Hybrid working is here to stay. Like many things, it has yet to be perfected. Ironing out these imperfections should be a key objective for employers and employees.
Flexibility has already become a crucial factor in employee retention and recruitment for many organisations. Employers are now focusing on managing hybrid working models to support employee engagement and performance while continuing to meet business objectives. Listening to and acting on employee feedback will be crucial to achieving this.
At Auxilion, we recently conducted a survey of business leaders to gain insights around a range of workplace issues, including hybrid working and wellbeing in the workplace. The survey shows that, before the pandemic, 71% of employers were opposed to hybrid working practices. This may have been due to the fear of the unknown as organisations assumed that productivity and employee engagement would decrease without the in-person and collaborative sense of being in a physical office.
However, what has materialised is that most employers see that their employees enjoy working remotely, because they feel that their lives are more balanced. They can manage their working environments more proactively and as a result, they feel more engaged in their work and are more productive. Perhaps adding to this balance is the fact that employees gain back significant time from not having to commute as regularly and they can avoid typical office interruptions. I think it’s encouraging to see a shift in thinking towards new ways of working, as 70% of employers now agree that hybrid working practices are effectively engaging and empowering staff, with the same percentage stating that their organisation benefits overall from hybrid working.
One thing employers must remember is that hybrid working developments can’t be left stagnant - organisations must continue to develop their infrastructure and enhance hybrid practices as much as possible. It’s essential that companies regularly engage with employees and seek their feedback on what’s working and what’s not. You don’t know what you don’t ask. It’s critical to create and maintain a safe space like forums where employees can provide this feedback, and to prioritise supporting employee-led initiatives throughout an organisation.
While many decisions in recent years were made quickly and unilaterally out of necessity, moving forward, decisions around hybrid working should be made from the bottom up as much as the top down. Employers should consistently gather information on employees’ needs and motivations. This will enable them to adapt working environments to better suit the needs of all employees while continuing to meet business objectives. We know that successful hybrid working models create outcomes that benefit both organisations and employees. The next step is to focus on optimising these models.
Motivation & Engagement
In the end, the goal is to have a motivated, engaged and high-performing workforce. That’s what ultimately creates results for businesses. Employees are the beating heart of any organisation, so to harness a culture that puts those people at the centre means options like employee-led initiatives and the prioritisation of overall engagement and wellbeing are critical. Employees want to be listened to and to feel included in the decision-making process. When this happens, it drives performance and employee satisfaction and will positively impact results across the organisation.
Flexibility is critical to the success of hybrid working models. One size doesn’t fit all. Not all roles and requirements are the same. Some roles will require on-site work more regularly, while others will be done fully remotely. Many will be hybrid. Whether it’s a fully remote, fully on-site or hybrid working model, what’s important is to create flexibility and to ensure that employee satisfaction and wellbeing are the same in essence across these different setups.
Creating collaborative spaces where employees can work together needs to be a priority in order to support engagement. Ensuring that everyone has access to the right systems regardless of their working setup and that those systems are smart and effective is equally important.
In the survey, employers reported that communicating with team members was one of the biggest challenges of managing a hybrid working environment day-to-day. However, with employee engagement increased through hybrid working, implementing the right IT systems and protocols will ensure that communication remains effective throughout an organisation. Communication about employee wellbeing is just as vital.
Interestingly, 79% of employers report that wellness levels among employees have increased as a result of hybrid working, and three quarters agree that hybrid working has improved the employee experience. However, there are still challenges to consider. Some employees will tend to work longer hours and take fewer breaks when working remotely. Employees and employers alike must set boundaries around their work and take regular breaks. Organisations should consistently encourage this in their internal communications. Again, this communication must be both-ways for it to be effective. They should also promote mindfulness and wellness programmes, and develop such initiatives if they are not yet available. Businesses must also ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support employees even when they are not physically present on-site.
Adopting clear policies around hybrid working and communicating them effectively will give organisations a real advantage in the market. Flexible hybrid working models developed in tandem with employees will support increased levels of wellbeing and satisfaction for employees, and will ultimately benefit the employer too.
You can download Auxilion's Governance & IT Insights 2022 report here.