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Poly urges organisations to culture-audit or risk going to “hybrid hell”

New report, Hybrid Heaven or Hell?, explores the challenges of fostering hybrid culture as the workplace becomes more fragmented

Poly has announced a new report, Hybrid Heaven or Hell? The journey to hybrid working’, examining the importance of culture in hybrid work, and is urging organisations to do a culture audit – evaluating aspects of their culture to work out what works and what needs to evolve for hybrid work success – or risk going to “hybrid hell”.

The report, written in partnership with WorkTech Academy, includes research from Gallup, Gartner, and Harvard Business Review, as well as Poly’s own insights and findings. The broader research trends were also discussed and debated in a New York roundtable attended by senior workplace design and technology leaders. The report highlights that organisations have been faced with challenges of building and retaining culture which could have a lasting impact on innovation, talent retention and growth.

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“Hybrid culture cannot be left to chance,” said Sof Socratous, head of Northwest Europe, HP Poly hybrid work solutions. “Now is a crucial time for organisations to take stock and rebuild a culture that is fit for hybrid working. This means relearning the expectations of work: how people like to work and where. Those that fail to do so will risk going to ‘hybrid hell’, leaving employees feeling unengaged and unhappy.”

These workplace challenges are only being exacerbated by the workforce becoming even more distributed and fragmented, say s the report. 2022 saw the rise of the shorter work weeks, employees applying for digital nomad visas, and trends such as workcations – where people work abroad to maximise annual leave – taking off. As the world of work shifts and employees unshackle from the traditional 9-5, organisations need to ensure they foster a culture that supports hybrid working.

The report shows that one of the biggest barriers to fostering culture is redesigning the workplace, which should support and nurture culture, but shouldn’t drive culture. As a result, many organisations are struggling to make their old spaces work for new ways of working. Poly office persona research found that, pre-pandemic, individual desks took up an average of 65 per cent of office space. In response to hybrid work, this is expected to fall to about 40 per cent.  Organisations need to carefully consider how they redesign their spaces to support culture in a hybrid environment.

Poly’s research shows 77% of organisations are redesigning the office to support new ways of working. One trend that is on the rise is organisations taking inspiration from restaurants, both in the form of booking spaces to work and how they organise their space – for example, ‘hotelling’, where employees make use of a corporate booking system to reserve desks in their own workplace, for a day at a time. This shift will also see the rise in mobile workspaces as organisations introduce bench style desks and hot desks to ensure everyone has somewhere they can work when visiting the office.

“The shift to hybrid work presents an opportunity for organisations to remake cultures and their workspaces for the 21st century. This requires organisations to clearly define their core cultural values and frame what that means in a hybrid world,” added Socratous. “This includes taking a strategic approach to consider people, spaces, and technology. Firstly, analysing why people want to come together – what do people need to achieve and where does physical presence add value? Once the culture has been defined and employees’ needs are understood, then the spaces can be redesigned, and technology can be adopted to ensure equal experiences for everyone.”

You can read the full paper ‘Hybrid Heaven or Hell? The journey hybrid working’ here.