Current conversations around the future of work have shifted from “where we work” to “how we work.” The pandemic quickly showed us that an office isn’t a fundamental requirement for getting work done and keeping business moving. Many of us are now equipped to work from anywhere thanks to things like growing broadband access, the cloud, and the wide assortment of digital tools at our disposal.
Even prior to the pandemic, Gartner estimated that 30 percent of employees were working remotely at least part of the time – and that number is expected to be nearly 50 percent when the pandemic is over. So, as half of us look to embrace a hybrid-remote work schedule and say goodbye to five days a week in the office, how can employers ensure their employees feel motivated and equipped to do their job?
While the right technology is a must, developing sustainable working policies and shifting your culture to embrace these new workplace norms is equally important. As my colleague and Head of NA People and Culture at Hotwire Tiffany Ankenman pointed out recently while discussing thoughtful WFH strategies in Fast Company, “there is a clear difference between enabling remote working and enabling sustainable remote working.”
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you think about how to maintain satisfaction and productivity amongst your team.
According to BCG’s COVID-19 Employee Sentiment Survey, employees who are satisfied with their workplace collaboration tools are nearly twice as likely to have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks while working remotely during the pandemic. From instant messaging and video conferencing platforms to calendar and file sharing programs, and even document and project management software – collaboration tools are vital to driving productivity in today’s hybrid-remote workplace. It’s no surprise that software IPOs are having a moment, already raising nearly $7.8 billion this year.
While many employers quickly rolled out tech solutions at the beginning of the pandemic, now is a good time to review your tool stack to ensure you’ve got the right ones in place. Are the tools helping address practical everyday pain points in your team’s workday or is there something missing that could better support efficiency or productivity?
Soft skills + connections
Beyond technology, new types of skills, attitudes and knowledge are emerging as key drivers to building business continuity. Interpersonal skills, for one, are far more critical than ever before. We’re seeing that the most successful managers and leaders are those who are engaging and empathetic. Not that this wasn’t true pre-pandemic – but it’s glaringly obvious in our current state.
Now’s the time to evaluate your HR team’s learning and development calendar and ensure you’re providing managers with the appropriate development opportunities. Things like how to manage performance and outputs with a distributed workforce and best practices for communicating via video calls are incredibly important – but they weren’t part of most managers’ arsenal of tools at the start of the year. At Hotwire, it was no surprise to us that the same BCG employee survey found mental and physical health to be key contributors to productivity. Resiliency education, ergonomics workshops, and regular guided meditation are all things we’ve offered our team over the last several months on top of regular skills trainings.
Beyond planned trainings, though, make sure your workplace supports building authentic connections, whether through mentoring and coaching or just quick check-ins to say hello. While these things may have happened more spontaneously in the office, it’s important that managers continue to encourage them virtually as well. BCG found that employees who are satisfied with the social connection they have with colleagues are two to three times more likely to have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks while working remotely during the pandemic. So don’t underestimate the power of personal relationships.
The concept of blending work and personal life has taken on a new meaning while working from home full time. Employees are often able to sign on earlier and use the time they’d usually be commuting to knock out a project or two. But that doesn’t mean they want to be glued to their PC for an extra hour or two every day. That’s a recipe for quick burnout and staff turnover.
The demand for more flexibility in the workplace has been on the rise, and it’s not slowing down. According to BCG, 60% of employees want flexibility in where and/or when they work – and more than 70% of managers are more open to flexible models for their teams post-pandemic. At Hotwire, we’ve long looked at work as a thing you do, not a place you go, with our Thoughtful Working policy. The policy allows our team to work how, when and where they are the most effective and productive. At the core, it means we focus more on outputs vs. time clocked at the desk. Putting the trust in our employees to deliver the best work ultimately make them happier and drives better results for our clients and the business, so it’s a win-win.
In the future, the most successful companies will need to rethink how they approach collaboration, culture, leadership, work norms and so much more if they want to maintain employee satisfaction and productivity. Beyond the four walls of the office, these have become the core pillars of the future of work. And while there’s no one-size fits all solution, one thing is for certain: as you think about refining your external brand story and offerings to match the needs of today’s customers, don’t forget to refine your internal brand story and company culture. After all, your employees are one of your most important audiences.