The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace. Laura Quigley, SVP APAC, Integral Ad Science makes five affirmative suggestions for leaders to stay ahead of the curve.
Starting back in the late spring, employers across industries began reporting record numbers of people leaving their jobs – and were struggling to replace them. Two in five (41%) of respondents to a Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index survey reported that they are planning on quitting their jobs within the next year. Such a high indication for quitting is also known as 'The Great Resignation' by organisational psychologist Dr. Anthony Klotz.
As the buzz around Great Resignation grows, leaders find themselves at a pivotal crossroads between employee retention and business results. How can executives balance their strategic and operational goals with shifting employee expectations? Companies have a tremendous opportunity to transform work. By redesigning work, you can help drive growth, better anticipate uncertainty and create a workplace that top talent is eager to join.
To successfully execute your plans, you’ll need to figure out your hybrid work model, make changes to processes and operating models, revamp strategic planning, and, most importantly, attract and retain top talent.
Employees want the best of both worlds: According to the survey, over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, two-thirds (66%) of business decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.
It’s a new era of hybrid and flexible work. Here are a few suggestions for leaders to stay ahead of the curve.
Inclusive leadership is key to making hybrid and flexible models work
Companies will continue to rely heavily on Zoom, Teams, Slack, etc. to facilitate meetings and collaboration throughout the day. But, as teams experience a greater separation between those who are present in the room and those who are joining remotely, it is important to make a greater effort to engage those who are working remotely as well as those who are in the room. We need to facilitate interaction between speakers and audiences, and between colleagues in a way that is inclusive of both in-office and remote people.
Coupled with this, we need to place greater emphasis on fighting digital burnout, Zoom fatigue, and death-by-Powerpoint. We can make all of our work-lives more enjoyable by making meetings more fun, a pleasure rather than a chore.
As hybrid models evolve, the focus should shift to creating a culture of inclusion and belonging for everyone that helps mitigate the risk of remote work inequity. Recognise that employees have different preferences about everything from where to work to how they feel about masks and vaccinations.
Establish clear guidelines around new ways of working
Be deliberate about how teams collaborate and how to replicate in-office culture for remote workers through new technology tools like virtual reality headsets or new meeting etiquette. Establish clear business rules in areas like safety protocols, and give people clear guidance on very tactical things like teaching meeting leaders to encourage participation from employees who aren’t physically present in the office.
At the same time, don’t expect your employees to go back to more hierarchical ways of working. People will increasingly expect more choices and autonomy over their own schedules. Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility.
Every organisation will need a plan that encompasses policy, physical space, and technology. It starts with answering critical questions: How are people doing and what do they need? Who will be able to work remotely, and who might have to come in? How often? Formulate a plan to empower people for flexibility, then provide guidance to employees as you experiment and learn.
Keep employees not just informed but at the center of decision making
To successfully transition toward flexible working practices, companies need to look inward and understand their business requirements and priorities, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A successful starting point for a hybrid setup should include interviews and extensively collaborating with employees, understanding their needs and wants, conducting research to make informed decisions, seeking external consultations with multiple industry partners, and understanding where its operations need to be geographically, and how the occupants will use those spaces.
This can inform their future benefits and workplace strategy; decisions such as changing the parking benefit to gym membership benefit, getting a co-working space, etc.
Creating personal development and wellness opportunities for productive teams
Wellbeing doesn’t just happen during employees’ off hours. Their personal and professional lives are interwoven. So much so, that employees now expect companies to focus on worker wellbeing, according to research by Deloitte. For L&D leaders, personal development and wellness mean offering employees opportunities to learn subjects beyond their day-to-day job functions.
Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds
Office space no longer stops at the office. Leaders must consider how to equip all workers with the tools they need to contribute — whether they’re working from home, the manufacturing floor, in the office, or on the go. Physical office space must be compelling enough to entice workers to commute in, and include a mix of collaboration and focus areas. Meeting rooms and team culture will need to evolve to ensure all voices are heard.
Image / Provided (the author, Laura Quigley)