Prior to the pandemic, Taylor Graves had only known two modes of work: in-office and remote. She’d spent some time in hospitality and theater, both industries where showing up in person was essential. When the pandemic hit, she was working for a staffing agency and quickly had to get used to working remotely.

In March, she joined New York-based e-commerce company Leap as the company’s recruitment coordinator. There, she encountered a new model — hybrid work — for the first time.

“In my first month, I’d go into the office three times a week,” she said. “Now, my personal schedule has me going in around two or three times a week.”

Having never worked in a hybrid workplace before, Graves said it took some getting used to, especially when it came to company culture.


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“There are a few of my colleagues that I’ve never met in person,” she said. “Half our team is here in New York, and half is in Chicago. I talk to my managers all the time on video calls, but I do wish sometimes I could see my Chicago bosses around the office.”

Across the tech industry, there are a lot of other people who, like Graves, are just warming up to the idea of hybrid work. More than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, around 74 percent of companies have adopted, or plan to adopt, a hybrid work model, according to Zippia research. Out of those companies, only 47 percent took a hybrid approach prior to 2020. That steep uptick isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan. Around 58 percent of U.S. employers believe hybrid work is a trend that’s here to stay, according to research by Envoy. To ride the hybrid wave, leaders will need to think hard about their approach to everything — including their company’s culture.

“Before the pandemic, if you heard somebody wants to be remote or hybrid, you’d tell them good luck,” said Bianca Kaczor, senior manager of talent acquisition at New York-based software development company Simon Data. “But now it’s the norm.”

Despite its challenges, Graves said her experience working in a hybrid environment has been overwhelmingly positive. Her teammates may not all be in the same place, but she said that doesn’t mean Leap’s company culture is any weaker than it was at her previous roles. In fact, the hybrid model has maybe even made it stronger. 

“We don’t try to micromanage or mistrust people,” she said. “People have space and autonomy to bring their own special sauce to their work. You have your freedom to operate on trust and good intentions, and you can decide what’s good for you.”

Trends in the tech industry continue to fluctuate, but if there’s one thing companies can count on, it’s that the hybrid model is here to stay. Here’s what that means for your company’s culture, and how to make sure everyone on your team feels included.


Hybrid Isn’t Going Anywhere

For some companies that were in-person prior to the pandemic, making the shift to remote during the early days of lockdown was incredibly difficult. As restrictions began to lift in some areas, transitioning to a hybrid work model may have seemed like a good temporary solution until companies could return to the way things were. 

But the hybrid model isn’t just a stepping stone on the path back to working in-person. Treating it as such can hold companies back, even if they do plan an eventual return to the office.

“Prior to joining Leap, I was at a company that didn’t believe in remote work. Our CEO openly told us, ‘If you want to work from home, take a PTO day, because you won’t actually be working,’” said Arielle Ingber, Leap’s senior employee experience manager. “Pivoting was really challenging, because we were planning virtual team building events knowing that our leadership didn’t believe in the model.”

“Nobody I talk to wants to be in the office five days a week anymore — those days are over.”

The hybrid model is a whole different mode of working, complete with its own unique challenges that need to be taken seriously. And if the statistics are correct, the hybrid trend isn’t temporary either. 

Around 63 percent of high-growth companies operate on some form of a hybrid office plan, according to research from IT company Accenture. On top of this, around 83 percent of employees actually prefer a hybrid office to other workplace models. As Simon Data’s head of recruiting, Kaczor said that these numbers match up with trends she’s noticed among the candidates she interviews.

“Nobody I talk to wants to be in the office five days a week anymore — those days are over,” she said. 

While many express the desire to cut back on in-person office time, most of the people Kaczor speaks with still care about company culture. 

“​​People are interested to hear how we try to maintain our culture in a hybrid remote environment,” she said. “I do get that question a lot on preliminary screens, because probably nine out of ten people I talk to want to be either fully remote or hybrid.” 

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Necessary Flexibility

Kaczor prefers a hybrid work environment, too. Simon Data is headquartered in New York City, but Kazcor lives and works near New Haven, Connecticut. To commute to the office, she would have to take a train upwards of two hours, and then transfer to a shuttle to the company’s building. 

Overall, it takes five hours of her day to get to and from the office. Considering she works solo much of the time (she’s the only employee on the company’s talent acquisition team), and spends most of her day on the phone, working in-office doesn’t make sense for her. Having the option of hybrid work, she said, makes things a lot easier — both logistically, and emotionally.

