How do you enable effective hybrid working? It’s a pressing challenge for all HR leaders right now, with 43 per cent of UK organisations stating that it’s their top priority. But what should HR leaders be focusing on first? With so many hybrid working challenges, it’s not that easy to know where to start. Here, Steven Frost, Founder and CEO of employee engagement expert, WorkBuzz, provides his thoughts on what should be tackled first, using the latest research from business and HR leaders.
The hybrid working status quo
Most office-based organisations that were able to work remotely during the pandemic are permanently changing how they work – with nine in 10 invested in change. At least 81 per cent are moving to hybrid working and only two per cent plan to go fully remote, while 12 per cent are reverting back to their old ways of working. Of course, short-term remote working will probably become commonplace over the next few months, as office-based workers are once again being encouraged to stay away from the office to help battle the latest Covid-19 variant.
Today, organisations are urgently trying to figure out how to best deliver hybrid/remote working at the same time as the emergence of ‘The Great Resignation’. In fact, 41 per cent of 30,000 global workers admit that they are considering quitting or changing professions, meaning that HR professionals are being torn in all directions as they work out how to attract, retain, and prevent the attribution of employees against a backdrop of a new type of working model.
The priority list – what to tackle first?
WorkBuzz’s ‘The State of Employee Engagement’ report outlines a number of HR considerations, following research from over 300 leaders, HR professionals, and business experts. Here are HR’s key priorities right now:
Keeping employees emotionally connected to the organisation and each other
When some workers are in the office and others are remote, how do you help people to feel connected to their colleagues, leaders, and the organisation on an emotional level? HR need to work with leaders to ensure no one feels excluded and to decide a strategy on how best to bring colleagues together so that they feel a strong sense of belonging.
Identifying and supporting mental health and wellbeing needs
Indications are that the pandemic (and the social distancing and lockdown measures taken to control it) will have a major impact upon the mental health of employees for years to come. In fact, those experiencing anxiety almost doubled to 24 per cent during the pandemic, compared to a pre-pandemic level of 13 per cent. Organisations must develop a strategy to monitor and support people with mental health and wellbeing issues, as stress, anxiety, and depression are responsible for the greatest number of sick days taken every year, accounting for 18 million days lost which is roughly 22 days for each person that’s suffering.
Of course, supporting people at a distance isn’t easy and without leaders interacting with their people face to face, mental health signals could be easily missed. HR needs to figure out what remote mental health support looks like, and how to ensure people who are suffering don’t slip through the net.
Nurture the right culture
The pandemic is challenging organisational culture. Without the office acting as a hub for interactions, collaboration, and camaraderie, culture is harder to maintain. So, what needs to be done to ensure it doesn’t fracture? Again, bringing people together is key here, while finding ways to create memorable employee experiences. Ensuring leaders put time aside for social interactions and appreciation is important, while finding ways to inspire people with the organisation’s purpose.
Collaboration at a distance
How can a team effectively collaborate when they’re based all around the country? Employers must implement the right technologies to facilitate interaction and team building, while ensuring no-one is being excluded due to a poor technological infrastructure or more personal reasons such as their personality, age, or religion, for example.
Managing people remotely
Being a manager at a distance is hard and requires good time management, high emotional intelligence, empathy and understanding. Not all managers are instantly able to manage people who aren’t sat next to them, and so must undergo training to become effective leaders and mentors. Employee listening tools are also key here, as understanding how people are really doing and feeling is needed if they’re to be managed considerately.
A final note
Not only is the move to hybrid a challenge for organisations in terms of ensuring employee connection, collaboration, and culture, but companies need to have a distinct focus on supporting and developing their leaders and managers to inspire and lead hybrid and remote teams. It’s a ‘big ask’ for HR leaders, however over the past 18 months, they’ve really shown their value and capabilities, and are ideally placed to address today’s hybrid working challenges.