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The work environment post pandemic is becoming increasingly likely to be a hybrid between remote and office working.

In a recent PwC survey on remote working, less than one in five employees say that they would like to go back to the office as it was pre-pandemic. In addition, Gallup’s research shows that nearly 65% of US workers who worked remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.

While remote work has its challenges, the advantages seem to have certainly surpassed its shortcomings. Perhaps the most important shift has been in people’s expectations of what work means to them. The blurred lines between work and personal life have also highlighted the growing importance of how work influences wellbeing.  

There are a few ways organisations and leaders can make a hybrid work environment a success:

Set clear expectations
In order to navigate this successfully, managers need to set clear and fair expectations about when people are expected to show up, either individually or as a group.

For example, when on-site presence is required or favoured, and when it is not, who gets access to what information and who needs to be in on certain decisions. Managers need to be honest with their own expectations too. When people are not expected to be in the office, managers need to ensure that team meetings are conducted uniformly on the same communication platform (such as zoom) even when part of the team is in the office.

Be fair
Building a culture of fairness in a hybrid work environment can be tricky. Remote employees may feel that their colleagues in the office have more opportunities to learn about what is happening in the organisation, and have an unfair advantage when it comes to being recognised and rewarded.

Managers need to be sensitive and inclusive about how they treat people. Blocking out time for one-on-one check-ins with all team members, regardless of where they are, is important to ensure fairness.

Make it fun
Many people miss the informal team bonding sessions, fun conversations and water-cooler time of the pre-pandemic work life. Find ways to bring back some fun and playfulness at work.

Set out times where there is no agenda, and teams can come together remotely to talk about their lives and interests outside of work. It is also important to make sure that these activities are open to all, regardless of their location. This helps people feel connected and have a sense of belonging, which enables them to be themselves at work.

Organisations should think of how they can leverage the learnings and experiences of remote work to intentionally plan for the future of work. The steps taken today will guide how work will be carried out in the future.

As organisations settle into new norms, they need to anticipate the shift in people’s expectations and priorities and consider how to adjust. This will be paramount to building a healthy and successful work culture.

In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, organisations have transitioned to remote working. As a result, many companies struggle to find ways to maintain a cohesive culture and engaged team.

Gallup’s 2020 study showed that only 36% of employees in the US are engaged. This means employees “show up” at work but are less motivated or creative. Companies now must adapt to this new work environment to increase employee engagement.

With teams being remote, employees have limited opportunities for off the cuff interactions. This makes it harder to stay connected and engaged. However, there are a few creative ways to help remote teams get excited and motivated to perform at their best, even during tough times.

  1. Emphasise Connectedness
    One-to-one check-ins and free flow team discussions can pave the way for social interactions and bonding times. This builds collaboration and engagement. To truly increase connectedness, these check-ins are opportunities to acknowledge employees and help create a space where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas and concerns.
  2. Appreciate and recognise efforts
    Every employee deserves to feel valued and appreciated at work. When employees feel like they are cared for and their efforts are being recognised, they feel more motivated and engaged.

    Not being in the same location means that there is less non-verbal communication which conveys most of our appreciation. This is why everyone has to make extra efforts to share their thoughts and express appreciation, even if it sometimes feels like over-communicating. Here, more is better!
  3. Work-life balance is not a nice to have, it’s a must have
    Glassdoor 2017 survey found that 87% of employees expect their company to be supportive of their efforts to balance work and personal responsibilities. The sudden transition to remote working has left employees feeling anxious, concerned and stressed. It is important for employers and leaders to empathise with these struggles. Teams should be encouraged to take breaks and pursue their personal interests alongside work.
  4. Embrace transparency
    In times of uncertainty, communication is key. Don’t talk only about wins, but also share vulnerabilities. Sharing information with employees and teams and being transparent about developments at work helps build trust and commitment.
  5. Avoid working in silos
    A 2017 Stanford study found that employees who worked collaboratively stuck to their tasks 67% longer compared to their peers who worked alone. They were also more engaged and successful. Remote working can be isolating. It makes collaboration and building relationships with team members difficult, and working independently seems easier in comparison.

    However, this affects information sharing and priorities get misaligned. Creating opportunities where teams can have informal discussions and conversations helps reduce feelings of isolation and promotes a sense of belonging.

Remote working is the new normal. Organisations need to make it their mission to continuously adapt and respond to the changing needs of their teams. Prioritising engagement is a sure way to achieve growth, productivity and success.