by Guy Harris
Team cultures develop for many reasons. Some factors affecting team culture include:
- Recent team history
- The style makeup of team members
- The type of work the team does
- The physical location the team is in
- How the leader interacts with the team as a whole
- How the leader interacts with individual team members
- How team members interact with each other
- How frequently the team leader and team members interact with each other
As your team moves from all or mostly remote work to a hybrid version of work from home and work in the office, the mix of these factors can be different for different members of your team. The different mix of these factors can cause your overall team to effectively break into smaller sub-teams each with their own culture.
An example of multiple cultures
One hybrid arrangement has some members working mostly from home and other members working mostly in the office. Over time, this arrangement has the potential to develop teams within the team. One team works from home. One team works in the office. Each team can develop a different culture due to the frequency and nature of interaction and the different work environments.
In the case where team members choose their preference of work from home or work from the office, you might have the more task-oriented members of your team prefer to work from home while the more people-oriented members prefer to work in the office. (There are other reasons people might choose one environment over the other. The style difference between team members is just one of many reasons for the choice). In this case, the style makeup of the two sub-teams combined with both the frequency of interaction and the work environment differences can further drive the two teams – the “work from home” team and the “work in the office” team – to develop two different cultures.
Different Day, Different Culture
Another hybrid arrangement has members of the team alternating between working from home and working in the office on different days. I know of one team that implemented this form of hybrid work with half the team in the office Monday and Thursday, half in the office Tuesday and Friday and everyone at home on Wednesday. This working arrangement has the potential to create a “Monday-Thursday” team and a “Tuesday-Friday” team each with a distinct culture.
There are other variations as well. The point of this post is not to list all of the possible ways you can structure hybrid work. Instead I want to highlight the reality that the structure you choose can lead to the development of sub-cultures within the team.
Different isn’t necessarily bad
I do not mean to imply that different cultures in different sub-teams of your larger team are necessarily or inherently a bad thing. They can become a bad thing, though, if the differences create a “culture war” within your team that leads to miscommunication, damaged trust, and conflict that negatively impacts results.
Increasing the frequency and type of communication between all members of your team can help to both reduce the tendency to become “sub-teams” and to minimize the risk of sub-team interactions that devolve into culture wars. Here are some of the ways you can minimize the development of culture wars within your hybrid team:
- Create opportunities for members of different sub-teams within you team to both work and socialize with each other.
- Create a way for victories within sub-teams to be seen and recognized by other sub-teams.
- Encourage members of one sub-team to get help from members of another sub-team.
As you plan your hybrid team structure, consider both how the structure you choose affects overall team culture and how it might create sub-cultures within the team. Then, plan a strategy to minimize any possible “culture wars” between sub-teams within your bigger team.
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