you build a successful culture without all being in the same place at the same time. Let’s dive in…
At The Happiness Index, we don’t think that culture lives only in the office. We’re really proud that we’ve built a remote first culture, and we believe that culture lives in lots of places, like your policies, values and relationships, more than a physical office. We love being able to connect with our colleagues when we can, but it’s not the main place we find our culture.
Let’s have a look at why in more detail.
Why Culture Doesn’t Live in a Physical Space
As we discussed in our blog post on how to build culture, there are a lot of factors that go into building culture. We would recommend against any line of thought that suggests that your culture is dependent on one physical place.
This is because it can lead to closed off thinking. By assuming that all your people need to physically be in the same place in order to build culture you may be missing out on things your people want and need to be productive, happy and engaged.
Instead, it’s important to listen to your people and think holistically about your culture. This will enable you to build something positive for all the unique individuals who make up your organisation.
Where Does Culture Live?
If we had to pick one place where your culture lives it would be the people who make up your organisation. Neuroscience tells us that the energetic connection between the people who make up your organisation is key to creating a robust culture.
It may feel on a surface level that we need to be in the same place physically to share this connection. But actually there are many ways to build connections outside of a physical workplace. This means that your culture might live in many different physical places. Whether you’re remote first or hybrid. If you want to read more about the science behind this, we recommend diving into The Quantum Way, by our Head of Neuroscience, Clive Hyland.
We do recognise that some workplaces require attendance in one space. We work with customers including hotels, pubs and retailers where many colleagues need to be on premises. However, even in these situations, we believe that culture is more dependent on the people than on the breakroom you offer. (Although some of our customers have some pretty nice breakrooms!)
Building Culture in a Remote First or Hybrid Workplace
So if you’re not building culture in one physical place, how can you build culture? We have a couple of tips.
1. The Usual Advice Still Applies
Everything we said in our building culture blog post applies. Make sure you look at your policies, leadership practices and communications carefully. The latter can be particularly important and challenging as some nuance can be lost when not in person. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible - just that you need to think carefully about how, where, when and who communicates important messages to your team.
2. Make an Extra Effort to Encourage Energetic Connections
Even if your team isn’t all in the same place, they’ll still need to make connections with their colleagues. This means that as an HR or Leadership team, you’ll need to make spaces where connections occur. Essentially, you’re trying to encourage natural “watercooler moments”. Although annual team away days can be useful, we recommend building more regular moments of connection into your working life.
3. Make Your Virtual Spaces as Accessible as Possible
This might go without saying, but in a remote or hybrid culture, your virtual spaces are even more important. This means ensuring that everyone on your team is able to participate in virtual spaces. Both for social and work occasions. Ensuring you listen to your team, especially if they explain why they’re not able to participate in virtual meetings or events is key to building a culture that’s accessible.
4. Don’t Forget About Work-Life Balance
Many people find that remote and hybrid cultures are better for their work-life balance. They’re able to find more time for hobbies, can pick up their kids from school, and throw a load of laundry on during the day. However, it can be easier not to draw a line between work and home life. Try to ensure that your senior and HR teams are taking their holiday and aren’t responding to emails at all times of night to build a culture that prioritises balance.
The Neuroscience of Remote & Hybrid Culture
Let’s have a quick dive into the neuroscience areas which can be more challenging when creating remote or hybrid cultures.
As we discussed before, energetic connections, both among peers and across functions and levels of an organisation are key when creating a thriving culture. This falls into the emotional side of our neuroscience model. Humans are ultimately social creatures, and so we thrive off of being able to understand, connect with, and work with others towards shared goals.
Ensuring there is adequate time and resources allocated to fostering these connections will help you build a culture that your team wants to be a part of.
In order to do their jobs properly, your team will need to be able to collaborate with each other. Both within their work functions, but also across your organisation. Ensuring that managers get time with HR or Operations team members for example can be really key when it comes to them performing at the standard they want to. The same applies across your organisation.
We encourage you to listen to your people when it comes to who they need to collaborate with, what would help facilitate this, and what the roadblocks they see are. This will give you tangible and actionable insight to build into your culture roadmap.
One area that has been highlighted as a particular area of concern for many of our customers considering a remote or hybrid working model is personal growth. Traditionally L&D has been seen as either direct mentoring sitting beside someone particularly skilled, or classroom learning. Both of these models are more challenging when remote. But they’re not the only ways.
Try to offer as many different methods of personal growth as possible. Books, online seminars, virtual coaching, team shadowing, senior team office hours and reverse mentoring are all available in both hybrid and remote-first models. Plus, by offering a range of options, you’re creating a more diverse learning model to support everyone on your team.
So How do we Get Started?
The key thing when it comes to building a culture in any organisation is connection and communication. This is where The Happiness Index comes in. You may start with our Cultural Assessment to get a broad picture of your current culture and what your team wants and needs to succeed. Or decide to dive into specific Neuroscience themes to understand more about what your people need to succeed in detail. Either way, our platform is designed to support two-way conversation that gives you the actionable insight you need to deliver a thriving culture that supports your team, whether they’re remote, hybrid, or largely office based.
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