Maintaining employee engagement and development is vital as we embrace hybrid working, says Nicole Alvino
Remote working has been a necessity in recent months, but as 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, 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.
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% felt enthusiastic about the prospect of returning to their normal place of work.
This paints an interesting picture. It is clear there is an 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. 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, as we embrace this new future of hybrid working, 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?
Whatever generations your employees span, their differing needs must be met. Personalisation will be key, and an internal communications strategy that considers differing work environments will need to be considered.
Hybrid working means 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 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 purposefully: 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. Consistent and frequent communication is the key to change management and employee engagement.
Instead of being concerned 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 if the right technology and tools are implemented.
Nicole Alvino is Co-founder and CSO of Firstup