After a year of the Covid-19 pandemic it’s clear that many organisations are never going to go back to being completely office based. The majority are adopting a hybrid approach of both remote and office working.
In fact, a recent Survey by Wakefield Research on behalf of ServiceNow, reported that 87% of employees said the new way of working during Covid-19 was an improvement. Post pandemic, offices will have a place but it’s clear that they won’t have the same place they did before. And that has a real impact on how you stay engaged with your people.
Although giving your people autonomy to work how and where it suits them can be hugely beneficial, if you don’t make the right structural changes there can be detrimental impacts on employee experience and engagement. In fact, it will be easy for employees to feel isolated and disconnected from their teams, for communication to breakdown and for career development to suffer.
Below are four ways for you to adapt to make sure you are getting all the benefits of a hybrid workplace while increasing employee engagement.
1. Put Your People First
If you are going to get the most out of a hybrid workplace you need to make sure your people are at the forefront of all changes you make. Use a workplace survey to find out your people’s attitudes to going back to work. Make sure the survey is anonymous, so employees are able to express their honest concerns and desires without fear.
2. Focus on Career Development
Many employees feel that their career has stalled during the pandemic. One survey of office-based workers across Europe, found half of all those surveyed were anxious about a lack of training and keeping skills up to date during the pandemic. Moving back to partial office-based work can help with learning and development but only if your approach is adapted for both online and face-to-face learning.
Firstly, you need to ask your employees where they need the most help to develop. Then you need to make sure that online learning is complemented by regular coaching and collaboration with peers.
3. Create the Right Resources
As the workplace changes, so should work models. For example, as teams are likely to be scattered, there will be fewer in-person meetings. But managers should still hold regular 1-2-1’s to ensure that employees understand how they are performing and can get help to improve where needed.
Creating a framework for line managers on how to adapt to this more frequent communication – and to behave more like a coach than manager – will help the transition go smoothly and ensure no-one is left feeling out of the loop.
4. Use Neuroscience to Keep Your People Engaged
One way to take the guesswork out of keeping people engaged is to make sure you are fulfilling the five needs our brains have for us to feel happy and productive and work. The SCARF framework, created by neuroscientist David Rock, provides a very useful checklist for leaders to follow.
- Status – our need to feel that we and the work we do is valued by our colleagues
- Certainty – our need to know what will happen next
- Autonomy – our need to feel like we have some control over what we do every day
- Relatedness – our need to feel like we are among friends in a community
- Fairness – our need to feel like we are fairly treated
The regular check-ins mentioned above are essential for satisfying all five SCARF needs.
To fulfil the need for relatedness it’s important to create opportunities for social interaction across teams and to make sure that no-one is excluded. Status and fairness like relatedness will be threatened if you appear to give some people more attention than others.
Neuroscientists tell us that the fairness feeling is controlled by the same part of the brain that is related to feeling pain. So, feeling unfairly treated really does hurt. So, it’s vital that you track the development of each person so that you can be certain everyone is given the attention they need, everyone feels kept in the loop, and all employees feel supported both by their teams and the wider organisation.
The hybrid workplace has the potential to change the world of work for the better. More autonomy, happier employees, better productivity and more. But only if we put the right structures in place. I’m sure there are many other ways to get the most out of a hybrid workplace, I’d love to hear any other recommendations you may have.