The opportunity to reimagine what work looks like
Throughout 2022 we’ve seen the evolution of the hybrid work model – a concept which has been around for a long time, but has reached new heights of awareness and practice in workplaces large and small.
The upshot is that this new hybrid work norm is really a grand experiment and as a result we’re seeing that while necessary in this moment and even providing benefits for many, is a less-than-ideal solution for everyone.
But at the same time, the old ways of working aren’t either. So, while the pandemic has undoubtedly been disruptive and problematic, it’s also opened a door: a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-define what work looks like today and for the future, and to align as much as possible employee demands with business requirements.
The changing landscape of working life
Despite the challenges, many businesses have adapted to the new WFH approach in startling and often commendable ways. Prior to the pandemic, for example, the concept of “workplace flexibility” often meant little more than the occasional late start to the day for accommodating a doctor’s appointment. But today, many of the flexible WFH policies that were put in place at the height of the lockdown have remained. Employees have more flexibility to fit around home and family commitments, can be more productive in their home environment and find a better work/life balance by reducing how often they travel to work. On top of this, they can save money on commuting costs, which is especially valuable during challenging economic times.
What’s more, employers and employees alike have begun to truly master the art of remote work. As employers have been forced to give their teams additional flexibility, many of these team members have outperformed expectations at every stage, proving that high-quality work can get done from home—and sometimes, even more efficiently than in the office. As a result, many businesses have begun to accept that the traditional 40-hour work week—as well as the notion that everyone must physically come to an office each day to do it—may be a relic of the past.
Countless workplace surveys around the world have drawn the same conclusion: people want hybrid work arrangements to continue indefinitely, and they feel they’ve proven that it can—and does—really work.
Even if employers decide that returning to the office is necessary, many company policies are adapting to facilitate this new found flexibility. Staff at Google, for example, now get four weeks of “work from anywhere” time, on top of paid annual leave allowance.
Businesses have been forced to adapt to this new reality by offering a better work-life balance, as well as flexibility in whether, when and how often employees should need to come into the office moving forward. As a result, business owners are having to dramatically reimagine their office spaces, from the size of the workspace they truly require, to the ways in which it should be configured to better support a hybrid workforce who may come and go, using available desk spaces as needed without ever claiming (or decorating) a permanent space.
Navigating the opportunities for change
As employers and employees alike take advantage of the opportunity to reimagine their working life, there are a few things that can be implemented to ensure consistency and communication throughout.
Organisations have recognised that antiquated technology tools, systems, and processes just won’t cut it. It will be key to place a higher priority on committing to technology tools and innovation, particularly with more people continuing to work remotely.
Business owners need to consider tools that facilitate the kinds of communication and content that are required by a dispersed workforce: Communication that is swift, segmented and personalised to the employee, user-generated, enables teamwork and connection despite geographic separation, and can reach every team member on their mobile device.
Realise that your employees aren’t an audience. They are your best collaborators. They need to be involved and given the opportunity to provide feedback, share experiences, lead conversations and generate ideas within your communications channels.
Through providing ways for team members to collaborate with you on communications, you’ll build essential trust and relationships with your colleagues, rather than being a separate internal entity that merely feeds them company news. This will further promote the resilience and teamwork on the grand scale required for your organisation to truly thrive.
Because Internal Communications teams are the leaders in information sharing, they can have a great deal of influence over the attitudes and behaviours of employees in their workplace. This influence can be used for good in a couple of ways. First, they can influence the career paths and on-the-job well-being of employees through training and educational opportunities. Everything from sales tips to best practices to leadership training can be provided via the right internal communications channels. This can help employees feel their talent is being tapped appropriately on the job and that they have opportunities to grow, as well as a way forward.
Employee engagement is more critical than ever
From all indications, it’s clear that WFH and hybrid work models are here to stay—but to what extent remains to be seen. As employees settle into their new roles following the Great Resignation, will their employers begin to tighten in-office requirements? Or will businesses continue to offer increasing flexibility as a means of attracting top talent? Will WFH employees tire of balancing the demands of the job from home and desire to return to an office in a part-time capacity? Or will they expect the continued flexibility to decide what’s best from one day to the next?
Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: with the increase in remote work, the question of employee engagement has become more critical than ever. For businesses to succeed in the years ahead, it will likely require a renewed commitment to technology and employee engagement tools on their part. Tools and tech that enable a dispersed workforce to communicate, innovate and truly thrive.