Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successfully drive engagement
- 6 Min Read
Remote working has impacted the way we communicate as a workforce, but striking the right balance between creating an engaged workforce and a successful hybrid working environment requires business leaders to lead by example and prioritize the wellbeing of their employees
In the new era of hybrid working, driving employee retention and building effective communication strategies has never been more important.
Furthermore, with new restrictions redrawing our traditional working environments, businesses have had to think fast and act quicker to develop successful hybrid working models, as well as implementing wellbeing and development programs to ensure their staff are supported with the right tools to enrich the world of work.
“The impact of the pandemic has been significant in bringing both employers and employees closer together,” says David Plink, CEO of Top Employers Institute.
“While most companies have faced a digital transformation to ensure they’re technologically ready for change, the biggest impact has not necessarily been on the business. It’s been on the way we cooperate.”
The impact of remote working
According to Plink, a structured hybrid workplace can give employees the opportunity to find their own rhythm when working, and that streamlining operations is extremely beneficial for organisations that adopt this approach well.
Take remote working for example – looking at the pre-pandemic phase, this topic was still being explored by companies, with several allowing their employees to work remotely one day per week. Startups and forward-thinking companies led the change, but the extent of remote working was still relatively restricted.
“What we saw is that remote working became a necessity. Many of us couldn’t go to our workplace, so remote working became an enabler to make people more efficient and productive,” says Plink, who believes that this model of working has also enabled employees to learn new skills.
Remote working has also impacted the way we communicate, not only with our direct managers and teams, but across the board.
“A lot of business leaders are now able to speak to a wider range of their staff than ever before,” he adds. “We can now jump on a call much easier than before, and the same goes for meetings.”
And as more work continues to happen away from traditional offices, employers are now looking to match the benefits of in-person interactions with the efficiency of hybrid working.
“We tend to feel busier in an office environment, but now, we’re actually more open to conversations and open to interaction. An ad-hoc meeting that wasn’t really possible back then seems very normal to do so now.”
Finding the right balance
Striking the right balance when building an engaging workforce is imperative to business success, says Plink.
“For optimal wellbeing, businesses should strive for a healthy balance, and translate that into a hybrid way of working rather than adopting a purely online-only approach. I don’t think that in the long run that’s going to be healthy.
“Companies that have a workforce that is largely online tend to lose more people because there’s less of a connection.”
Plink adds that building in-person communication methods is vital to build employer and employee connection. “If two people who work for the same company see each other on a daily basis, you automatically build up a better connection than if we only work online .”
And while employers are still grappling with balancing productivity levels whilst also keeping their staff engaged and happy, it’s useful to gather feedback on how the workforce is split between their daily choices to curate a better solution that meets the needs of everyone’s preferences and wellbeing.
“Changes are partly people dependent; some miss personal interaction, some prefer a hybrid version of working.”
Wellbeing platforms to build engagement
Recent statistics from Gartner’s 2021 EVP Benchmarking Survey highlight that although 87 percent of employees have access to mental and emotional wellbeing platforms, only 23 percent of employees use them.
“It’s a moral responsibility of an employer to take care of their employees and their full, holistic wellbeing,” says Plink. “Putting people’s wellbeing at the number one spot is something that employers have a responsibility to do.”
While companies typically prioritise workplace safety, physical wellbeing and ergonomic support, mental and emotional wellbeing have usually been left behind. “Now you see that companies go a lot further with mental health, and I really applaud that,” says Plink.
Utilising data analytics, such as surveys and feedback questionnaires, are vital tools to create personalised programs within businesses and to provide perspective of where employees are currently, how they’re performing, and their personal goals and achievements.
“You bring your whole self to work. Now that everything is intertwined, it’s connected you even more with your employer. Organisations have a responsibility to take care of their employees further than just providing a safe workplace and ensuring your desk is at the right height,” says Plink.
“Businesses need to think about physical wellbeing programs, mindfulness, and coping with multiple responsibilities such as being a parent, a daughter or a friend; all of these need to be taken into account.”
External factors, such as geographical location and local restrictions and lockdowns should also be taken into consideration and used towards building a personalised wellbeing strategy.
Leading by example
Research by Top Employers Institute shows that 92 percent of Top Employers believe well-being is a strategic imperative for their businesses. Since well-being has multiple dimensions (physical, emotional, social, financial, and career), the most innovative companies perceive it through a preventative lens.
In making employees actors in their own change journey, preventive well-being programmes have a positive impact on the general health, lifestyle, and behaviours of employees. And thus on the productivity and image of the company as a whole. The new breed of corporate well-being programmes covers topics such as physical health, financial management, mindfulness, fitness, nutrition, stress management, and more.
Plink believes that the most powerful way for business leaders to implement change is through communication and leading by example.
“What we recommend is really building the conversation that a manager has with their team members to make sure that the personal, wellbeing and business initiatives are all aligned,” says Plink. “This will also increase the purpose as part of the organisation’s brand, allowing employees to understand the company’s perspective and accelerate conversations.
“Showing what’s possible, being transparent and showing vulnerability, showing that it’s okay to not feel okay, by not seeking solutions, but just making it okay to share, is really powerful.
“A combination of management conversations and leading by example, I would say, is the best way to kind of ingrain those wellbeing programs.”
This content was created in partnership with Top Employers Institute.