How to Build A Productive Hybrid Work Culture in 2021 and Beyond

hybrid work culture

As access to COVID-19 vaccines increases and covid variants become increasingly concerning, companies around the world are actively discussing how to build a hybrid work culture, somewhere along the continuum of fully returning and fully remote, with many options in between.   

After a year of working from home, the employee mindset has shifted with many people discovering that they enjoy the additional flexibility to balance their family lives while others are “Zoom fatigued” and eager to get back to the office for face-to-face interaction and personal growth.  The answer probably lies in a range of options and the phasing of return to office (RTO), creating the “new normal”.  

At SMC Squared we’re actively discussing and preparing for RTO for our own teams and guiding many clients.  The goal is to continue to maintain a safe environment for an engaged and highly productive workforce. I’ve challenged our management team to rethink how we listen, remain flexible, and importantly retain our employees.  We are working to ensure they feel safe returning to the office while also maximizing their opportunities for career growth, collaboration, and mentorship.

It’s not going to be easy as the workplace mindset has rapidly shifted over the last year.  Companies must define what a hybrid working model means for them while putting in place different options to balance the needs of the organization and of their people. In addition to the internal challenges,  organizations face external factors such as vaccination availability, COVID-19 caseloads, work-life balance, and the highly active and competitive job market.

We’re also seeing more women attending to family needs, a natural priority as a result of the pandemic.  As a woman-owned and led business, SMC Squared is a strong supporter of STEM and women in technology leadership roles. We need to be innovative and create a working model that helps retain the female workforce as a strategic focus. 

So, what should IT leaders consider to effectively handle the hybrid model?

“While consistency may be the principle, a ‘one bill fits all’ approach may be short-sighted. If there is an opportunity to do so,  the RTO options can be driven based on various parameters unique to each organization, capability area, and employee.  What needs to be accomplished during each sprint or cycle of work can be balanced with the roles and responsibilities needed for the task. Diverse needs of employees and flexibility will be key to retention.  Allowing options for young mothers, working couples, those with elder parents is the right thing to do,” says Director of HR Supriya Ambuga.

  • Step 1 – Lean in and Listen.  SMC Squared actively listened to leaders and team members on their ideas and concerns for returning to the office.  This gave us a rich pool of options and ideas to start forming an approach to RTO.   We modeled our ideas and considered the current size and growth of the team, occupancy rates, social distancing, and other factors to ensure working in the office was comfortable and well-coordinated.  For insight into this modeling contact us here.  We’re happy to share our insights.  
  • Step 2 – Leaders First. At SMC Squared, we’ve started the RTO process by inviting our leaders back to the office as they feel comfortable.  This allows for the wheel to start turning and in turn, allows individual employees the opportunities to come in for time with their managers.
  • Step 3 – Pilot Invitation. According to Ambuga, “It may be ideal to pilot the hybrid model with certain groups who have the flexibility to test changes before they are  implemented at an organization level.”    While having employees from the same team come into the office on the same days may appear to be the easiest and most sought-after approach, IT and Procurement Leaders should consider how this model may help or hinder cross-functional collaboration. For many employees, choosing days of the week to return to the office may be favorable, however from a leadership perspective, requiring core days or employee presence during team training and workshops will be necessary in order to maximize overall employee productivity. 
  • Step 4 – Consider Culture.  Remember to keep your company’s culture and brand in mind to keep the team engaged.  This impacts current employee retention and also helps you define a great opportunity when attracting and recruiting new team members. 

As your organization works to develop an RTO approach, consider the following: 

Hybrid Model

Continued Full Remote Work 

Emphasis on productivity.  Days in office and days at home balance to provide productive options.  

Productivity in a fully remote model is known to be decreasing over time.  Most global companies considering fully remote teams are not sustainable.  

Company and employees start to regain a balanced approach that retains top team members

Higher attrition as affiliation to workplace is limited with remote working 

Increased engagement helps build relationships, innovation, and long-term company culture.  

Employee isolation increases risks sometimes leading to higher attrition and less stickiness to the company and culture 

Reduced cost of operation with a reduction in leased space needs, office utility charges, and transportation cost.  Consider occupancy limits on your space.  

May need to shift some spending to support home office set-up, internet fees, even backup power.

Improved collaboration with even defined times in the office.  

Difficulty maintaining productive routines and engaging teams with lack of true face time.

Greater work-life integration is possible with the hybrid work model.  Flexibility may mean hours in the office are flexible as well, helping parents with school-age children for example.

A suitable office set up at home needed to provide focus and concentration to work.  

Efficient time with the ability to focus on the task and activities suitable for home or office.  Less unproductive meetings, breaks, and commute time. 

Associates working from home may take for granted a high degree of flexibility.  Or they may find unrealistic expectations to be available 24/7.

How will you build  and continue to adjust for the needs of your hybrid team?  SMC2 recently shared insight on the most common challenges seen with offshoring and outsourcing IT with SIG CEO and President Dawn Tiura on the Sourcing Industry Landscape Podcast.  Listen here. 

SMC2 will share more about their innovative approach to outsourcing and cost-savings strategies at the upcoming SIG Global Executive Summit.




Patricia Connolly, CEO and Co-Founder, SMC Squared

Dr. Patricia Connolly is CEO and Founding Partner of SMC Squared, her latest tech company that focuses on optimizing offshore IT services for US companies.  Patricia continues to innovate and embrace leadership roles that have spanned F500 roles, think tank and Big 4 

consulting, academia, and start-ups.   Recently recognized as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year award nominee and featured in DCEO, Patricia shares a passion for diversity and women in leadership, especially at executive and board roles.  

Currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, Patricia also holds a B.A. in Computer Science/MIS from the University of Minnesota, and Graduate Degrees from the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, MN including an MBA, International Business, and PhD., Risk, Corporate Strategy.