How to Boost Innovation and Employee Engagement in A Hybrid Work Model
There is no doubt that the future of work is hybrid. LinkedIn’s latest workforce confidence survey revealed that 57 percent of employees said that their employers plan to have staff return to a physical workspace in the next six months. While the transition to a hybrid environment will bring its own set of challenges, the good news is that according to KMPG, 63 percent of Canadians want to go back to the office.
“Even if an organization is not currently thinking about hybrid work, they need to consider how this work model can help their success. They should also consider how their competitors are responding to the new work environment,” says John P. Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour & HR Management at University of Toronto Scarborough.
The hybrid model will mean that organizations will have to discover new ways to keep innovating and keep employees engaged. There is no playbook on how to prepare for the future of work but below are some tips that can help you determine where to begin.
Ensure employees’ voices are heard
One of the best ways an organization can ensure their employees stay engaged come the launch of hybrid work is to involve them in the planning process. “When we get employees involved, not only does it make the process feel fairer, but they’re much more committed to the plan because they have a sense of ownership over it,” says Trougakos, who is also part of Staples Canada’s Work From Anywhere Advisory Council. Having an ongoing hybrid working committee is another great way to ensure input from different parts of the organization are heard, he says.
Set your teams up for success
Innovative and creative work is a priority for every organization, but without the proper workflows in place for teams, it can be easily lost in a hybrid work model. Trougakos advises organizations to balance autonomy and connectedness. A way to do this is to focus on inclusiveness and avoid an “Us vs. Them” mentality — in other words, avoid creating subgroups of people who work in-office more and those who don’t. It’s also critical to ensure that those who work different hours or in a different style are not left out of the information that gets passed around, whether online or in-office.
As offices get re-configured to include more team and collaborative spaces, Trougakos encourages companies to consider how to support solo work to keep everyone productive. “For example, for someone who lives further [away] and comes into the office for a team meeting, it might not make sense for them to drive all the way back home. They’ll need a quiet space to work,” he says.
Improve how you run meetings
Meetings and brainstorms are all a key component to innovative thinking process, but the transition to hybrid presents an opportunity to think critically about how meetings are conducted. “When planning the meeting, think about the ‘why,’” says Clare Kumar; productivity catalyst, author and Staples Canada Work From Anywhere Advisory Council member. “Ask yourself what the purpose of the meeting is and use resources wisely. In the invitation, include the ask, the anticipated outcome and who really needs to be there.” Also important to consider is when the meeting is taking place: be respectful of time of day as employees may work asynchronously or be less engaged during certain timeframes, such as the end of the day.
Theatre and tech will be more important than ever with hybrid work, says Kumar. Not only can properly outfitting your meeting rooms boost employee engagement, but it creates equity as well. Consider upgrading microphones, enhancing lighting, applying sound dampeners in the room, and adding monitors that each display remote team members. Moreover, ensure that no one in the physical space has their backs turned to the employees joining remotely.
Lead by example
Part of leading employees through a transformation process is to have a clear vision of the organization’s future and lead by example, says Trougakos. “If you’re in the office every single day, your team members will see this and think that they also need to be in every day, which defeats the hybrid model.”
To maintain employee engagement, leaders will also need to act as a facilitator, remove obstacles and provide support to inexperienced leaders. “It’ll also be really important to ask questions and listen,” says Trougakos. “There’s research that shows that people who ask three meaningful questions and just listen to the answers are liked and respected a lot more by the people they interact with.”
Keep your employees’ well being top of mind
In a time where chronic workplace stress and burnout is widespread, it will be pivotal for organizations to consider how to best manage it so their teams can remain healthy, productive and engaged. Wondering how to improve employee health and wellbeing, as well as beat burnout? Trougakos recommends the approaches below:
● Implement fair and transparent workplace policies
● Be mindful of overwork
● Ensure role clarity
● Increase employee autonomy
● Establish adequate intrinsic and extrinsic rewards (such as recognition, pay, ways to bring meaningfulness in the job)
Transitioning to the hybrid model will take work and time to perfect, but taking small actions to lead with a people-centric approach will help your employees stay engaged and invested in taking the organization towards an innovative future.