How to maintain engagement and productivity in a hybrid working world

29 Jun 2020

Organisations across the globe have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation by adopting remote work practices, at least for the interim.

But even as restrictions start to ease, organisations are emerging more agile than ever with many now opting for a hybrid model that affords the benefits of both in-office and remote work environments.

Take ING Australia. The bank has started targeting workers from regional Australia after seeing its operations thrive with remote teams in the midst of lockdown measures.

ING isn’t the only bank taking such measures. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, along with nine other businesses, is taking a similar approach by joining the Regional Australia Council 2031, which promotes opportunities to live, work and invest in regional Australia.

Hybrid work

During what has arguably been the biggest experiment on remote working in history, employees – and their employers – have experienced first-hand the benefits of such workplace flexibility.

From reduced time and money spent on commuting to the potential to save on office rent and the ability to access a wider talent pool, there is no doubting the advantages. Research on these attitudes reflect this.

According to the global Future of Workplace report, 73% of the workforce believes companies should embrace some level of working from home.

In an Australian survey by Boston Consulting Group, up to 60 per cent of respondents said they want to split their working time between home and the office. Respondents aged over 60 most favoured working remotely, pegging their preference up to 100 per cent of the time.

Of course many businesses will have their own set of circumstances and opinions on what the future workplace looks like.

Concerns around productivity are real, though much of this has already been debunked. A report from research firm Valoir found that the abrupt move to remote working during these unprecedented times had only a 1 per cent reduction on productivity. Earlier research from the International Workplace Group has found that flexible workplace policies actually increase productivity.

With the rollout of 5G well on its way coupled with mass adoption of virtual collaboration tools, there’s no doubting the future of work will be different in some capacity.

But regardless of how this will look, the question of how to maintain employee productivity and engagement will be high on the agenda as businesses seek to improve their resilience.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to drive engagement and productivity in a hybrid working world.

Maintain communication and visibility

Miscommunication is an easy trap to fall into, especially when managing teams remotely. This can be avoided by scheduling either daily or weekly meetings with teams. Not only will this provide an opportunity for human connection, but it will enable teams to set their priorities and expectations, to share progress on key projects, flag any concerns and to celebrate achievements.

Visibility is also important; managers should encourage teams to share their work calendars to offer transparency and to minimise any sense of exclusion from remote workers.

Create a culture of inclusivity and trust

Businesses can gain a competitive advantage by championing a flexible workplace that fosters a culture of inclusivity and trust. This means encouraging remote and on-site employees to proactively build their relationships to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation, and providing the technology to facilitate this.

It’s also important to acknowledge that working remotely has the potential to create unnecessary anxiety for employees about feeling the need to prove they are not slacking off.

Gallup research conducted with over 10,000 employees showed that employees ranked trust as the most important leadership quality.

Trust is one of the most important ingredients in remote working success. Managers can help to build trust by taking a lead on accountability, transparency and communication. This will help to create a culture of trust whereby employees feel safe and appreciated as opposed to insecure and anxious.

Embrace virtual technology and tools

This point is almost a no-brainer, but in order to facilitate a productive and connected remote workforce, organisations need to invest in the right mix of technology. This includes internet connectivity, access to shared drives and virtual collaboration and video conferencing apps, such a Microsoft Teams and Avaya Spaces.

These tools can allow managers and employees to stay on the same page, no matter where they are working from, while enabling productivity and connectedness. Teams can leverage these tools to facilitate communication around projects and feedback, and to create occasions to build team unity and morale.

Measure performance on outcomes

Instead of focusing on tasks or hours worked, managers should focus on the outcomes and the quality of results. By focusing on results over style, regardless of location, managers can create a more productive, engaging and meaningful work culture that can facilitate innovation through outside-the-box thinking.

So long as employees are completing their work on time to a high standard while meeting KPIs or objectives, it is counterproductive to focus on tasks over results. Managers can help set their teams up for success by setting clear expectations early and highlighting what outcomes will indicate success.

Centralise staff resources

Businesses can promote productivity by centralising key staff resources and eliminating knowledge silos. Having a central hub with powerful search functionality can significantly help remote workers to save time when seeking out the information they need.

This could include training and onboarding materials, organisational charts and contact information as well as useful resources on how to overcome isolation and disengagement through self-care, mindfulness and other health and wellbeing practices.


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