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Mastering the Hybrid Work Environment: Cultivating Culture and Overcoming Challenges

By Kristin Withrow posted 09-23-2022 03:43 PM

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By Jon Barilone, Tripepi Smith; and Scott Carroll, Costa Mesa Sanitary District


Tripepi Smith Principal @Jon Barilone and Costa Mesa Sanitary District’s (CMSD) General Manager @Scott Carroll led a remote work-focused session at the 2022 California Special Districts Association (CSDA) General Manager Leadership Summit in Coronado in June.  


After necessary work environment experimentations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people and organizations are thinking about hybrid workspaces or not physically returning to an office. LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team found that, in April 2022, 13.4% of all paid job listings on LinkedIn offered remote work. That was nearly double the 6.9% rate for April 2021. The public sector is not immune from this trend. In 2021, “Government Administration” would not have cracked the top 10 categories on that list; now, it is number seven with 11.8% of its open job postings offering remote work.


In their conference session, “Mastering the Hybrid Work Environment: Cultivating Culture and Overcoming Challenges,” Jon and Scott talked through how to maintain company culture remotely and the logistics of running a hybrid work environment. Tripepi Smith has been completely remote for more than five years, while CMSD continues the hybrid work environment they began in early 2020.


“I have worked without a daily commute for over eight years now, and I have seen Tripepi Smith grow from 6 to 40+ fully remote employees. So, I know it’s possible to create a positive, sustainable company culture from your home,” said Jon. “Even when you are remote, you can still successfully build a set of shared goals, attitudes, and behaviors. All these work together to empower employees to serve clients, support their teammates, and care about the future.”


As Jon and Scott discussed, any public agency can cultivate a culture both in a hybrid and fully remote work environment that encourages employees to grow and invest into your mission by making employees feel valued and invested in the agency’s future. As an agency, prioritize building “culture warriors” to help grow your culture. These “warriors” represent the agency by bringing the team together and repping your agency whenever possible. Employees should also receive regular reminders of the agency’s culture. In the session, Jon provided the example of Tripepi Smith’s creation of a team theme song that mentions its key culture elements.


When workplaces started moving back into physical offices in 2021, CMSD found that their employees valued flexible hours. Scott shared how deciding to keep hybrid work an option boosted morale, employee retention and recruitment, employee trust and wellness, productivity, and accessibility. CMSD balanced this with their field employees by implementing a 4/10 work schedule that was not available to regular headquarters staff. CMSD made sure to also leave employees feeling appreciated by recognizing staff as “silent heroes” in newsletters and putting on staff luncheons.


“The pandemic changed so many things about our world, including how CMSD views physical workplaces,” said Scott. “It was an honor to share our insights in prioritizing employee satisfaction, the benefits of a remote workplace, avoiding an ‘us vs. them’ mentality and retaining talented employees in the process.”


Now, businesses and public agencies are trying to figure out a solution that keeps both customers and employees satisfied. But just going “back to normal” might not be possible anymore. Over the past two-plus years, employees have discovered numerous benefits of working from home, including less commute time and more flexibility. An April 2022 survey from ADP Research Institute found that 64% of the workforce would look for a new job if their employer wanted them to return to the office full-time.


If your agency is considering shifting to a hybrid work environment, CSDA offers many resources to help members connect with one another about best practices. Go to to engage in the CSDA Communities; take webinars; and read articles, blog posts, and other resources!


To learn more about Tripepi Smith, visit their website or email Information about Costa Mesa Sanitary District is available on their website.