EngagementFlexibility: the new workplace proposition

Flexibility: the new workplace proposition

Through data-led decisions, businesses will need to cement a successful hybrid strategy to retain, attract, and engage employees

As offices are opening their doors to hybrid, leaders must ensure they think strategically to encourage workers back into the physical office space, in ways that work best for individuals, teams and the business itself.

Despite 80% of employees saying they are just as or more productive since they started working remotely or hybrid, 54% of business leaders fear productivity has been negatively impacted since the shift. Now is the time to capitalise on the opportunities of the past two years.

On one hand, many employees are faced with feeling ‘always on’ which can have negative implications on their productivity and wellbeing. This leaves management with an urgent challenge – to create inclusive environments that work for both those in the office and those working remotely, and which balance the needs of individuals within a workforce keen on incorporating flexibility into their working lives moving forward.

Making the office worth the commute

Our recent Work Trend Index revealed that to make hybrid work work, leaders must think creatively to establish the why, when and how of the office. Simply put, the office needs to be worth the commute, yet only 23% of business leaders in the UK have created team agreements for hybrid work to define why, when, and how often employees should go to the office. Furthermore, many employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to attend their physical workplace, presenting a large opportunity for leaders.

Making the office work for all employees requires careful consideration and access to technology to power employees working day. Rather than seeking a one-size-fits-all approach, teams should experiment with “team Tuesdays” or in-person hours between 12 and 2pm two days a week. Bi-monthly or quarterly offsites that bring teammates together from wherever they are usually located, will help to create a sense of occasion around team collaboration days. The key will be for managers to provide clear guidance to employees and encourage experimentation to work out the routines that work best for their teams.

Flexibility in the work environment

Crucially, workplaces must now be designed with flexibility and diversity in mind, with a mix of quiet places, collaboration areas and touch-down locations to help ensure each employee is supported, connected, engaged and productive. So too, must managers engage with hybrid teams effectively to avoid creating a ‘first class in office, second class at home’ environment.

The intentionality needed when creating a flexible work environment extends to hybrid meetings, by making them a positive experience for all attendees by updating hardware, software and adapting the company culture in line with new remote work norms. Leaders must seek to define the purpose of both in-person and hybrid meeting collaboration to ensure all employees feel included and encouraged to take part.

Augmenting existing hardware with AI-powered cameras designed for those not in the room and adding larger screens to give everyone a seat at the table can create a canvas for collaboration. Secondly, using collaboration tools including Microsoft Teams, not just remotely but for those in the room too, creates a shared experience. Third, look at ways to create new cultural norms and etiquette for hybrid meetings to help everyone feel included and able to contribute – something that only 27% of organisations have currently established.

Supportive management is key

 Managers have an essential role to play in ensuring their teams are supported, whether they are in the office or working remotely. Effective management, which prioritises the needs of the workforce and encourages an environment where staff can work flexibly, will be essential.

Tools like Microsoft Viva can offer managers data-driven anonymised and confidential insights into their teams and recommendations to help drive a healthy team culture and improve effectiveness. Viva Insights produces useful insights about how your organisation and employees function, while ensuring employee privacy – and compliance with local regulations For example, making data-led decisions from using this tool, managers could introduce new team practices to ask whether a meeting could be an email or chat instead, spot opportunities to divide and conquer meeting responsibilities with team members and encourage employees to block focus time in their calendars for personal productivity and wellbeing.

Adopting new flexible workplace approaches, working models, and employee experience platforms are critical to improving engagement, employee wellbeing, and helping people succeed. As companies adapt to hybrid work environments and re-open their physical offices, it has never been more important for HR leaders to realise the potential of hybrid flexibility and the employee experience.

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For more information on how employees are reprioritising what is important within the workplace, sign up to Microsoft and HRD’s forthcoming webinar here: The new employee “worth it” equation (on24.com)

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