The one constant thing in life is change...this statement rings truer today than ever before, especially within our working environments.
On one hand, we know Australian employees are prioritising flexibility more than ever, while on the other hand, we are reading articles about major companies requiring employees to return to the office full-time.
There is no doubt employees have grown accustomed to the work from home lifestyle, with the vast majority of employees expressing a desire for some sort of flexible working arrangement. However, employers argue that a work from home approach decreases productivity, increases anxiety, depression and loneliness and limits professional development.
With no clear winner in the debate right now, employers continue to grapple with what is the correct approach. In many cases, employers suggested a hybrid-model of work, with a set number of days mandated in the office, while still maintaining the flexibility of remote work on the remaining days.
Despite where your organisation has landed (or lands in the future) on the work from home debate, the clear focus for all managers and people leaders in this period of uncertainty should be employee wellbeing.
We know uncertainty breeds anxiety, so setting clear expectations and boundaries around the work location is a key step.
If you are going to maintain a hybrid working environment, here are a few key things that we now know are important… after a few years of practice!
With 48% of employees reporting that they already feel burnt out, Australia has become the most burnt-out country in the APAC region.
One of the key stressors workers have faced since working from home or in a hybrid situation is the blur of time. It has been observed that employees remain in front of their devices well beyond the required hours of work or work outside of normal hours. This complicates the separation between work and life.
Setting parameters and communicating clearly with hybrid workers is vital. Removing the pressure to answer work emails outside of work hours, encouraging regular breaks, suggesting different work environments, or mandating that employees partake in leisurely activities like walking in the park on a regular basis, will go a long way to reducing the feeling that the work from home employee is connected to their work 24/7.
Cultivating a sense of community online
The loss of workplace culture was once the prime concern of leaders when it came to remote working, however, today there are multiple platforms that allow employees and teams to feel truly connected despite not being physically together.
Minimising traditional phone calls and instead having short, informal video chats can help maintain personal connections. Ensuring team members are kept up to date on company matters via regular all-hands meetings also helps maintain a connection between the workplace and the employee.
In a world that is changing so fast, it is vital that learning, development, training, upskilling and re-skilling efforts are increased to meet the changing needs of organisations.
This presents a major challenge for L&D experts that can no longer bring employees together at regular intervals for face-to-face training programs. It is little wonder that LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report reveals 67% of organisations say they will use more online learning or recorded on-demand video content in the coming year.
Employers in Australia seem to be on the right track, with half of employees stating they are satisfied with workplace training.
ManpowerGroup’s General Manager of Right Management, Lizzie Allen said it perfectly in a recent article, “Providing upskilling opportunities is a fantastic way to increase staff retention; when employees are given the tools to train towards their career ambitions, they become much more invested in the companies they work for.
This is not a phenomenon exclusive to the young faces that are fresh-out-of-uni either. Nowadays, there is a greater understanding that “lifelong learners” are some of the most valuable membersof any team because of their willingness to learn regardless of their experience or age.”
So, whilst one constant thing in life right now is change, another constant thing is that people need to feel engaged. Whatever decision your organisation makes regarding work location, there is plenty that you can do as a people leader to understand your team members key motivators and work to provide a highly engaging workplace with a focus on personal wellbeing.