07/25/2023 • 4 min read

Building Culture in Hybrid Work Environments

It’s critical to build a strong company culture in the modern workplace

by Haworth, Inc.

Culture unifies people. With hybrid work, organizations have been adapting to how their people engage with their work and with one another.

An organization’s personality is its culture, which is defined by three components: its values or mission, its assumptions and attitudes, and its unique artifacts (like its physical locations or the products it makes). “It’s important to understand how an organization works, its culture and competencies, before you can effectively design a workspace where innovation happens,” says Dr. Jeff DeGraff, professor at the University of Michigan.

Over the last few years, people have learned how to work in a virtual environment. While that experience will live on for many, organizations are revisiting the past and looking to the future to ensure their culture works for everyone, regardless of where they work.

Challenges of Hybrid Work Culture

In a 2022 global study by Gartner, researchers found that just 25% of remote or hybrid knowledge workers feel connected to their company’s culture. An organization’s culture affects employee engagement. Since highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave a company, according to Zippia, improving hybrid experience can improve retention.

The office is just one part of the Work from Anywhere puzzle. Leaders need to make sure that their company culture supports employees wherever they work, whether that’s at home, in the office, or at a third place.

Adapting to Hybrid Work Policies

Many organizations have implemented a hybrid work model. While some organizations are very prescriptive, others offer flexibility and autonomy. Some policies include having employees come into the office on a rotating schedule or instituting a four-day work week.

But no matter the exact requirements, hybrid work is now part of many workplace cultures, and it impacts how employees perceive their company’s culture.

Fostering a Successful Culture

A hybrid work environment needs to enhance and support a thriving company culture. It’s important to bridge the physical gap between remote and in-office employees to create shared experiences. While organizations find it challenging to recreate organic, in-office interactions, there are some creative ways to promote engagement in the hybrid workplace.

Many companies are trying new things. For example, Haworth has shifted from one monthly North American management briefing to a more inclusive all-employee virtual update that incorporates fun elements like video spoofs and chances to win gift cards. Some departments have also added recognition shoutouts to promote positive feedback.

We have upgraded technology in our conference rooms to ensure equal collaboration opportunities for remote meeting participants, and we have cameras pointing toward markerboards so meeting notes can be shared with everyone. We also use Bluescape as a digital workspace to facilitate real-time interaction across multiple devices and locations.

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Designing Spaces for Hybrid Work


While culture can exist in remote settings, the physical office remains an important place for an organization’s culture. Purposeful spaces in the office can reflect an organization’s values, and research suggests that architecture, interior design, and furnishings can support or even help leaders change an organization’s culture.

Designing office spaces for hybrid work helps employees feel a greater sense of belonging. "As we look at the future of the office, what will it be? It will be a destination for all the culture and connection and performance happening there,” says Marta Wassenaar, who leads the Advance Research and Insights team within Haworth’s Global Innovation and Design organization.

It’s important to have spaces and tools that reflect an organization’s culture. Haworth identified 5 themes for the Future of the Office that help spaces support people, making them feel more comfortable and productive.

  • Immersive Technology: The right tools for teams to collaborate in a hybrid world
  • Space Shift: The ability to offer options for different ways of working
  • Focus to Restore: Spaces for employees to focus or recharge
  • More Collaboration: A variety of space types to support collaborative interactions
  • More Human: Supporting physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being

Third Places

In a Work from Anywhere ecosystem, organizations should include ancillary spaces in the office. Thoughtfully designed areas that resemble third places focus on hospitality and activation, and they give employees space for focused work, comfortable meetings, guest hosting, and coworking.

Successful third places often have a design that goes beyond what’s typical for a corporate office. Vattanac Capital's "The Atom" is a good example: the company created a coworking space that challenges traditional workplace ideas through cross-pollination of work, hospitality, and well-being, creating an important connection to the community.

Focus and Productivity at Work

Organizations should support employees by letting them work wherever they need to, based on the tasks they need to complete. For some, working from home is a great option for more focused work; for others, those home environments may be too distracting. Still, some people may prefer working from home for certain tasks.

SimCorp had been allowing employees to work from anywhere for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic gave them an opportunity to ensure each employee’s home workspace was as comfortable and productive as possible. The company set up a purchase program for height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs from Haworth for their employees’ home offices—products that improved comfort, productivity, and focus.

As companies change their hybrid work policies, they should think about how those changes would impact their culture. Clear communication is essential and helps employees understand and embrace new processes. Sustaining a strong work culture requires deliberate efforts to support employees wherever they work.

Prioritizing shared experiences, investing in technologies that support effective collaboration, and designing the right spaces for employee well-being each help build an organization’s culture. By embracing those principles, organizations can improve employee engagement, productivity, and a sense of belonging.

Learn More about Workplace Culture

Building a strong, healthy organizational culture is an important part of any company's strategy. The first step is understanding how culture manifests in the workplace.


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