The COVID-19 pandemic has been a watershed moment, shining a spotlight on the ways in which ‘business as usual’ can hold companies back from innovation and new ways of working.
With 72 percent* of UK employees and managers wanting to continue remote working in some form, there seems to be a consensus among HR professionals that the new world of work will need to be more flexible and inclusive.
Here are our top tips for how businesses can bring the most out of their employees as they adjust to more agile ways of working.
1. Adopt people-first policies
The response of employees and managers to remote working has been hard to predict – whilst some have found their productivity skyrocket without the usual office distractions, others have struggled to maintain focus while working from home. Not everyone has the environment to be able to work from home effectively, nor can everyone deal with the strain that comes with five days of commuting.
The key to unlocking your employee’s productivity is understanding that everyone will have their own work preferences. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to work arrangements, so if you want to harness the full potential of your workforce you need to work with their diverse arrangements, not against them.
A flexible work policy is a big part of this, but it doesn’t stop there. Businesses need to leverage technology to their advantage so that both remote work and office-based work can be productive. Listening to feedback from across your organisation will also help you to implement work practices and HR policies that will make a real difference to your workforce.
2. Embrace the differences between remote and office-based work
Whilst for some employees location may not have a huge impact on them, for others, it can make a huge difference in their productivity, headspace and ability to collaborate. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing – the pandemic has killed the ‘shirking from home’ myth and created space around the practical differences between different workspaces.
It’s important to remember that there isn’t really a hierarchy – while some may find office work a better format when brainstorming or working collaboratively, others may find it easier to find focus and work on more individual projects without the inevitable distractions of an open-plan office.
Understand that employees will respond differently to their work environments, and put in place more flexible work practices that allow for a more hybrid way of working. It can be more helpful to switch perspectives on what a successful workday looks like – focusing on output and results rather than office presenteeism. Given that the UK’s productivity has been plateauing in comparison to our European counterparts, perhaps now is the time to rethink traditional workplace policies and switch to a new way of doing things.
3. Empower your employees with flexible benefits
Part of an effective hybrid work strategy is a dynamic benefits system that addresses the diverse needs of your workforce, wherever they choose to work.
Adopting more flexible benefits frameworks is essential to getting hybrid working right. Whilst an office gym or on-site creche may have been popular in the pre-pandemic world, they no longer fit with today’s more dispersed workforce.
Hybrid workers need the continued support and trust of their employers to get the job done. Flexibility brings with it a level of autonomy that we now know enhances productivity. That means being able to pick up the kids from school during set work hours and log back on later when it suits them. We know that a major predictor of stress and lack of wellbeing is when people feel they have no autonomy or control over their job. Ensuring your employees stay in control means also giving them the tools and infrastructure to succeed.
4. Implement workplace support systems
Empower your workers to manage their own work strategy by giving them data about their productivity and flow. This will help them understand what times of day are best for what tasks, what meetings are more useful in person or virtually, and what sort of home setup enables satisfying work outcomes for them individually.
Also note that anywhere-work doesn’t only mean working from home. The important thing is for companies to prepare and share a strategy that explicitly identifies which options it can best support and provide resources to support employees using them.
We must show the ‘always-on’ workers how to switch off and create supportive environments where people can bring their true selves to work.
5. Be proactive
Flexibility is crucial in the modern workplace and benefits need to be equally flexible. In a recent survey, just over 1 in 3 respondents indicated they are willing to leave their job for a better remuneration and benefits package. With top talent receiving multiple job offers at a time, now is the time to re-evaluate your existing benefits packages and replace your perks, which are no longer fit for purpose.
Empower your employees: Focus on the challenges brought about by the extension of the employee experience into the home, and deliver practical, inclusive tools that empower every member of team to excel, no matter their work location and scheduling preferences.