March 4, 2021
We shared a blog last week on the data that tells us the true story behind a fully remote work model. To recap, it has its gaps in efficiency, engagement, trust, and opportunity.
But what’s the good in knowing that a full-time remote team misses key aspects of the business and culture you run now?
How do we work with what we’ve got? Save some dough? Keep in touch? Stop the infernal video conference from taking over our lives?
There’s hope, friends, and a lot of smart ways to make it a win-win-win for you, your team, and the health of your future business.
We’ll look at two crucial areas to regain lost connection and retain your competitive edge: place and people.
In our own survey of over 400 business leaders, we found overwhelmingly that people do want to work in an office—at least occasionally.
Over half of employees and employers reported wanting somewhere between 2-3 days a week with their teams in an office setting. 21% would be okay with 0-1 days per week. Just 16% hoped we’d go back to a 4-5-day-a-week schedule in their offices.
What this told us is that there’s a new way people want to work. Cue the hybrid workweek.
The beauty of the hybrid is three-fold: cost savings for business owners, productivity at home for employees and better collaboration in person for everyone.
We shared in a recent hybrid work article that a finding from a Gensler report on the workplace in 2020. It summarized that with flexible work arrangements increasingly becoming a benefit offered by employers, organizations that adopt a hybrid working model for the long-term are likely to attract far more talent. Also, the reduced focus on geographies would allow employees to live further from city centers since they don’t have to commute as frequently.
Other considerations like project cadence or departmental collaboration are benefits to the hybrid model as a way to keep communication flowing in all the right directions while productivity stays high.
Transcend has a new approach available for our Atlanta clients around the city to work out a new hybrid model in a safe, centralized, cost-effective environment. We call it The Landing.
But, we’re not the only ones. For example, the insurance company Nationwide has been able to accelerate its plan to close a number of small offices because, for years, its leaders have been implementing new digital systems and collaboration tools to support hybrid work models. Investing in smart workspaces, digital information systems, and cybersecurity tools can provide net cost savings while giving employers and employees greater flexibility in where and how they do their work.
Even before the pandemic, Microsoft subsidiary GitHub’s “working manifesto” emphasized flexibility, working from anywhere, knowledge sharing, and measuring work output rather than hours. The HR department of a US media company created a similar team charter after the pandemic began, in order to align expectations and establish norms.
All in all, what the data tells us is that there’s a need for a place. The companies that are thriving through this time are paying attention to how they stay flexible while keeping ties close to their HQ.
It’s a matter of shifting perspective as much as space. Siemens deputy CEO Roland Busch recently put it this way, “COVID-19 gives us a chance to reshape our world and reimagine work.”
Warning: This is not a lecture on soft skills.
It’s simply a data-driven insight that the executive and managerial levels of your organization will determine the outlook for the rest of the organization.
A study collecting data from the end of 2019 into the first months of 2020 revealed that employee engagement reached an all-time high before the change took root.
As of March 2020 employee engagement reached 68%, the highest it’s ever been on a global scale. That number was just 58% back in 2008. The reason for this peak has a lot to do with market increases (until March 2020), but the shift has also contributed to a focus on empathy and connection, particularly from managers and senior leaders as team members faced massive unexpected challenges.
Employees have reported increasingly favorable experiences in these two areas during COVID-19. Therefore; this increase may be partially due to the increased attention and higher priority leaders have been placing on caring and compassionate outreach.
Kincentric, the author of the study discussed here, groups these interactions and subsequent rise in engagement as building engagement equity. That investment has been crucial since March 2020 and continues to matter as we ride the long tail of this crisis.
From April to May 2020, just months after that initial report of highest global engagement in over a decade, another survey revealed a sudden swing in the way people were feeling.
In a word cloud aggregated through natural language processing (NLP) summarized the most negatively toned comments from Kincentric’s client surveys in April and May.
Some of these negatively ascribed terms included, “remote work”, “working hours”, “stressful family”, and “home.”
This showed stress and burnout were—and still are—significant risks for employees and employers moving forward.
But this isn’t groundbreaking news. It’s long been true that depending on what the leadership communicates, or doesn’t, employees will read into that message how well they will be considered in a given situation.
What the data supports, is that businesses that have been able to communicate clear awareness and demonstrate care for the people they lead have seen the benefits of increased trust and maintained engagement over the year of uncertainty the pandemic caused.
What does this look like?
As an example, Yum brands CEO allocated his 2020 salary to bonuses and one-time grants for employees going through financial hardship.
BlackRock’s CEO declared they would not lay off any employees this year and committed to providing full-time pay to support staff even when they are unable to come to work.
Walmart announced employees receive two week’s pay if they were mandated to quarantine or became ill with a confirmed case of coronavirus. Also, if they were unable to return post the two weeks, there would be an additional pay replacement available for up to 26 weeks for employees.
Other executives have communicated company-wide letters outlining how and when they will address the concerns of the business and the employees in it to safeguard their health and wellbeing.
Along with the reassurance of their safety, there’s a need for leaders to empower and retrain their managers to equip them with skills for this new way of working.
Human Resource Executive says it this way,
“Recognize this new reality by redefining what it means to lead in a virtual environment. Take a more agile and flexible approach to leadership and adjust required skills and competencies to best support employees and customers from a distance. Retrain leaders and managers to demonstrate how they can adapt their style and continue to bring your values to life and deliver the business strategy. Create a set of guiding principles leaders can refer to as they adjust and align to a new way of working.”
There are new ways to hold meetings, communicate agreement or disagreement, share updates, or discuss issues. The more detailed the roadmap here, the great success in keeping connection alive.