6 Tips to Create Community & Connection in a Hybrid Work Environment

The way we work has dramatically changed over the past few years. We've gone from cubicles to open offices—and now more people than ever before are working from home. But are today’s organizations prepared for this new hybrid way of working?

Research  by Harvard Business School shows that 81% of employees would prefer to work hybrid - mixing time in the office and remotely.  If this is mismanaged, employees, especially your remote workers, can feel disconnected from the culture, community and organization.  This disconnection leads to lower productivity, lower engagement levels, and less creativity.

It's more important now than ever to be purposeful in fostering culture and enabling interaction and connection among your workforce. 

To keep your remote or hybrid employees feeling connected and engaged, here are six tips taken from best practices in organizational psychology that can help create community and connection in a distributed workforce.

1. Align members with your company culture to create loyal brand advocates. 

Company culture is more than just a list of employee benefits. It is the set of shared values that guide the way people think and behave at your company. People who identify strongly with their company's culture are more dedicated, happier, and more engaged. Culture is also one of the biggest factors for success in recruiting and retaining top talent. 47%   of active job seekers cite company culture as their driving reason for looking for work.

Help your employees become advocates with the right guidance and tools. Members who know from Day 1 what is expected of them perform better and stay longer. That’s why we created    OfficeAccord’s Culture module   to empower organizations with the tools to clearly explain their mission, vision, values, resources, perks, office info and more.

So instead of sending your employees to multiple websites, PDFs, or into the depths of your intranet, try providing a culture tool designed to help you align members with your company culture. 

2. Get to know the person behind the employee with interests, fun facts, and personal stories.

Empowering members of your team to share their personal interests, favorite things, and unique stories helps create community among your employee base.  HBR states    that the ability to share about themselves helps employees create connections with others in the company which builds trust and results in higher levels of collaboration, productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction.

We built OfficeAccord’s custom welcome process to automate the new member introduction and announcement process.  Demonstrating that your company cares to know the person behind the employee makes a great first and lasting impression. The automated new joiner announcements introduce new hires to your community and empowers them to welcome their new colleague to the company. This creates a feeling of belonging which is crucial for employee engagement and retention. 

3. Celebrate employee milestones together, whether it's a promotion or a work anniversary.

It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, yet it's important to take time and celebrate milestones. Recognition and celebration help people feel more valued and that their contributions are meaningful to the organization. It's a great way to keep employees happy and engaged. Appreciating even the smallest detail can be an incredible morale boost.

According to  O.C. Tanner Company,  nearly 80% of individuals who leave their jobs do so because they don’t feel appreciated at work. Additionally, according to PWC's Saratoga Institute, many people with important job responsibilities are more interested in appreciation, purpose, and autonomy than they are in promotions and raises to feel engaged.

When team members see their work as exciting and demanding and are recognized for their efforts, they are more likely to be inspired to produce outstanding results.

As Liz Jazwiec puts it, “The bottom line is that workplace celebrations foster relationship building, improve morale, enhance retention, and encourage employees to achieve results”.

You can use OfficeAccord’s smart automations to stay on top of important milestones that recognize employees to boost morale and avoid employees feeling unappreciated.

4. Create a digital team-building event once a month for employees outside of the office.

Team building and non-work events are important for your workforce whether it's company-sponsored or an employee-led initiative. They help foster relationships, build trust, and create connections between your people.

Trust is foundational as    a study by HBR found     and leads to a slew of positive benefits for your company. "People at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, [and] 40% less burnout."

We designed our    Events module    to empower your event coordinators and/or affinity group leaders with a dedicated and easy to use event management tool to create, schedule, and announce events to their targeted employee groups. SAP boasts about how the features and automations make digital team-building easier and more effective.

5. Set up a system for employees to provide feedback.

Letting your employee’s voice be heard matters.    90% of workers say that they are more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback.    This highlights the importance of having tools in place to survey your members as well as give them the ability to react to company news. People want to feel they have a say in decisions that will ultimately affect them. 

However, sending employee’s links to SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Typeforms is not as efficient as having a fully integrated survey tool like    OfficeAccord    which provides result data based on location, age range, gender, and more.  

Announcements your company communicates should also include a feedback component. Being able to react to an announcement makes learning information more interactive and gives important sentiment analysis you can use to make favorable decisions. For example, using OfficeAccord’s Announcement module to post the location of the upcoming Christmas party can be reacted to by your community with likes, excitement, and more. 

The more we empower employees to participate in the creation of our culture and direction, the more sense of belonging they will feel which is crucial for engagement and retention.

6. Encourage team members to meet others outside of their department to strengthen your community.

In a hybrid or remote work environment, many people miss that serendipitous run-in with a colleague in the breakroom or in the elevator. Not only are many employees experiencing a more myopic and closed-off work experience, this tendency to mostly stay within one's own team also negatively impacts culture, employee satisfaction, trust, and performance.

That’s why we created both the Virtual Breakroom and the Cafe Roulette. The Virtual Breakroom is an open virtual meeting room where members can enter at their leisure. The Cafe Roulette allows interested employees the opportunity to be matched once a week/month with someone from outside of their department. 

Fostering the serendipitous meetups with those who you might not see or know in a digital space can encourage the type of community that is necessary to retain remote employees. 

The way we work has changed but the need for human connection with those we interact with for 8-hours a day has not - whether that’s presencial or remote. The organizations who approach creating community and connection with these tips and tools will be more effective at attracting, engaging and retaining talent in this new hybrid work environment.