The new hybrid way of working represents a new reality for organisations, but not without its challenges.
In particular, remote working can affect relationships: drawing people closer to “strong ties” within their immediate teams and potentially creating unintentional echo chambers, while eroding “weaker ties” that were maintained through serendipitous in-person contact pre-pandemic.
This means that organisations will have to find creative ways to build collaboration in the new working world. From harnessing natural networkers – “boundary spanners” – to encouraging buddy programmes and virtual meetings to build out your organisation’s networks – there are many different ways to achieve this.
Here are four key cultural cornerstones that will help you.
Lead with possibilities. Leaders can’t predict the future, but they can create different scenarios of what the future could look like and share these stories with their colleagues to help ignite their energy and sense of purpose towards a shared vision.
Don’t recreate old ways of working. Hybrid working isn’t just an online version of traditional ways of working. There are significant structural and cultural differences, especially when it comes to collaboration and interaction. Experiment with as many different technologies and formats and find multiple ways to foster serendipitous connections – remember, too, that these will have to work for both introverted and extroverted employees.
Don’t rely on endless Zooms. It’s important to vary your communication tools and ensure a mix of formal and informal contact. Find moments to be spontaneous and pick up the phone instead of formalising a meeting. Have free-form working sessions, and establish back channels during presentations and webinars. If you’re a leader, join another team’s call to find out how they are spending their day, what they are working on and strengthen those weakening networks.
Identify boundary spanners. Find the people in your teams who are good at reaching across different areas of your business and make them feel valued – they are essential to maintaining and strengthening your network.
Above all, to encourage knowledge sharing across diverse networks, organisations need to rebuild their culture around trust, cooperation and purpose, ensuring that employees feel comfortable experimenting with new ways of connecting and communicating with colleagues at all levels. Just like they used to around the water cooler.