How to create a good company culture while working hybrid

The pandemic has been a monumental change for everyone. Overnight, we were sent home and asked to work from our makeshift offices. Systems were checked, doors were closed, and all of a sudden we were peeking into our co-workers’ homes from a small square on our screen.

Despite the difficulty of the pandemic, it has shown us that we can work remotely. The technology is there – from Zoom to Slack and Google Docs, we had the tools we needed to communicate and work wherever we were. These collaboration tools help us get as close to the in-person experience as possible without being in-person.

The problem for many teams was creating a good work environment and culture while we were out of the office. We had to work on maintaining and updating our corporate cultures from a remote perspective. How do we get teams to connect when we’re not all together? It depends on the way we communicate, the ceremonies we organize and the understanding of each of our work situations.

communication rituals

Even before the shutdowns, people wanted flexibility – the pandemic has only accelerated this trend. The challenge we faced in the HR team was to provide this flexibility while maintaining inclusion and communication.

Our culture has shifted from a face-to-face environment to one where we rely on technology and tools to onboard new colleagues and remain visible and available to all. We had to make sure that no matter where someone was, they felt supported, heard and able to achieve their goals and ambitions.

To do this, we had to invest time in building a strong culture with people from different places. The culture should be collaborative, open and supportive with low ego and low politics.

At Mettle, we’ve always had a certain level of flexibility and remote working to help our team achieve a healthy work-life balance, but also to promote the importance of personal well-being. Many of our team members have families, organize side activities or have other commitments – we want to contribute to this.

It was very important for us to be able to count on the leaders to be close to the team and give them autonomy in the way they work. Our mission-driven approach helped create multidisciplinary teams where people constantly got to know each other.

In the two months since being ordered to work from home, we have seen a 25% increase in productivity. In this transition to a hybrid working world, our teams have nevertheless made sure to meet virtually to discuss. And it’s not always work-related. Having virtual coffee with a teammate or catching up on the last Netflix show you watched is as important as talking about plans and work done. We need to remember the human element to work – we might not always be able to meet in the kitchen for a quick chat, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t chat at all. There were lots of self-organized communities created on Slack where people shared stories or thoughts around common interests.

The importance of ceremonies

Communication is one aspect of a hybrid team, maintaining ceremonies is another. As much as those in-person get-togethers, water cooler moments, and team outings are an important part of any company culture, there’s a way to sustain that virtually.

Moving from a fully remote work environment to a hybrid environment, these ceremonies have become more critical than ever, as they help us remember that we are not alone. We have wonderful team members and co-workers who always strive for a common goal even though we don’t share the same space.

Our teams have a certain cadence of ceremonies, where our small groups come together to talk about what we’re working on, blockages, and what we can do to help each other. From a company-wide perspective, hosting ceremonies where everyone comes together to celebrate wins, showcase new work, or discuss concerns fosters this culture of collaboration and openness. Here you can talk openly about company goals and progress towards them, and at our “show and tell” meetings, teams can showcase their hard work, giving everyone a chance to see how we progress and evolve.

We ensure that we have easily accessible dashboards for all our objectives that are used during these ceremonies. This includes a bi-monthly business review where a number of people from across the company discuss business data to understand emerging trends and opportunities.

But with more meetings while working from home, it’s important to have time to innovate, reflect and act. An example of this is our “Manufacturer Schedule”. One of our engineering managers started an initiative to bring this concept into the company, recognizing that individual contributors who focus on deep work need long stretches of uninterrupted time to maximize their effectiveness. To give people the space they need to focus, we block out our mornings so there are no meetings.

Creating a good work environment in a hybrid world takes two things: being able to listen to employees and understand their needs, and spending time building a positive culture. Communication and collaboration go a long way in this new world of work and with the will to make the changes, any business can succeed.

Andrea Himmelbaure is Head of People and Culture at Mettle