coDesign's Q2 Roundtable: Culture Building in a Hybrid World


coDesign is proud to be taking an active role in uncovering and shaping the post-pandemic workplace. In doing so, we ask ourselves and our clients hard questions that get well below the surface of just physical workspace. We convene thought leaders and industry experts to help us explore these challenging questions, and in late June, we once again, did exactly that.

On June 29th, thought leader and coDesign’s Strategic Advisor, Robert Teed, facilitated a roundtable discussion with our very own in-house expert strategist, Caitlin Cunningham, and DoorDash’s workplace strategy leader, Eric Kerr. Together with our invited audience participants, representing some of the region’s most progressive companies, we took a deep dive into culture and its relationship to individual employee experiences and workplace. Our key take-aways are:

1. Creating an equitable experience for all employees (from remote to onsite) is top of mind for workplace and people teams.


Today, organizations are working to provide equitable work experiences for in-office and remote workers, and employees across multiple geographies. Increasingly new roles like “Head of Remote” or “Head of Experience” are appearing. These positions bridge the gap between the People and Workplace Teams and help to build a holistic and inclusive experience.

To help create an equitable work experience and a sense of connection to company culture, some workplace teams are giving remote employees in the same location a budget, which they can use to come together for a group event. In discussing this, however, Eric Kerr stressed the importance of these budgets being overseen by someone at leadership level. He suggested that employees be given a range of options regarding what to do with their budget as opposed to free reign, to ensure a continuity of experience, and thus cultural continuity, between in-office and remote workers.


2. Culture building needs to happen at various levels.


It’s not just the higher executive leadership that builds culture at an organization. Leadership at all levels (including middle management) plays an important part in shaping culture. Equipping managers with the right culture-building tools, such as remote facilitation skills and budgets for team building, can help bridge the connection amongst dispersed team members, allowing employees to feel a sense of belonging and a connection to both their team and the greater organization.


3. Significant company growth during COVID has made defining company culture difficult for many organizations.


Many organizations have experienced substantial growth during the pandemic and this has made it challenging for companies to define their company culture. Some companies are experiencing friction between their old and new company cultures and are struggling to decide which old cultural elements they should keep as they move forward, and which they should let go of. While it’s important for companies to recognize their history and how they got to where they are today, at the same time, it's crucial that they are intentional about how they intend to move forward in this new way of working.


4. Reacclimating to the office will come with challenges.


Robert Teed opened our discussion by describing the current workplace climate as “the messy middle”; we’re in the awkward transition of returning to the office and we’re figuring out how to do that on an individual level as well as in a collective group. Caitlin Cunningham and Eric Kerr expanded upon this. They shared that we’ve all built two years of new habits while working from home, and employees have also had complete control over their physical home office setups. As we begin to regather in the office again, establishing behavior norms in the office will become pressing. Can employees take calls from their desks? Can teams book conference rooms for an entire day? How can the Workplace (and People) Teams allow for individual self ownership within the workplace while also guiding employees to re-learn how to share space with fellow colleagues? These questions will need answering.


5. What’s important to one employee might not be important to another.


One-size doesn’t fit all. While this was true pre-pandemic, the last two years have shed light on the vast array of individual experiences within a single organization. Giving employees “a menu of services” allows them to create the employee experience that they, personally, desire. Catered lunches could be important to one person, while mental health services or child care could be a top priority to another. Caring for the varied needs/desires of employees will keep them feeling positive about their work experience and motivated to do their best work.


Please look for details about our September event on Linkedin and our website, or let us know at hello@codesign.us if we should hold a seat for you.