At last – Freedom day is finally here! After a year and a half wavering in and out of lockdowns, tiers, and toing and froing from offices and workspaces to home, we’ve been in limbo waiting for the day when things may head back to “normal”. But while this signals a moment of new beginnings, this state of limbo and uncertainty could be replicated in the new hybrid working world.
Government guidance is now officially that employees no longer need to work from home and no longer need to work solely from the office. This has the potential to create an array of working locations, systems and a combination of environments to negotiate:
- Those at work
- Those in the office
- Those at home
- and then the liminal space between these areas created by hybrid working
With workers scattered and less connected, there’s a real likelihood of companies ending up with fragmented cultures. It’s easier for employees to feel less engaged, out of the loop and without a voice. Likewise, managers and teams can lose those important connections and suffer from more truncated collaboration and productivity.
In addressing these issues, it opens up the opportunity to solve other problems that existed before the pandemic. It could also establish a dynamic, flexible and collaborative system for this new way of working. But what are the key things to consider in managing this new environment? And how can companies be the leaders and beacons of change for hybrid working?
1- Implementing a mobile-first approach
One of the biggest problems before the pandemic (and one that still very much remains) was the disconnect between office employees and front-line workers. I.e. those working in locations such as warehouses and offsite venues. This is now combined with hybrid and remote working, and the big challenge of visibility with people on and off ‘site’ at different times.
So, the question goes far beyond the binary issue of whether employees are remote vs onsite. If we’ve learnt anything, it’s that the pandemic has opened up a significant need for scalability. This creates a threefold requirement for a mobile-first structure. A structure that encompasses where workers need to be deployed, where they can work, and how everyone can communicate.
A hybrid workforce model offers exactly this kind of flexibility and real-time adaptability. The difference between offering ‘flexible’ or ‘remote’ work and adopting a hybrid approach is that the latter is truly dynamic. Where and by whom work gets done is driven by achieving the highest levels of productivity and engagement. Meaning when and how your workforce performs their best, as opposed to just efficiency.
To keep everyone in the loop, consider using an integrated company newsfeed as part of your communications platform. This could allow remote workers to cut past the often-laborious task of checking their emails and get to the priorities of the day. Emails are easily overlooked. A newsfeed that highlights urgent issues and offers real-time updates helps boost a culture of openness and inclusion regardless of employee location.
2- Considering the ‘third workplace’ for a true hybrid model
What’s emerged from relaxing restrictions is employees finding new places to work outside of home and the workspace. ‘Return to work’ doesn’t simply equate to ‘back to the office’ or remote working. The opportunities are there for staff to collaborate and meet up in ‘other’ work locations. This includes locations such as flexible workspaces and cafés, or wherever they choose. This is called the ‘third workplace’.
It’s important to encourage flexibility by incorporating hybrid elements into an office-centric culture. Give employees the tools to choose how they work: whether they want a space to be collaborative or focus on individual workflow. This can be either at home, in the office or in the ‘third workplace’. By offering a truly hybrid working model, you will give your employees a choice.
Digital communication platforms are here to offer this mobility and ensure that employees have an opportunity to feed back their thoughts and have a voice – wherever they are. Newsfeeds, team chats, social channels, video meetings, phone calls, emails and pulse surveys are all likely to help ensure you build a positive culture regardless of location.
3- Whatever it is, you need an inclusive workforce
Of course, these factors highlight the big problems with hybrid working: visibility, communication, and collaboration. All three factors are imperative to employee engagement and wellbeing. Yet, if unresolved, they can impact factors including performance, promotion, inclusion and knowledge sharing.
It’s all well and good having the communication tools, but they need to be aligned with established company culture, identity and values. It’s important for businesses to find a platform that tackles the issue of visibility and gives employees a voice without the need to micromanage. This way, employees are placed at the core of the company’s ethos and have a say in its culture and business needs.
A hybrid beacon of change
For all three considerations to fully thrive, it’s crucial to ensure equity in the hybrid working environment. Location must be eliminated from any performance considerations. As long as the job is getting done, let employees make their own personal decisions regarding location and pay them what they were promised. This means investing heavily in performance management tools.
Performance management tools that focus on recognition can foster a culture where employees are visibly appreciated for their efforts, work, and achievements. This can be either manager-to-peer or peer-to-peer feedback. Such positive reinforcement fosters a success orientated culture, which is shown to skyrocket engagement.
Technology can unlock a truly inclusive hybrid workforce and culture instead of being caught in limbo, unseen and unheard. If the right tools are leveraged, ‘Freedom Day’ is a chance for companies to unite employees and be that beacon of change.
StaffCircle uniquely combines performance management and employee engagement into one cloud platform that measurably improves workplace culture, automates processes to deliver greater operational efficiency and delivers a better employee experience. StaffCircle’s cloud-based platform is designed to deliver a holistic approach to managing the end-to-end employee experience in one consolidated platform which gives 360 insight into performance, engagement and sentiment across distributed, dispersed workforces. These data-driven insights provide the basis for informed decision making and a more strategic HR function.
StaffCircle’s unique approach is helping customers across the UK to achieve high performing cultures with more engaged employees and strengthens their ability to attract and retain talent. By connecting with every worker through their mobile, laptop or desktop using existing tools such as Microsoft Teams, SMS and email, StaffCircle helps companies propel staff to achieve their best work. Its highly-secure platform achieves engagement levels of over 80%, is fully GDPR compliant, and offers a single solution for companies to better manage employee operations with better analytics, a single source of truth, and competitive pricing.