“I remember getting just so stressed by rushing to the train station, then darting to the shuttle to get to work,” she said. “By the time I sat down at my desk I was already stressed out, and I hadn’t even started my day. Hybrid eliminates that. I actually look forward to going in when I want to.”

Simon Data’s hybrid approach has improved Kaczor’s personal life. But on a larger scale, the flexibility offered by a hybrid model can transform a company’s entire culture for the better. Overall, around 60 percent of employees say that working on a hybrid schedule has improved their work-life balance, according to research from the recruiting company Reed.

“If you go into an office five days a week, you spend more time with your coworkers than with your parents, your spouse, your children or anyone else in your life,” she said. “I think you have happier employees in a hybrid culture, because they can focus on things outside of work.”

When employees have more flexibility to build their schedules, they’re able to set better boundaries and achieve more balance in their personal lives. But that’s not all — they can also get more work done. Around six out of ten employees say that working in a hybrid setting has made them more productive in their roles, according to a survey from Cisco. Increased productivity and schedule flexibility makes employees feel more positive about the work they do and their company overall, said Graves.

“Everyone has different work styles. I sometimes feel more distracted in the office, and I can’t always get certain things done there,” she said. “Both in-person and work from home have pros and cons, so it’s nice to have the option.”


Intentional Culture

There are a lot of advantages to hybrid work in terms of culture, there are also some disadvantages. The most glaring of these,is workplace inclusivity, Kaczor said.

“I think there’s an assumption that everybody loves being remote. But that’s not always the case,” Kaczor said. “We do have people who truly miss that in-person culture. It can be lonely sometimes — I can’t go to happy hours anymore.”

Employees who choose to go into the office to work can gather for snack breaks, host happy hours, or grab coffee together. But employees who elect to work from home can’t participate in those spontaneous social encounters or events. If leaders aren’t proactively making sure every one of their employees is a part of their team’s culture, people will slip through the cracks.

“You don’t have the same sense of awareness. I think you have to be more conscious, and encourage openness more,” Ingber said. “From a manager standpoint, you can meet casually maybe every other week with each employee to chat about how things are going outside work.”

Employees who only come into the office once or twice a week may miss out on trivia events or after hours get-togethers, but there are other creative ways to get them involved. Kaczor’s team uses Coffee Chat, a chatbot app that integrates with Slack, to encourage one-on-one interaction and relationship building between remote teammates.

“It connects you randomly with another person in the company for a half hour casual chat,” she said. “I did it when I first joined to get to know people, and a lot of people here use it to talk about things that aren’t work related.”

Lunch outings and happy hours are fun, but if they’re your only culture building activities, you could be inadvertently excluding members of your team. As a whole, leaders at hybrid companies need to be thinking about how they’re cultivating a culture where everyone feels welcome. 

“You have to be more intentional about making connections, and to make an active effort,” said Kaczor. “When it comes to building a company culture, it’s not just going to naturally happen over a Zoom call. You really have to invest in it.”

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Connection Is Vital

It’s true that building a healthy hybrid work culture can be challenging. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Because hybrid work makes in-person connection a little rarer, Ingber said those connections have become more meaningful.

“People now want to find creative ways to be together,” she said. “Before being hybrid, if I traveled to a city for work, I maybe wouldn’t tell colleagues that I was in their city. But now, I haven’t seen a lot of people in a while, and get more excited to meet up with people for coffee.”

Before the pandemic and the transition to hybrid that many companies had to make, Ingber said that it was the norm for employees to segment their personal lives apart from their professional selves. After going hybrid, however, those lines are a little bit blurry. 

“If your employees have more freedom to choose how they work and figure out their work-life balance, they’ll be a lot happier.”

“In a hybrid environment, those walls quickly came down,” she said. “I met everyone’s kids and furry friends virtually, and I got to see people’s living spaces. I would take meetings on my patio, and people would get to see my outdoor space.”

Hybrid models are new to many companies, and making them work requires rethinking old ways of viewing workplace habits and culture. Instead of viewing a shift to hybrid as a temporary setback or placeholder, companies need to think strategically about how to support their employees and create an environment that enables them to be their best selves. 

“At the end of the day, a job is just a means to live a good life,” Kaczor said. “If your employees have more freedom to choose how they work and figure out their work-life balance, they’ll be a lot happier.”


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