Hybrid work is here to stay, but what does that truly mean for team culture and productivity? Here’s how you can build meaningful relationships with your people and keep them connected to each other — no matter where they’re located.

Authors: Kathleen Schulz Rebecca Starr


In some way, shape or evolving form, hybrid work arrangements are here to stay. There's plenty of enthusiasm about the flexibility offered by combining in-person and remote work. And as interest in remote-compatible jobs grows, so does the need for documentation, process consistency and acceptance of technology.

While most organizations have yet to define a clear strategy for hybrid work, initial feedback is positive. Three-quarters of employers (75%) offer some form of hybrid work option. And overwhelmingly, it's met or exceeded expectations (43%) or is progressing despite some bumps (44%). Just 13% report challenges that have them rethinking their strategies.1

Adapting to cultural shifts introduced by hybrid work

When remote work took a firm hold in 2020, managers and team leaders may have suspended their traditional focus on productivity levels. Teams that previously worked together in person typically had a good sense of each other's capabilities. Now, with the increased outflow and influx of talent, dubbed the Great Reshuffle, employers need to determine how to successfully integrate new team members. More broadly important is reinforcing or improving the work culture that existed before the shift to a hybrid model. And notably, 1 in 3 (33%) already believe their organization's culture has improved due to hybrid work.1

Technology increasingly facilitates hybrid work, and both employers and employees are mostly over the learning curve. Organizations leverage chat technologies or video conferencing to help ensure teams are connected, no matter where they physically sit. But employers that proactively minimize the demands of work, which may be higher due to labor shortages, can better manage the employee experience and maintain a culture that productively sustains remote work. Policies and programs that support this objective help to improve retention.

Labor market power dynamics continue to give employees a bargaining edge over employers, at least for the time being. In recent months, a consensus was building that failing to offer a flexible work environment poses a significant risk. One study found that 25% of employees quit their jobs in 2021, and the reason given by 41% of them was a lack of flexible work schedules.2 Potential vulnerabilities for employers include talent attraction and retention, employee engagement and performance, and overall wellbeing.

With millions of employees now comfortable with hybrid work, employers need to balance the desire for flexible environments with the importance of engaging in person, sharing ideas and building relationships. Supporting policies should reflect departmental priorities in line with organizational goals.

Succeeding with proven technology, effective communication and an emphasis on employee growth

Employers and employees alike had to overcome sudden technological challenges when businesses switched en masse to remote work, and that transition continues. Organizations are still building out reliable infrastructures as they focus on synchronizing capabilities with changing needs.

Technology improvements can enable a more connected experience for remote employees. New advances include 360-degree cameras with artificial intelligence that can zoom in on speakers and provide panoramic views of those participating in person. Digital whiteboards support collaborative brainstorming efforts regardless of location, while enhancements like workforce experience applications help manage schedules and determine logistics of work locations such as the availability of seating or meeting rooms.3

Creating a culture that promotes flexibility and autonomy allows organizations not only to thrive, but also to stand out, especially in an unpredictable market.

Wherever employees work, they need to know they're heard. Multichannel communications and an open line of dialogue will help keep them all engaged.

It's also important to take an equitable approach to hybrid or remote work. The opportunity to work remotely is more often extended to men (61%) than women (52%). But women make this choice in greater numbers, and they opt for an average of 3.1 days per week while men opt for 2.9 days.4

Increasingly, offer letters and employment contracts are spelling out the hybrid model and expectations for coming into the office. Written policies with criteria for determining approvals and corresponding management training can help avoid discrimination. Some managers may consciously or unconsciously favor more "visible" employees for promotions and growth opportunities. But regularly scheduled virtual check-ins with an open agenda strengthen relationships by facilitating casual conversation and idea sharing.

From a legal and tax perspective, employees' work and home locations need to be updated across all organizational systems. If the office is in a different state from where the employee lives, it could create income tax obligations in both states and impact other areas such as unemployment, corporate tax and leave considerations. Even legal requirements on reimbursement for business-related expenses like cell phone service or Wi-Fi differ by state.5

Making the return to work more inviting

As inflation reduces the value of wages, employees seek out ways to spend down or increase their income streams so they can keep up with rising costs. Steep gas prices have driven some of them to rethink commuting. For those who are eligible for hybrid work, cutting back on twice-daily trips reduces transportation expenses and allows more personal and family time.

Finding ways to make the office environment more appealing for those returning can help ease transitional struggles. Potential incentives include increased hours for child or pet care at onsite facilities, more personal time off, a four-day workweek or a partnership with local gas stations to provide free or discounted gas.

Also, in response to rising food costs, some employers are thinking about offsetting expenses for breakfast and lunch, provided in social settings, to encourage interpersonal connections and build the culture. Scheduling events like a food-truck day subsidized by the employer, or a happy-hour day with food and drinks provided, has also caught on.

Employees who associate the workplace with social enjoyment and their employers with work flexibility are more likely to feel that their interests are understood and supported. This feeling is especially important for younger talent, who tend to prioritize work-life balance and don't want to miss out on social interactions. Opportunities to save money are a bonus.

61% of men and 52% of women have the option of working remotely.

Pushing past concerns about future unknowns to establish and communicate an effective policy

Creating a culture that promotes flexibility and autonomy allows organizations not only to thrive, but also to stand out, especially in an unpredictable market. Characteristically, these employers trust their workforce to produce results within a reasonable framework of guidance and support. Meeting the expectations of new employees about work settings — whether in person, hybrid or remote — requires employers to assess, understand and respond to their needs and preferences.

Hybrid work strategies often deliver better results when employers map out key productivity drivers for completing specific tasks and then design complementary hybrid work models. Through regular communication with employees about implementation plans, they also help reduce ambiguities that could compromise effectiveness.

Essentially, all organizations are in an experimental phase where optimizing hybrid work is a learning process. Measuring the success of strategies — and keeping them aligned with organizational and cultural values — is a reliable approach to creating meaningful work for employees and keeping them engaged.

Author Information


1Gallagher, "2022 Workforce Trends Pulse Survey #3," September 2022. PDF file.

2Robinston, Brian. "Work Flexibility Is the Most Important Leadership Skill, According to Research," Forbes, 1 May 2022.

3Zielinski, David. "New Technology Is Leveling the Playing Field for Hybrid Meetings," SHRM, 30 Aug 2022.

4Thier, Jane. "The Gender Gap Has Come for Remote Work," Fortune, 28 Jun 2022.

5Shepherd, Leaf. "Be Aware of Legal Challenges with Hybrid Work," SHRM, 27 Jul 2022.


Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as "Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services" and in Massachusetts as "Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services." Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.