Hybrid. Remote first. Office only. Morning. Noon. Night. It feels like we’ve been discussing the future of work consistently since the pandemic began. And we’re no closer to knowing the full picture. But one thing we do know, is that never before have we had such a blank canvas for organisations to design the employee experience they want from scratch, and not just fiddle around the edges of something long established.
We know what you’re hoping for from this article: get your employees on board with a new way of working in five simple steps. If only it were that easy! The reality is that not only is every country at a different stage of the pandemic, but every colleague is facing their own journey to the fabled ‘new normal’. So before we go any further, I want to be clear that there really is no one size fits all.
As we work with several of our clients to find a way forward – to a place that fosters positivity and productivity for their people, whatever that might look like – we’ve found one thing to be true across the board. The only way to get this right is to be employee-led. It’s super important that people have a voice that is listened to empathetically, so they feel welcomed, valued and supported as things change.
So, we said we won’t give you five steps. But we do have some tips. Ideas for you to flex and adopt to fit your specific challenges and ambitions for the future…
A BBC poll revealed that almost all of the UK’s top 50 employers said that they don’t plan to bring employees back to the office full-time. And that picture is consistent across the globe. It’s clear that hybrid working is a permanent feature of the employee experience landscape. Businesses who attempt to ‘go back to normal’ will quickly see a talent drain, and struggle to attract great candidates next to their more flexible competitors. Our advice? Be bold. Don’t hold back. Whatever ‘bold’ looks like for you. Before you make any decisions… it’s super important to use your employee research. Use it to understand how and where your people want to work moving forward and overlay your findings with business needs in order to land on a plan. It needs to feel like genuine co-creation as opposed to something your senior leadership team has dreamt up and pushed down the line. This research is part of your engagement plan: people are far more likely to support something they feel they have truly been consulted on.
From home working to home schooling, some of your employees will have been through the mill during the pandemic so you want to make sure their new working arrangement doesn’t feature on their list of worries. A huge part of that is bringing them with you on the journey, keeping them informed and offering as much clarity as you can along the way. Review policies and cascade them – people need to know in simple terms exactly what is expected of them. From working hours, to work attire, to the cameras on/off debate. Giving total clarity on all of this will help ease any anxiety your people might have. Consider a weekly email update or webinar for all employees to keep them in the loop on developments. You could also use push notifications to broadcast updates and reminders in a way that’s short, snappy and in your pocket. And don’t forget your line managers – they need to be the first to know.
Our most compelling campaigns always incorporate eye catching creative and speaking about this new world of work should be no different. Take the time to really listen to the insight that has come from your people and use it to develop a creative approach that feels real, memorable and reflective of your organisation’s transition. The tone for this will be different depending on your organisation and the mood of your people. For some of our clients it’s reflective, acknowledging what we’ve been through. For others it’s celebratory – hope and inspiration for the future. But trust us, having a strong look and feel underpinning your campaign will make the world of difference.
You can’t have eyes and ears everywhere so ‘future of work’ champions are a great way to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible, as well as giving another avenue for employee listening. For those reopening offices, equip your champs with all the know-how to answer questions from their teams. They can also help by filming walk throughs of office welcome installations, signage and environmental branding to prepare and orientate returners.
Empower your managers
We can’t stress the importance of the management population enough – but we need to recognise that their role has shifted and they may now be dealing with hybrid teams that they no longer have as much face time with. To ensure that they are set up for success, consider remote management or mental health first aid training. It’s also well worth creating interactive guides that cover similar topics to act as a reference point for managers to self serve along the way.
Create a moment in time
Whether returning to the office or launching a new flexible working model, you’ve got an opportunity to celebrate all of your employees after a really difficult time. From virtual ribbon cutting ceremonies to creating a physical representation of the office returning or creating a time capsule together, think outside the box. You want something that feels special and unexpected to mark this milestone.
Not quite there yet?
There’s a lot to consider so don’t worry if you’re still figuring it all out. As always, we’re here and we would love to help. Get in touch and we can arrange a chat to discuss your challenges.