By Nicole Alvino, Co-founder and CSO, Firstup
5 steps to employee engagement and development in a world of hybrid working
Remote working has been a necessity in recent months, but as we emerge from the deeper grips of the pandemic and employees begin their return to their office or work in a hybrid way — we shouldn’t underestimate, that despite the flexibility that working from home offers, that for some being in the office is hugely valuable.
We recently conducted research on employee wellbeing, and communication in the workplace and found that in the UK around 40% of those surveyed, would prefer to go into the office every day — with the youngest age group needing the office more. Indeed, the global study of 23,105 workers found that globally 23% of those who most regularly worked in an office felt more valued, and got more attention from managers than their home-working peers.
This correlation between being valued, and being in an office environment makes sense. And for the younger generation, there’s a real level of developmental need that being in an office nurtures. Being surrounded by colleagues all working to a similar goal, working within a team that encourages collaboration and enhances relationships, whilst also creating a business culture that becomes endemic in the organisation.
Having a working space that allows for productivity has also been key, and that’s where the younger generation who may still live with parents, or share with housemates have been most affected by the pandemic. Hubble’s recent “Shall we ditch the office” report found in its survey of 1000 UK employees, that Gen Z was the most ‘pro-office’ age group, whilst Gen Z and Baby Boomers were the most ‘pro-remote’. It found that the younger generation, the Millenials and Gen Z-ers, not only missed the modern perks of the office, but 37% of the Gen Z-ers missed the office as a place to do quiet focused work. They also found they were more productive in the office compared to their older colleagues.
Working from home clearly isn’t for everyone. A recent survey by Harris found that 80% of employees who have worked from home during the pandemic would like to continue to do so, but a whopping 57% actually felt enthusiastic about the prospect of returning to their normal place of work. This paints an interesting picture, it’s clear there is an undoubted enthusiasm for getting back into the office after being isolated at home for months, but also that maintaining work/life balance has become central to our lives, and was only highlighted during these past months. With maintaining an attachment to home now becoming a key focus for many employees, a McKinsey report found that unsurprisingly 50% of the employees surveyed felt that they’d like to work from home or remotely at least three days a week.
Embracing this change has become imperative for many organisations, to not only retain employees but to make sure their needs are being met. Offering choice, whilst supporting the needs of different age groups will be compelling reasons for employees to stay or leave.
So with hybrid working set to become the norm, how can employers ensure that all the benefits that come along with office-based working are readily accessible and communicated to those working remotely? And how will communications play a role in ongoing employee wellness and development?
Employee communication and engagement have never been more important than today. Whatever generations your employees span, these differing needs must be met. Personalisation will be key, and an internal communications strategy that takes into account differing work environments will need to be considered.
As we embrace hybrid working, human resources and internal communications teams are realising that their digital employee experience (DEX) strategies must be built around the switch. The ability to offer an equally slick and fulfilling experience to all employees, no matter whether they are home, deskless or in the office will be critical to attracting and retaining talent.
With that in mind, here’s our guidance on the key steps organisations should take to successfully bridge the gap between home and the office:
- Ensure all employees experience the company culture fully, whether at home or in the office: In a hybrid working environment the Digital Employee Experience, or DEX, is more important than ever. There are many things that a company can do in order to develop that virtual culture and facilitate those human connections – regardless of where an employee is based. Be it virtual coffee breaks, team building sessions that involve a virtual tour of Machu Picchu, or simply regular opportunities for employees to provide feedback – it just needs to be intentional and considered from the employees’ perspective. Create a sense of community even among a distributed workforce by sharing employee stories, successes and personal accomplishments.
- Ensure work/life balance is accounted for: Now more than ever we seem to be ‘always on’, and while that may have short-term benefits for productivity, it is not sustainable – and eventually will have a distinctly negative impact. it is important to set out clear guidelines for hybrid working and drive behaviours from the top – not just allowing, but encouraging employees to switch off digitally. For example, limit online meeting times, build in time for breaks, and reduce the number of daily priorities.
- Personalised experiences create value: using tools to personalise the digital experience based on data including their role, location and preferences will be key. A digital assistant providing continuous access to information, via every endpoint, channel or device they use will ensure only relevant communications are received.
- Content is key: Use curated content to keep your employees connected to the company and ensure they are aligned on your business strategies, objectives and brand positioning. This is the content you might until now have distributed through traditional channels such as printed newsletters, magazines, postcards and flyers. But with electronic messaging, you can easily use segmentation and targeting to ensure employees only receive the information they need, helping them cut through the noise and focus on what’s important.
- Communicate frequently: Employees want their organisations and leaders to provide frequent and authentic communications. When employees feel ‘in the know’ and part of the organisation’s mission and vision they are more engaged. Businesses should communicate frequently and authentically. Consistent and frequent communication is the key to change management and employee engagement.
Instead of worrying about the location of employees, organisations need to focus on their communication strategies that bridge both types of workers. By building leader-employee relationships, providing opportunities for personalised two-way communication, sharing updates frequently, and using relevant communication channels engagement and employee nurturing can be maintained whether they’re in the office or not. As we embrace this change to a more hybrid model of working, employee engagement should not be impacted using the right technology and tools available to us today.