Solve Hybrid and Virtual Work Woes with Company Values

Big office room with multiple people working at computers set up on rows of tables

Many companies right now are struggling with questions and decisions around where and when people can work. Both the decisions they make and how they’re handled, communicated, and enforced have far-reaching implications for organization culture, talent strategy, and organization productivity. It really matters. It’s also not easy.

Our recommendation for a solution: Start with your company values.

First, I want to acknowledge all the cynics out there. Really, company values are the solution? I get it. I grew up in a family of engineers, and I’m pretty sure corporate values were perceived as the epitome of management fluff. I also remember sitting in business school reviewing different companies’ values and feeling like they were all pretty much the same. So, if they’re all the same and just fluff, how can they really make a difference?

Well, over the past twenty years, both as a management consultant to tons of companies in different industries and now as a business leader myself, I’ve come to realize how important company values are to the day-to-day decisions that shape a company and its culture. And that’s what we’re really talking about: company culture. How will your decisions about work policies today shape your company’s culture and growth both now and into the future? And, for that, values matter immensely.

What are company values?

First, what even are company values? Values are beliefs about the world, business, and people that inform how you want to show up for your stakeholders. Your stakeholders are varied but usually include your colleagues, your customers, your investors, your partners, your suppliers, and your community.

Why do company values matter?

Why are company values so important? Here are my top three reasons:

1. Talent: Don’t hire for culture fit, hire for culture add. But how do you know if someone is going to add to your business in a positive and productive way? Values. 

People will have different perspectives, strengths, and experiences – and you need this on your team – but, if your values are aligned, you’ll have similar long-term priorities and expectations that will keep you moving forward together.

2. Culture: Values are foundational to building the culture you want. Every company has a culture whether it’s intentional or not. We define culture as the behaviors that are recognized, rewarded, encouraged, and expected.  Anchoring values enable you to reinforce the behaviors, expectations, and culture you want to build throughout both your talent and business systems, processes, and structures.

3. Decision Making: In business, there are lots of tough decisions where there is not a clear answer. There are a lot of grey areas, trade-offs, and lack of perfect data. It can be easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis or skirt making decisions that need to be made. Nothing halts productivity faster than delaying a decision that prevents the business from moving forward.

This is where values come in again. Your values describe your priorities, your non-negotiables, and how you want to act. Just like a contract that is written before you need it, your values should be written from a place of clarity to guide future tough decisions before emotions take over. So, when you’re faced with a decision that doesn’t have a clear answer – decisions like policies and expectations for working in the office or remotely – return to your values and see what those values suggest you do.

three Gen Z people sitting at a table with laptops laughing together

How to create or refresh company values

If you don’t have company values, or if they need some dusting off or refreshing, here are some steps to consider:

  • Include your stakeholders in the process. Your team members are primary here, but it can also make sense to gather data from your customers, suppliers, etc. in the process. Yes, this can be a process, and it can take time. But the value is as much in the process of alignment as it is in the words themselves. If you don’t have the capacity to do this well, it’s a great time to reach out to an external consultant or advisor who can streamline the process, gather honest data, and put structure and clarity around the insights.
  • Think both current state and aspirational. Your values should mean something and should inspire. If you’re going to use them to make tough decisions about trade-offs, they need to draw a line in the sand. They also need to reflect ideas and beliefs that team members, customers, investors, and prospective talent can get behind. No organization is perfect just like no human is perfect. It’s ok to put values in place knowing that we don’t always behave in the way we would like every day. The only way to get better and to continue to hold each other accountable for our actions is to have something we’re striving towards and measuring ourselves against. The process of setting values is a great way to identify some areas for culture change or improvement and to start to turn the ship.
  • Define values in action. Values inform how people should be showing up for their colleagues and customers. They help set and define expectations for people’s behavior. In addition to informing the right policies around virtual, hybrid, or office time for your business, values also help define expectations for how people should operate within those parameters. Once you’ve identified your values, spend time with leadership, managers, and team members identifying examples and articulating what those values look like in day-to-day activity. By doing this, you set norms around expectations – including expectations for how people operate in a hybrid, virtual, or office environment. How do you act like a team player when you’re working on a hybrid schedule? How do managers communicate with their teams when they are working remotely? How do you honor people’s time when you’re working in the office?

In my experience, leaders and employees really want the same outcomes when it comes to virtual, hybrid, or office work: they want to do productive work and they want to enjoy how they get the work done. Starting with your company values is a great way to clarify the approach that makes sense for your company and to communicate shared expectations and norms.

Emma J. Browning is the Founder & Managing Director at Paradox Consulting Partners, a management consulting company and Certified B Corporation that aligns talent strategy with business strategy to create high-performing, great places for all to work. She’s consulted to hundreds of organizations including a number of Fortune 100 and 500 companies. She has her BA from Wake Forest University and MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Follow her at