Why building a hybrid culture is key to the future of work

What’s the biggest barrier facing large employers trying to make a hybrid working model stick? It’s the creation of a hybrid organisational culture according to a new paper from technology firm Poly

As large organisations resume the struggle to make a success of hybrid working in 2023, they face a key question: what’s the most significant challenge in creating and maintaining a long-term hybrid model?

The biggest barrier they face is not developing the right spaces or adopting the latest technologies – although these factors are very important – according to a new whitepaper from multinational technology provider Poly. The critical stumbling block is building a hybrid organisational culture.

The report is the latest in a Poly research series around the challenges and opportunities of hybrid working, produced in partnership with WORKTECH Academy. It argues that getting the company culture right can mean the difference between large employers being on a stairway to hybrid heaven rather than a highway to hybrid hell.

Roundtable of senior leaders

Key insights in the whitepaper were drawn from a curated roundtable of senior leaders in technology, real estate and strategy from large global organisations, held in New York on 21 September 2022 to coincide with the WORKTECH New York conference.

Top executives from such companies as Accenture, Blackstone, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Hines, Meta, Morgan Stanley and Pfizer shared their experiences and challenges, and the report sets out some of the key steps and considerations in creating a hybrid organisational culture.

Test-and-learn approach

A key finding is that creating a new hybrid culture is likely to require both a top-down and bottom-up approach – and it cannot be left to chance. Rebuilding culture for the new era of work must be intentional. It also requires a test-and-learn approach which includes gathering data about what’s working — and what isn’t — and iterating accordingly. Like any change, developing a hybrid culture is more a journey than an end point and this was emphasised in the roundtable conversation.

The Poly paper references a recent poll by Gartner which revealed that 76 per cent of HR leaders now feel that hybrid work challenges employees’ connection to organisational culture. However, it also highlights the prospect of starting afresh, quoting Bill Schaninger, a Senior Partner at McKinsey: ‘This is an unbelievable opportunity to remake culture. It’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place.’

‘It’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place…’

The report is structured around rebuilding, enabling and embedding culture, based on ‘relearning the expectations of work and where you work.’  The roundtable group identified change management as a core building block to embed culture and argued that ‘We can’t do hybrid in the spaces that we have now. We are trying to make old spaces work for new ways of working.’

Read the full Poly/WORKTECH Academy report, ‘Hybrid Heaven or Hybrid Hell? The Journey to Hybrid Working’ here.

Poly is an American multinational corporation that develops video, voice and content collaboration and communication technology. Poly is a corporate member of WORKTECH Academy and is working with the Academy on a rolling research programme around the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work.
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