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How to Create Culture in a Hybrid Office Environment – It’s about Behavior! Key Takeaways from Landing Point + Matt Wallaert Virtual Workshop

Landing Point kicked off The Future of Work virtual workshop series for 2021 with a bang featuring the brilliant behavioral scientist, Matt Wallaert, discussing how to steward culture in a hybrid office environment.  In order to create a culture for a hybrid office, people leaders need to GET SPECIFIC about the shared behaviors they want to promote, which ultimately will shape the culture. And also realize what we are experiencing as remote workers right now is not representative of “remote work” it’s representative of remote work in a pandemic, which are two different environments.

Designing a hybrid office environment is also not about trying to replicate the in-office experience remotely, it is about identifying and promoting pressures for each population and that will likely look different across both environments in order to still get the same cultural outcome. It’s designing a hybrid office that will give its people shared moments of joy.

Matt provided great insight into how to design for the behaviors you want to promote to foster a culture that is ideal for your organization. He advised to take the following steps:

  1. Define whose behavior you are trying to affect. Is it the in-office workers, remote workers, or both?
  2. Define the literal behaviors you want people to exhibit and be super specific, try using this framework:
    • When [population] wants to [motivation], and they [limitations], they will [behavior] (as measured by [data]).
      • For example: When employees want to add value, and they have their video on and a mic and good internet, they will speak up in a virtual meeting (as measured by the percent of meeting attendees who talk for more than a minute during the meeting).
  3. Identify the promoting pressures and inhibiting pressures for each desired behavior – create strong promoting pressures and try to remove the inhibiting pressures.
    • For example: If the desired behavior is for people to speak in virtual meetings then tie it to a review, measure how much people are speaking (using tools like Vowel) and use a reward structure. Culture is the lever that changes behavior!
      • Promoting pressures of speaking in a meeting: Peer recognition, demonstrate value and attention, show involvement, etc.
      • Inhibiting pressures of speaking in a meeting: People may need time to think before they speak, ambiguity around the speaker/listener roles in the meeting, why someone is there in the first place, or people don’t want to talk over others.
        • To remove inhibiting pressures, provide an explicit/detailed agenda for each virtual meeting so there is time to think beforehand and there are clear expectations as to everyone’s role and start the meeting off by providing the expectations for the meeting.
  4. Recognize that the hybrid office culture is ultimately all about inclusion: It’s not about replicating the in-office behaviors at home it’s creating a separate set of behaviors for working remotely since it’s truly a separate work style. Abandon the idea of fairness, it’s about getting equal outcomes which might mean unequal inputs – for example, people may receive a work from home stipend while people in the office aren’t receiving that, but that is put in place because it will help promote shared behaviors that are created in different ways depending on the in-office or remote environment.
    • Another example: Having the serendipitous run-in with the CEO of the company helps foster a culture where everyone feels a connection with the CEO and that they are seen. This can happen easily in an in-office environment – the promoting pressures are high and there is immediate tangible gratification, but it’s a lot harder for the CEO to reach out to each person individually while working remotely and there isn’t that instant feeling of connection like there is in the office. To ensure the ideal culture of feeling connected to the CEO and feeling seen is felt across a hybrid office environment a behavior that can be implemented is for the CEO to send personal Slack messages to each remote worker or host a virtual “Ask Me Anything” session.  To lower the inhibiting pressure for the CEO to reach out to each remote worker over Slack, the CEO’s admin or someone else at the firm can, for example, create a templated message for the CEO to send to each person to make it easy and enjoyable to do this. This will help remote workers feel included and foster the intended culture by specifically designing behaviors to evoke the shared feelings of joy.

The Point: Creating culture in a hybrid office environment is a challenge many organizations are working to solve for right now. It all comes down to being specific about the shared behaviors you want employees to have and identifying ways to make it easy for people to behave that way to ultimately shape the company’s culture. To do this, increase the promoting pressures and eliminate the inhibiting pressures, tailored to the in-office workers separately from the remote workers.


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