Empower employees in the hybrid working era

green leaf plant near white wall

green leaf plant near white wallThe COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of how and where we work forever. With no end to remote working in sight and the Great Resignation threatening to sweep across Australia, business leaders need to re-evaluate their strategies to attract and retain valuable people. But what will it take to design and create a more successful, inclusive, and flexible workplace to empower your employees? Here are three key steps to take to ensure that staff remains happy and productive:

1. Set a new purpose 

Many companies have already made physical changes to their offices such as spacing desks further apart, offering hot-desking to decrease density, and instituting new health and safety procedures like additional cleaning and touchless entry.

Now, the harder work begins. Companies must implement changes as to how they use office space. In a world where remote work has proven to be effective and is preferred by many employees, the entire purpose of the office is shifting from individual work to group work. As well as turning the office into an in-person collaboration hub where teams can meet to brainstorm and exchange ideas, it’s also about ensuring that the space is connected to the outside world in a way that includes fully remote workers.

The key to this new design is in creating an experience that is the same for those in the room and those who aren’t. “Meeting equality” means everyone has the tools they need to be included and empowered to participate.

Supporting your employees’ workstyle preferences and meeting them where they are after months of extreme work-life challenges is critical for retention, satisfaction, and overall business performance.

2. Equip staff with the right gear

With some employees remaining permanently remote-only, not everyone will be able to attend in-person collaboration days. Yet there are ways to make work-from-home team members feel like they’re in the office.

For team-wide meetings or important client and customer interactions, companies can equip conference rooms with advanced video conferencing systems, larger screens mounted at eye level, better sound systems, improved lighting, and other small fixes such as light paint colours, conference tables you can drill holes into mount microphones, and light-blocking blinds. It might also make sense to create small sound-proof, fully equipped, and well-lit rooms that employees can reserve for Zooms or Teams on days they’re in the office.

On the home front, remote workers will need better desktop setups including top-quality webcams, microphones, speakers, sound isolation, lighting, and/or headsets. Gone are the days of expecting remote employees to work from their kitchen tables on old laptops. These same desktop tools will be needed for select workstations in the office.

With most workers away from the office at least a few days a week, businesses should focus on making the less-frequent office experience more meaningful, while bringing the office to employees when they aren’t there.

3. Promote and support employee wellbeing

Businesses also need to ensure that employees feel empowered to switch off. This includes implementing clear policies that show staff they aren’t expected to take calls and emails outside working hours.

Offering employees “recharge days” and ensuring they have resources for their health and wellbeing is also important. Simply checking in regularly with staff to find out how they’re coping is a good idea. Managers need to proactively reach out to workers and offer help and support.

Above all, ensuring that all employees are treated equally and fairly is paramount. There’s a danger that workers become “out of sight, out of mind” when they’re working remotely. Achieving work equity in a hybrid workplace is challenging. But employees need to feel fully seen, heard, and valued. This may mean a rethink of traditional processes, deploying collaboration software and tools to increase collaboration across underrepresented groups and give people more autonomy.

Andy Hurt is Managing Director for Poly ANZ. He leads Poly with a vision of bringing together its extensive range of communications devices and services, offered across any platform of choice, as the leading choice for every kind of workspace.   Andy brings over 30 years of experience across both ANZ and APAC, with a proven track record of driving success for a company’s overall growth and success in the region.

This article was first published by Small Business Answers