Promoting Wellness in a Hybrid Workplace
With the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and decreasing number of cases, most organizations might be enthusiastic about the thought of opening office spaces and welcoming back their employees. But today’s workforce—whether vaccinated or not—might be thinking otherwise.
The survey results of electronics company Poly showed that 78% of UAE employees no longer believe in the traditional 9-to-5 work hours and they prefer flexible working arrangements. The burnout of working from home and dealing with acquaintances contracting COVID-19 has yielded mixed preferences from employees, with most of them yearning for a flexible and doable work-life balance. Without these demands being met, most companies fall to the Great Resignation phenomenon, which leads to alarming turnover rates and loss of valuable talents.
Corporations have since adopted hybrid working models to give their employees the best of both worlds. The workforce is currently enjoying a work-life balance, while keeping their companies productive and thriving. So, does this mean that enterprises finally have reached a permanent solution for the disrupted workplace?
First, take a closer look at the pros and cons of the hybrid work environment.
Pros and cons of the hybrid work environment
- Increased authenticity
Based on a 2021 study by Microsoft, 39% of employees are now able to express their authentic selves at work compared to last year. The adjustments brought by working at home and on-site resulted in employees leaning to their co-workers for emotional support on their professional and personal lives. This interaction fosters a solid and authentic work culture, where employees build stronger work relationships, higher productivity, and overall wellness among their colleagues.
- Diversified talent network
Employers that offer flexible working arrangements are more likely to hire talented individuals with different set of useful skills for their job roles. Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn, also added that this is a great opportunity for companies in major cities to expand their talent network to underrepresented groups and distant locations. In addition, talent acquisition teams can cut down on costs and have shorter hiring timelines.
- Spontaneous innovation
Virtual alternatives of communication are evidently significant in helping employees exchange and develop creative ideas during the remote work set-up. Still, digital exhaustion can cause most employees to isolate from their peers, and this disconnection hinders innovation. Cross-team collaborations re-establish this connection, and helps nurture and support spontaneous idea sharing among employees.
- Decreased innovation and productivity
A hybrid work environment can also result to another type of disconnection: missed opportunities. The Wall Street Journal stated that in-office employees will most likely receive more attention and promotions, since their outputs or performances will be more visible and appreciated compared to their remote counterparts. Consequently, this organizational divide will result to low employee engagements, higher workforce resentment, and decreased innovation and productivity.
- Loss of organizational culture
According to research by McKinsey & Company, 68% of organizations have no detailed or clear vision and goals for the hybrid workplace, despite acknowledging hybrid as the future of their work environments. Organizations without a clear definition and implementation of their hybrid workplace culture can result to three times more high-level burnout. Without justifying the need for in-person collaborations and no room for asynchronous engagements, employees will not have a clear grasp of their responsibilities, lose motivation, and may ultimately result to immediate turnover.
- Incremental costs and investments
Upgraded communication software and premium security monitoring systems are some of the added costs that organizations had to consider during the pandemic. If corporations decided to adopt a hybrid model for work, they will have to reflect on long-term investments for their operations. Some foreseen problems are continuously providing options for optimum work performance such as high-speed Internet in multiple locations, feasible hot-desking systems, procurement of ergonomic remote work set-ups, and even employee monitoring technologies.
So, while it is true that companies have found its post-pandemic solution in the hybrid workplace, it could still place organizations at a disadvantage. If employees felt that their overall well-being is still being compromised, similarly to chronic burnout and stress from purely remote work or on-site work, there is still a high probability for decreasing productivity, loss of motivation and innovation, and a continuous increase in turnover rates.
Avoid the pitfalls of hybrid models by creating SMART solutions that will promote holistic employee wellness.
How to promote wellness in a hybrid workplace
- Acknowledge and solve digital exhaustion.
According to Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft 365, remote work has limited opportunities for authentic communication between leaders and their employees. But even so, it goes without saying—Microsoft research data showed that indeed, employees are implicitly struggling and corporations need to extend new ways to help them.
Start with discussions for workload reductions and opportunities for company-sponsored mental health breaks. Adopt asynchronous and synchronous collaboration initiatives to establish stronger work relationships with peers and supervisors. Create physical and digital spaces for both remote and on-site employees to raise operation concerns.
- Discuss clear plans and policies with your workforce.
For organizations who are adjusting to hybrid working models, the reality is the hybrid format is not a one-size-fits-all. The hybrid workplace is a dynamic model, and corporations can optimize their own working models by taking consistent and thoughtful approaches in policy creation and implementation.
Begin to update, test, and employ organization protocols and procedures that are in parallel to the newly-adopted operating models of the organization. Consider switching to outcomes-based work performances versus the usual work hours spent online or on-site. Promote employee inclusion in the decision-making process through listening tours, reverse town hall meetings, and ask-me-anything chat or video call sessions.
- Invest on wellness programs and benefits.
Benefits are the top considerations of today’s workforce, aside from flexible working locations. However, Forbes stated that employees are not after the usual pre-pandemic benefits anymore. Today’s workforce prefers benefits that go hand-in-hand with their hybrid working conditions.
So, provide virtual health and wellness programs such as meditation sessions, online exercise classes, and telemedicine consultations, together with app subscriptions for meal trackers and weight loss programs. Offer food and meal delivery options that suits employees’ dietary preferences. Invest on ergonomic remote working equipment and impose mandatory time-off policies for all employees.
- Cultivate an inclusive and open connection with hybrid employees.
BBC reported that presenteeism, chronic burnout, and workplace exclusion are some of the growing concerns among hybrid employees. To address these issues, organizations need to structure an inclusive and empathetic hybrid system for both on-site and remote workers.
First off, define and communicate company culture and productivity according to the corporation’s new working model. Then, reward work performance and promotions based on hybrid parameters. Maintain a virtual company chat room or enroll employees on private hybrid working communities as well, to foster innovation, motivation, and inclusivity in all company networks.
- Inculcate a test-and-learn mindset for the entire organization.
As McKinsey & Company puts it, hybrid workplaces are working models that will need to be tested and updated for a certain period of time. Imbibing a test-and-learn mindset is crucial for businesses to move forward, while giving an allowance for changes based on industry trends.
Inculcate this approach by communicating new working norms, tools, and operating environments to employees and ensure pilot testing across individuals, teams, and units. Provide a clear set of employee guidelines and criteria for decision-making. Ensure that both on-site and remote access to data is tested, secured, and updated.
Entrepreneurs are claiming that the hybrid model is the “next normal” for the workplace. But the hybrid workplaces are dynamic experiments that could make or break their workforce, and ultimately, the entire organization. Corporations and their employees must view this working model with a flexible growth mindset, transparency, patience, and respect to discover the type of hybrid arrangement that works best for them.