We’ve all heard the term ‘remote working’ – working outside of the office in a completely different location (i.e from home). But since regulations change frequently depending on tiers, we’re finding ourselves oscillating between working in-office and working remotely. ‘Hybrid’ working best defines this style of working, which we’re becoming more accustomed to as the weeks roll on.
And, if the pandemic has indeed changed the world of work for good and businesses maintain this flexible arrangement, then we’ll be using the term ‘hybrid working’ indefinitely!
With any new style of working, especially with the hybrid model, it’s only fair to question how we’d maintain important employee behaviours and collective behaviours – like employee engagement, culture and employee experience.
Hybrid working and its effect on employee behaviour
Interestingly, employee engagement and culture are much easier to maintain with a hybrid model – because they’re both, to an extent, the responsibility of management. If management is investing and taking action to improve these areas, they absolutely improve and are maintained.
Employee experience on the other hand is tricky. How does a new employee, working between ‘home’ and the office, measure their employee experience?
And if their experience is positive or poor, can they decipher what is influencing it if they work in two different locations?
Let’s say their home office is poorly set up, they’re distracted by family members, or have a poor internet connection and bad lighting (whatever the case may be), and are therefore troubled by their working experience, do these feelings influence what they think of their employee experience in its totality, and would it distort their perception of their job and their company? Would they know that their negative feeling towards their experience is merely their frustrations with their home-office?
Would these feelings influence employee engagement? If they did impact their levels of engagement, how could management possibly know that they’d need to intervene and that it’s possibly their poor home-office set up that’s the cause?
That’s the thing, management cannot possibly know (unless there’s some kind of communication that directly addresses it), but with the correct procedures and processes management can avoid these issues from the very beginning.
Here’s how to maintain employee experience with a Hybrid working model:
1. During onboarding, ensure the employees’ home-office is set up for success
Managers need to remember that quality equipment necessary to successfully work from home are luxuries that some people simply cannot afford. If managers want to avoid any possible disruption to employee experience and most importantly, employee performance, home-office equipment needs to be approved and replaced if necessary. For example, a reliable wifi connection, the correct chair for the desk in use, a reliable laptop and anything else that may be necessary to carry out work-related tasks.
2. Slowly ease into hybrid working with new employees if possible
If possible, ensure new employees are onboarded in-office and slowly move to hybrid working after a few weeks or even months. This way you can get to know them better, while they’re able to learn and experience the company’s culture, build relationships with their colleagues and managers, and integrate into the team seamlessly with little interruption. This way too, they can build a solid understanding of what they feel towards their employee experience, without these feelings being distorted in any way – which is a risk if they’re working in different locations.
3. Conduct regular pulse surveys to develop your understanding of your employees’ needs before problems arise
Pulse surveys are incredibly effective – what’s there to lose by creating a communication channel with your people, asking them the burning questions you desperately need answers to and acquiring data you can use to make decisions and reflect on later down the line? By asking your people what they need and feel and what their concerns are, you’re able to uncover the areas that need your attention and solutions. And by addressing them you solve problems before they even become problems!
4. Commit to building diverse, inclusive teams
Just because you and your teams are working differently, it doesn’t mean your people-related goals should change. Most businesses are committed to building diverse teams – both racially and culturally, in terms of skill and expertise, age, gender, sexual orientation, in fact the more diverse the better. Did you know workplace diversity improves financial performance? Even if you weren’t consciously working to build diverse teams, you still can – your hybrid working arrangement will not and should not affect the way you build your teams and hire people.
5. Keep communication strong between managers and team members
To build and run a successful company communication is always critical. Remote working and now hybrid working has proved it once again and has demanded even stronger communication channels. Communication is better in-office because it’s easier. You need to chat to a member of your team? Walk over to their desk. Working in different locations means communication takes time and much more effort, but it’s worth it. If communication is weak, especially between manager and employee, you’ll risk damaging engagement and they may begin to feel isolated from the team which both greatly affect the employee experience.
6. Nurture health and well-being with a special focus on work/life balance
Employee health and wellbeing is nothing new, but its importance has been amplified more than ever over the past year, with employee work/life balance being a core focus. A poor work/life balance affects employee engagement, productivity, performance and a whole host of factors (mental health etc), and greatly affects the employee experience too. To avoid disengaged employees or even losing them altogether, be supportive, understanding, encourage communication, ask them how they feel regularly and ensure you’ve created a sense of belonging to avoid feelings of isolation when they’re working remotely.
7. Build camaraderie and a feeling of belonging
As we touched on in the last point, working remotely can bring up feelings of isolation amongst employees. But not only that. Because autonomy is extreme in remote working cases with no managerial presence or colleagues around, some employees forget they’re even part of a team. They forget they’re part of a bigger picture, and sadly even forget their purpose and the vision that once motivated them. Without positive feelings about their job, the company and themselves, an employee’s working experience is not a positive one which can lead to a lack of teamwork and motivation, poor communication, poor performance and many other negative behaviours can develop when employees work from home. It’s why it’s so important you remind your people of the team and company goals and vision and their part in it. Acknowledge their efforts and the progress they’re making personally and for the growth of the business. Ensure there’s camaraderie – that everyone is still working ‘together’ even when they’re not together.