Communicating meritocracy and the defence of the five-day working week

To create a truly meritocratic workplace, all employees must feel that their productivity is facilitated – not restrained – by their choice of environment, wherever that may be, says Eliane Lugassy

At the first mention of The Great Resignation last year, businesses tried to buy their survival.

In the US, wage growth reached a record high at the start of the new year as leaders offered raises for employee loyalty. 

Fair pay is the foundation of communicating meritocracy. But in 2022, businesses will need to put in much more work to retain top talent. Leaders must improve the fundamental experience of work or will be left behind. 

The new office 

Employees know from the past two years that meaningful connections are not made online. At the height of remote work, reports revealed the strain distance had placed on career development; as communication breaks down, staff find themselves working to excess, burning out and failing to align with their employer on a vision for the future

All of this makes it much harder for leaders to communicate meritocracy. Employers struggle to recognise talent and encourage growth when separated by distance. Over the lockdowns, one in five had a promotion or appraisal postponed as one-to-ones were pushed back and investment in learning and development lost its priority. 

The prevailing thought is that the office will help to bridge that gap. The communication gap starts with managers unable to track the progress of their employees. It also extends to employees losing a sense of their role and value to the company. One of the key drivers of the Great Resignation is that employees do not understand the value of their work, and key to communicating this will be a shared sense of company culture and identity.  

Leaders can leverage physical spaces both to reconnect with staff, and to help staff see the purpose of their work. This, in turn, encourages work deserving of recognition: the organisations that can communicate purpose inevitably see higher productivity and well-being around the office. 

The role of the five-day working week 

The workspace will help employees both to see the value of their work and to be rewarded appropriately for it. It is the shared experience of the office and the conversations it facilitates that will be a revitalising influence as we manage the pandemic.  

Key to this point is that it is through more collaboration – not less – that employees will learn to see the value of hard work towards a shared goal.  
 

Healthy conversations are being held currently about the shape and nature of work. We should not stop challenging the things we take for granted. But it is wrong to assume that the four-day working week is the silver bullet for a more productive workforce.  

The aim should be to try to make the time we spend together more productive. It is a bleak – and inaccurate – view that work can only be improved by doing less of it. As many as 47% of workers globally view colleagues as friends, and these friendships are built with time spent together. This went up to 59% in China, where workers quickly reneged on remote work to return to the office. 

In short, a genuine sense of connection and trust is essential for meaningful relationships to grow, for collaboration to be effective and for work to be recognised. A culture of meritocracy is not created overnight, and employers should continue to make the most of a five day work week if they are to build a steady foundation. 

Technology in action 

The value of technology will be in improving the time we spend together offline. The transition to hybrid work will not be straightforward; inflexible hybrid working arrangements are likely to push employees away, and the pressure will lie with employers to accommodate complicated working patterns. Leaders are rightfully wary of proximity bias – valuing and rewarding those they see day-to-day – and the challenge will be to communicate a culture of meritocracy that does not penalise anybody for making the most of flexible working. 

Whether people choose to work on site or from home, the infrastructure must exist to help connect peers and deliver a seamless experience of work. From how we brand ourselves to the software we use to collaborate, technology will have a role in making the online world more closely resemble the richness and diversity of spaces offline. To create a truly meritocratic workplace, all employees must feel that their productivity is facilitated – not restrained – by their choice of environment, wherever that may be. 

The value of the office is the time we get to spend together. Communicating a culture of meritocracy is achieved by bringing employees closer, by spending more time articulating success, and by working together towards a common goal.  

Eliane Lugassy is CEO and co-founder of Witco, an app that powers work experiences.

Eliane Lugassy is CEO and co-founder of Witco, an app that powers work experiences.

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