It’s easy to overfocus your return to office and hybrid work planning on space because it’s so visible. But ignoring an invisible factor – organizational culture – can undermine the best plans.

In fact, culture has been called “the top predictor of workplace satisfaction.” And recent research by Gallup found that companies with strong cultures o competitors by up to 33%.

Yet even before the pandemic, Gartner reported that while HR leaders felt they knew the culture needed to drive business performance in their organization, only 30% were confident that their desired culture was evident in their actual culture.

What may have been working when almost everyone spent most of their time in the office won’t work in a hybrid world. It’s no surprise then, that Gartner found 68% of executive teams are reevaluating their company’s culture for virtual and hybrid work.

What is organizational culture?

Culture can be described as the set of collective assumptions within an organization that guides attitudes, behaviors, and ways of working. It outlines how your company gets things done.

In the traditional office, a lot of behaviors that people thought defined culture were tied to the physical space and the activities that happened there. But culture isn’t a game room where different teams participate in ping-pong tournaments. It’s not free lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “no-meeting” Wednesdays, or quarterly Friday beer bashes in the parking lot.

Culture is the values and assumptions that these activities – and the company’s workflow, collaboration style, and how colleagues are expected to treat each other – should align to. And over the past year, the business world has seen the very public struggle as different organizations have reflected assumptions from “people can only be effective if they’re in the office” to “our people are so productive from wherever they are that we’re closing the office.”

Most organizations have settled on a hybrid working model that falls between these extremes, making it essential to reshape their culture for their new reality.

The power of connection

The secret power of a strong culture is that it makes employees feel connected to the company and to each other. That’s good for brand, good for the bottom line, and good for employee productivity, happiness, and retention.

But a December 2021 poll by Gartner found that only 1 in 4 hybrid/remote knowledge workers felt connected to their organization’s culture.

Clearly, it’s time to create cultures better suited to our current working world. And it’s time to acknowledge leadership’s role in creating and sustaining a successful culture.

A once-in-a lifetime opportunity

Achieving this kind of change requires a shared vision and direction that moves beyond tactics to take a clear stand on what the hybrid culture is, so that people know what they can rely on. If reinventing an organization’s culture is a significant challenge, it’s also a unique opportunity to redefine the business.

Bill Schaninger, a Senior Partner at McKinsey recently pointed out that “it’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place.”

To help you make the most of this unprecedented moment,

Read The Journey to Hybrid Working: Hybrid Heaven or Hell? for key considerations in creating a culture that supports hybrid success.