By: Mark Seemann- Founder and CEO of StaffCircle, the next generation HR software for managing all desk, non-desk and remote employees.
Working from home, hybrid or office, it’s communication that matters
One of the truly great things that this pandemic has taught us is that we work best together by keeping in touch, and supporting one another, with the rapid digitisation of processes supporting this. Thank god for technology. We’ve all had a taste of what it is like to work remotely, not just frontline and mobile workers as traditionally before. Having to adapt rapidly to prevent issues with isolation or a lack of engagement has become paramount to ensuring organisations can promote a ‘we, we, we’ over ‘me, me, me’ collegiate culture. The wellbeing of people has never been more front of mind, with many organisations adapting fast, and of course, those failing to, hitting the headlines as a result.
Take Brewdog, for example, years of clever and disruptive marketing came tumbling down by the outing of an unhappy workforce, with people put lower down the priority list at the expense of the growth of the company. In truth, behind the shiny brand seemed to lie a culture of bullying, bad conditions and toxic staff relations.
In the physical office, remote office, frontline, or otherwise, the pandemic has taught us the importance of connectivity and comms, and checking in regularly with your people, the core of your business brand and growth. Without this, employees are simply not engaged nor part of the company culture, and without a happy workforce, you will never be on the road to successful growth, or at least it will be an unhappy and difficult journey.
What comes next in the ‘workplace’
The transition back to the new workplace is front of mind for many businesses and there is no doubt that expectations have changed. Leaders need to consider the challenges of a (hybrid) WFH culture for the future, yet the question goes far beyond the binary issue of whether employees are remote versus on-site. As we move forward and companies adopt a culture of people first, it will be important to act with agility and adapt to what comes next. A part of this is developing a culture of continuous communication and check-ins, recognising the value of creating feedback loops and engagement with staff who may have felt their careers stagnating. In fact our recent research suggested one half of employees had not had an appraisal since lockdown, so employees are not only lacking recognition but doubtless the overall business direction or plans beyond the pandemic too. Unsettled times can make for an unsettled workforce.
The magic formula is collaboration, not colocation
Whilst the debate rumbles on about where we will all work when things return to whatever is normal, the main learning here is that out-of-office does not represent out of sight. You might want face-to-face sessions for team building and creativity, but what we have been taught is that you don’t need it to be productive or to get work done. Quite the opposite in fact. People just need inclusivity, motivation and recognition regardless of where they are. There will be an uptake in innovation connecting employees, and this doesn’t just mean Zoom or Teams, and new technologies are emerging to connect staff and organisations via virtual spaces, apps and platforms. These will need to be integrated into performance management and HR platforms.
Closing the digital divide in a hybrid world
There have always been remote or frontline workers, and if anything, these employees have also finally received some recognition for their roles, even if out of sight. Now, businesses must ensure a holistic approach to effective communication, and that it lies at the heart of their plans and processes. A cohesive infrastructure keeping these people connected and recognised for performance is what is needed, wherever they are. Construction, healthcare, housing – all of these industries have been left out in the cold by organisations run on paper. Thanks to the pandemic, the accelerating digitalisation has led to a progression towards inclusivity.
For culture to survive we need to cater to remote, mobile-first environments and the key to any solution is that it needs to be flexible and resilient for all workers – from office-based to those working out in the field.
The success circle
With recent UK research indicating that 49% of people are in favour of the continuation of flexible working, there is no doubt that remote working is here to stay. The question is how leaders create a successful model that keeps employees engaged and creates a culture of inclusivity and success. As we move forward, and companies adopt a culture of people first, the answer lies in creating a circle of success: culture and communication plus performance management = employee engagement and a happier, more productive workforce. These elements are intrinsically linked and should result in people not only feeling valued and motivated, but also avoiding feelings of disgruntlement, isolation, or any of the mental health or motivational issues that arise from remote or frontline working.
With a lack of consistent comms on performance and culture as contributory factors to constraining business growth, organisations which prioritise an infrastructure of communication over a physical one will succeed in the evolution of hybrid working.