Don’t confuse “being in the office” with “culture”

Story Highlights

  • Hybrid workers feel more connected to their organization’s culture than others
  • Culture affects productivity, employee fulfillment, employer brand and more
  • Managers experience the hybrid workplace differently, and they struggle

It may shock you: Hybrid workers — of all employee types — are the most successful at feeling connected to their organization’s culture, according to a recent Gallup analysis. Twenty-three percent of American hybrid workers strongly agree that they feel connected to their organization, compared to 20% of all employees.

So many companies experience hybrid workone question stood out above the others: What about our culture? There’s a common belief that when employees are physically together, they develop important social connections that simply can’t be replaced by email, Zoom, and Slack.

And leaders have good reason to care. Employees who strongly agree that they feel connected to their culture are:

  • 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work
  • 5.2 times more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work
  • 37% more likely to thrive
  • 68% less likely to feel exhausted at work always or very often
  • 55% less likely to look for a job

Culture Matters in terms of productivity, employee fulfillment, employer brand and corporate reputation.


Why hybrid improves corporate culture

The reality is that the office has never equaled the culture. Gallup data shows that despite significant talk and investment in “corporate culture” over the years, there is very little to show for it. Only two in 10 American workers feel connected to their organization’s culture. While in-person interactions are powerful, they alone have never been enough to create the magic of connectivity.

So what explains why the hybrid performs better? Hybrid workers may feel more connected to their organization’s culture because the office and remote work are treated with greater intentionality.

The reality is that the office has never equaled the culture. Gallup data shows that despite significant talk and investment in “corporate culture” over the years, there is very little to show for it.

Hybrid workplaces have been forced to make office experiences more meaningful and substantial. Additionally, hybrid workers feel more supported in their well-being. They are more likely to think their organization cares theirwhich makes them feel more connected to the values, mission and purpose of the organization.

Overall, hybrid working is probably a positive development for most employees, with one exception: managers.

Managers have the hardest time with the hybrid

Notably, Gallup’s analysis reveals that managers experience the hybrid workplace differently than other roles within an organization. Hybrid managers feel less connected to their corporate culture than remote or onsite managers. They also feel less connected than hybrid leaders.

Why could this be?

Much of the planning for remote and hybrid work has focused on helping the individual contributor. During the worst times of the pandemic, managers were tasked with ensuring their teams had everything they needed to be productive, from equipment to flexible hours to executive communications. Individual contributors have been able to minimize many of the distractions of the office, allowing them to spend more time on their work or perform their work in greater comfort.

Managers, on the other hand, have a responsibility to create a fair and engaging work environment for their teams. They are responsible for interpreting the values ​​and culture of the company in a whole new working paradigm, creating an optimal environment in a new frontier.

Hybrid managers feel less connected to their corporate culture than remote or onsite managers.

In the past, managers often relied on other managers in their peer group to help them with challenges — and those peers may not be as available as they were in the office. Access to resources, social or otherwise, may be more difficult than before. In other words, managers likely lack peer and organizational support, even if they support their teams’ transition to the hybrid workplace.

Tips for advancing the hybrid workplace

Hybrid working is a new reality for the workplace. And it’s the preferred option for employees who can do their work remotely.

We know hybrid workers can be productive and happy, but the rules and best practices for hybrid are still being written.

Here are some considerations when improving your organization’s hybrid working strategy:

  • When it comes to hybrids, managers need extra support. Many managers don’t have the experience or training to lead hybrid teams. Hybrid management requires more frequent team communication and coordination. But managers also need more communication. Know that highly productive and engaged teams don’t necessarily mean your managers have all the support they need.
  • Managers may be able to transfer some of the responsibility for building culture to their teams. Managers should not carry the culture alone. In fact, it’s a good idea for managers to help their team embrace their unique style of getting the job done. Managers can use a team status format (like the one available on Gallup Access) to facilitate a conversation about how the team wants to work together. Make it special. Provide food and drink, encourage people to change their virtual location, have a dress up theme. End with an action plan that the group—not just the leader—owns.
  • Bring your managers together in a community. Your organization may have lost the conversations between managers when transitioning to hybrid working. These have provided managers with innovation, improved efficiency and social connection. Leaders should consider intentional ways to bring managers together to strengthen the culture.
  • Invest in manager development programs that work. Hybrid working has eliminated the traditional archetype of the manager stopping by the employee desk with a cup of coffee in hand. Results and outcomes are more important now than watching the clock. Managers today need to be more aware of employee well-being and they need to know how to have authentic and natural one-on-one coaching conversations – a skill they can learn.


Don’t be afraid to lose your crop to the hybrid. Fears of cultural collapse are probably overstated. And it’s important to listen to what employees are asking. Managers can be nervous about the hybrid, and for good reason. But hybrid workplaces can be stronger workplaces with better work cultures — if leaders focus on the key relationships and experiences that unite teams.

You don’t have to choose between a thriving culture and a hybrid work model:


Nikki Morin is a consultant at Gallup.

Heather Barrett is a management consultant at Gallup.

Ryan Pendell contributed to this article.

Helen D. Jessen