There is no denying that the work-from-home experiment is continuously evolving into permanence and employees are anticipating a new workplace hybrid model. While the office has always been seen as the critical centerpiece for productivity, culture and collaboration, innovative companies are developing alternatives to equating these experiences for their workforce, no matter their location. What are some of the key components we should consider in this new era of workplace culture?  

David Zweig, a behavioral psychologist from the University of Toronto,  predicts that there will be “no going back” to a full-time office structure. So what is the workplace of the future really going to look like? It turns out, we can just ask Google. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Inc. has indicated that the company that is on the cutting edge of modern working environments, is now working hard towards a hybrid-model that would accommodate remote work and collaborative physical spaces for employees.

Here’s how the innovation of a hybrid model could usher in a new era of workplace culture. 

Keeping collaboration alive in a digital workplace

Collaboration, brainstorming, meetings and teamwork offer a more complicated picture of remote-working life. For many extroverted people, Zoom calls just can’t replace the energy and collaboration that comes from a tete-a-tete with your fellow colleagues. 

Similarly, many people are missing out on the social aspect that work provides, like a quick water-cooler chat or “talking shop” over lunch hour. There’s an underlying fear that a permanent working from home structure will erode company culture.

Adopting a strategy for brainstorming while remote is crucial to keeping collaboration alive. Deciding on a digital channel for brainstorming or a scheduled daily video-conferencing time will help keep everyone on board and in contact so that the camaraderie isn’t lost. 

Figuring out how to make sure everyone is in touch boils down to one simple concept: talking to people. Ask for input from employees: how can we reconstruct employee mentorship, collaboration and team-building digitally? Our team at Thriver has been trying out a bunch of virtual experiences, from yoga and HIIT sessions to magic shows and cooking classes. The favourite one so far? The escape room!

Supporting your employees in any environment

It is important to understand the value that remote work brings to your team. By being aware of both positive and negative aspects, you will better be able to implement a strong hybrid model that all of your employees will appreciate. 

Ask yourself, are there certain aspects of your business that can’t be carried out virtually and how can you support your team in every scenario? For example, for employees whose home life isn’t conducive to working from home full-time, are you able to provide in-office arrangements a few days a week? In a recent study we found out that a well-rounded and flexible wellness program is highly sought after among working parents. Offering child care support through your benefits plan and access to a flexible schedule 

Isolation and lack of employee engagement are big concerns for HR managers across North America. Consider strengths in transparency. Once a month, the Thriver team hosts a virtual “Ask Me Anything” event where team members can have an open discussion with members of the executive staff and have a dynamic collaborative discussion about company objectives.

Thinking about the evolution of office layouts 

Do we really think that the open-concept office is a thing of the past? It’s not about focussing on what is extinct, but rather how something evolves. This is an opportunity to enhance and strengthen our “modern day” office space. 

Have you considered flex-desking? It’s one of many new strategies where employees can schedule a desk before entering the office. Your hybrid workers can seamlessly find a working space with a comfortable distance ahead of time and come into the office stress-free.

Organizations will need to collaborate to come up with a framework that works — deciding which employees come into work on what days, how official sanitation protocols will be carried out, how sufficient the airflow is, and if people are maintaining a safe distance throughout the working day are all examples of enhancing your office space.

The evolution of your ‘new’ office space is a big commitment to take on and one that offers even greater rewards if implemented thoughtfully and with precision. The risk of denying this new era of office culture can lead to unmotivated employees and essentially lose retention. The key is understanding that this is a cultural challenge that takes time. We recommend starting now and taking it step by step.